I think anyone who keeps calves past weaning should have a good idea what market they are targetting and what the costs are going to be? Sure we all get lucky once and awhile and hit a rising market, but it can also go the other way?
Say in general your calves weigh 500 lbs. on Nov. 1st. You want to sell them on April 1st. What weight will bring the money you need to make a profit?
Now in my world a 650 fairly lean steer is what the grass market wants. They do not want a lardy animal. At 650 lbs. the feedlot doesn't want him. Today they actually prefer an animal over 900 lbs.
So what do you get April 1st for your 650 lb. steer? Lets say he is worth 95 cents or $617.50? What was he worth on Nov 1st at 500 lbs.? Lets say 98 cents(you can add your own numbers) or $490? So you have $127.50 to work with.
You are feeding him for about 150 days so to break even you need to feed him for 85 cents a day while gaining about 1 pound a day.
If he is eating 15 lb. hay at 3 cents a pound then it costs you 45 cents a day or $67.50 for 150 days...so you can make some money! He could probably be around that one pound gain if the hay is fairly good?
If you are feeding 5 lbs. of grain a day and about 10 lbs. of hay what will that cost? Now I'm not sure about corn but barley would be around 40 cents and hay another 30 cents so now you have less to work with($105) and he would probably be fatter than the grass market might like.
Of course we all know feed isn't the only cost? You will have interest costs on both the calf and the feed?
Probably in that $15 range? And he needs salt/mineral...say $4? How about yardage and feeding/bedding costs? Another $10? Throw in a few bucks for vet costs and death loss and we are getting a cost besides feed of another $33?
Okay he's sold. You get your check. $617.50. You pay your expenses, hay diet $67.50 +$33=$100.50. Grain diet $105+$33= $138!
You made $27 on the hay diet. You lost $10.50 on the grain diet!
Of course we never accounted for labor or anything because we all enjoy being out in -35 weather doctoring calves and beating the heck out of the tractor! And we never figured in a management profit because we just like to do this stuff for free!
I'm not sure how many calves one person could over winter? If it was 100 why you could make $2700! If it was 400 you could make $10,800! For 150 days of work. Why that works out to $72/day...I guess thats why people would rather get a job at Walmart or something?