Are you looking to purchase or sell cattle in 2023? There are many things to understand, but you can be prepared. Let’s dive in!
It’s important to understand the various factors determining value and price. Make sure you understand the general Cost of a cow and the Cost to butcher a cow.
This article is an updated synopsis of the costs of a cow by type, age, and weight. You can also find more information regarding the price of a cow according to breed and purpose here.
Per Cow Cost by Weight in 2023
|Type of Cow Cost||Average Weight||Calculation||Cost|
|Slaughter Cows||1,200 Lbs||$75 per 100 lbs||$900|
|Bred Cows||800 lbs||$165 per 100 lbs||$1,320|
|Steers Calves||550 lbs||$155 per 100 lbs||$850|
|Steers||1,200 lbs||$140 per 100 lbs||$1,680|
|Heifers Calves||520 lbs||$145 per 100 lbs||$755|
|Slaughter Heifers||1,000 lbs||$130 per 100 lbs||$1,300|
I go into these numbers more in-depth below.
If you are raising calves, then a fertility rate of approximately 90% is usually used. That is, 90% of the cows bred with bulls will calve. It’s best to use a weaning rate of 85%, meaning that 85% of the cows bred with bulls will have calves sold after weaning. Sadly, some of the calves will die between calving and weaning.
If you have 100 cows and expect to sell 85 calves (85% of bred cows), then your average profit from each cow is $608. 85% continues to prove a reliable number according to studies by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Kentucky.
Average Calf Revenue Per Cow:
|Average Revenue Per Cow||Average Weight||Average Cost||Revenue at an 85% Success rate|
|Steer Calves||550 lbs||$850||$722|
|Heifer Calves||520 lbs||$755||$641|
|Average of two||535 lbs||$ (1.50/lb ave price)||$682|
Calculating an average CWT of 150 per 100 lbs of cow ($1.55 per pound), the average weight of a calf is worth $802. When you factor in an 85% weaning rate, the average value of each cow is $682.
Estimated Variable Expense Per Cow
It’s essential to calculate the average per cow expense when calculating the profitability of a cow. Greg Halich, from the University of Kentucky, estimated that 2021 profit per cow would be $608. This estimate account for you growing the hay needed to feed the cow. His estimates included the following expenses:
|Expense||Cost Per Cow|
|Pasture Maintenance per Acre per Cow
|Mineral and Salt Costs||$35|
|Vet and Medical Costs||$25|
|Other Costs (insurance, taxes, water)||$40|
|Hay Costs to grow (2.5 tons per cow estimated)||$88|
|Estimated annual depreciation of cows (on taxes)||$117|
|Winter Feeding per cow||$15|
|Total Per Cow Expense||$440|
In the fall of 2021, Hay expenses increased. This is partially due to increased fuel costs and overall supply cost increases.
Cost of a Calf in 2023 in the USA
The cost of a calf varies based on gender, age, and weight. Day-old calves are much cheaper to buy but require a lot more work. They also die much more frequently. The older a calf is, the bigger it weighs and the more it’s worth.
The purpose of a calf affects its price. While dairy calves are price by age, beef calves are usually weighed and sold according to weight.
Bottle Calf Worth:
Bottle calves usually cost $150 to $300. Older bottle calves are worth more as they gain weight. Sickly and low-weight bottle calves are worthless. In some parts of the USA, bottle calves can cost as little as $100.
Weaned Calves Worth
Weaned calves, those around 3-6 months in age, have a much higher chance of living. They cost between $500 and $800, depending on the breed. Most weaned calves cost between $500-$600. If you see a weaned calf for sale that seems like it’s a meager price- be sure to ask how old it is and if it had colostrum when born.
Some people wean calves too young, putting the calf at a high risk of a low-weight gain. This will cost you more money in the long run. Additionally, calves without colostrum will struggle to gain weight as they age.
Yearling Calves Worth
Yearling calves are around a year old. Beef yearlings are usually priced per weight. The per-pound worth of a beef calf is usually $1.45-$1.70. The variance depends on the breed and quality of the cow.
