No, I’m not converting to Hinduism. πŸ™‚

But I’m getting a little overwhelmed with the cow bovine (cows are female bovines who have calved) questions rattling around in my mind. There are just so many options and variables! Maybe if I simplify it a bit, something will come…

The ultimate goal: To have our pasture of ~15 acres producing beef.

Some of the possibilities:

  • buy yearling steers in spring, finish them on grass to harvest in fall
  • buy yearling steers whenever, pasture them, mow and bale excess pasture for winter use
  • buy newborn bull calves in spring (these would be dairy breeds; holstein, jersey, etc), bottle feed into summer, pasture and feed until they are 1.5 years old
  • buy a dairy cow, buy newborn calves, enjoy milk, wean calves to pasture in summer
  • plant and harvest alfalfa for winter feed for some of the above options
  • buy a herd of beef cattle
  • build a herd of beef cattle, starting with young (newborn?) heifers
  • rezone and sell the pasture, use the money to buy sixteen truckloads of frozen beef
Just kidding on that last one.
Each of these has its own challenges. For instance;
  •  I’m pretty sure I can’t afford to buy a herd of beef cattle. I might not even be able to buy yearling steers or heifers. I saw one ad on craigslist for a handful of cattle (four, I think) and multiplying the estimated weight by their cost per pound… ouch. 
  • Buying dairy bull calves is affordable, but labor-intensive and the final product might not be palatable to the discriminating connoisseur. Not that I fall into that category, but assuming I might be able to sell some.
  • My dairyman neighbor advises that bottle calves are NOT a way to make money. Fun family project yes, but not economically advisable. I’ve just priced milk replacer, and with an early weaning, we’re still looking at $50 in replacer bare-minimum – assuming no one gets worms or scours or pinkeye or a hangnail. That would have to be followed by calf feed (certainly much cheaper than replacer, but not free like pasture grass). Since I’m only aspiring to hamburger, I’m not sure what quality milk replacer would be required. There is quite a variety and some of it is intended for replacement dairy heifers and the like, and I’m pretty sure they require more, nutritionally. 
  • I’d love to have a milk cow, and that may happen, but the logistics of getting it here, where to keep it, how to milk it, required equipment and learning-curve would put me pretty far out of the calf season.
  • I don’t have a way to mow or bale my pasture excess. I have someone who can mow it, but raking would still be an issue, as well as baling. I don’t have a place to put hay bales yet either. Pallets and a tarp might serve. Would trying to buy that equipment be wise? Would it pay for itself or would it be another headache? Can you rent that kind of thing? I know you can hire it done, but you’re at the mercy of the other guy’s schedule, and your nutrient profile and palatability of forage might well suffer waiting for your turn.
I just had a thought, along different lines. We could theoretically put up pasture hay all summer, then buy livestock in fall (when the yearly price is lowest – no one wants to keep and feed them all winter), wintering them on what we baled. I have NO IDEA if this would be remotely economically feasible, wise, doable or not. I need to meet someone with experience in this sort of thing, who might be able to tell me what to expect by way of costs and time and other things about which I’m clueless.
I wonder if half my interest in farming is because it’s such a wide plain of knowledge to acquire. πŸ™‚