Dairy cows are usually priced as a whole, and their worth is based on their mother’s milk output. Dairy yearlings cost between $800-$1,200.
Average Value (Cost) of a Feeder Calf in The USA in 2024
|Average Cost of A Feeder Calf in the USA 2023||Average Weight||Average Price per CWT||Average Cost|
|Day-old Calf||70 lbs||$170 CWT (1.70 lb)||$75-150|
|Bottle calf (1 week – 3 months)||100-400 lbs||$180 CWT (1.80 lb)||$150-$300|
|Weaned Calf (3-4 months to 7-10 months)||500-600 lbs||$202 CWT (2.02 lb)||$500-$800|
|Yearling Calf (10 months – 1 year+)||800-900 lbs||$145 CWT (1.45 lb)||$1,230|
Cost of a Cow in the USA in 2023
As inflation hits the United States, the value of beef rises. This means that cow prices are also increasing. Dairy prices continue to rise also. Let’s take a look at how that has affected the earlier average cost of a cow. Cow prices in the UK and Europe can be found here.
The Cost of a Beef Steer in 2023
Initially, Southeast AgNet estimated steer prices to be $120-$150 CWT. CWT means hundredweight, a weight measurement that means 100 lbs.
But, the early part of 2023 is showing much higher prices already. Some cattle sell for as much as $170 CWT or $1.70 per pound. The average CWT is currently between $145-$160.
You can check out live cattle futures to see the current value.
- Average steer price $165 CWT ($1.65 per pound)
- $1,210 lbs steer is worth $1,694
- $800 lbs steer is worth $1,160
- $550 lbs steer is worth $907
As cows gain weight, they are worth more, but their value per CWT goes down. For example, in January 2023, a steer calf weighing 320 lbs would be worth an average value of $2.05 CWT ($2.05 per lb). The total average price for that 320 lbs steer calf was $560.00.
But, a steer yearling that weighed 805 lbs sold for an average of $143.86 CWT ($1.43 per lb). The total value of an 805 lbs steer yearling calf was $1,158.
A fully fattened steer weighing 1140 lbs sold for an average of $128.50 CWT (1.28 per lb) in January 2023. The total price: $1,459.
Understanding How Steer Condition Affects the Value of the Steer
When buying, rate steers according to their body condition. Body condition is the quality of the meat. It refers to the meat-to-fat ratio and level of marbling. These steers are worth substantially less than fully fatten cows.
Leans and Lights: Steers that are very thin and have a body condition score of 1-4. Lights are very emancipated. Neither lean nor light steers are profitable. In addition to being underweight, they may face more significant health complications.
Boners: Steers that are fairly fatty with moderate conditioning. Boners score 5-7 in the body condition score. This is usually the most profitable weight to fatten steers to.
Breakers: Steers that are fully fattened to their maximum potential weight. Breakers have a body score of 7 and higher on the body condition score. It’s not usually profitable to fatten a steer to a breaker as the feed costs more than the price increase.
The Midwest Accounts for 80% of the USA Cattle Production
According to the USDA, roughly 16,500 head of cattle is delivered for slaughter daily from Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Kansas delivers 16,600 head daily. Nebraska produces 17,500 head daily.
Compare that to Colorado (7,300) and the combined states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri who deliver 6,700 head of cattle daily. The western states deliver a combined total of 5,600 head of cattle a day. And the eastern states total 3,600.
Let’s look at the average slaughter value of a steer for Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. It accounts for 80% of all steer values in the USA.
First Quarter 2023 Average Steer Values by Weight and Condition
Steers weigh very different weights, based on breed. These averages are for beef breeds (Angus, Hereford, Limousine, Brahman, Shorthorn, Simmental etc) using Average Conditioning. Low-conditioned cows are valued substantially less per pound.
|Average Weight||Average Price per CWT||Average Price per Head|
|Beef Steer 1 year||1,000 -1,200 lbs||$120 CWT ($1.20 lb)||$1,320|
|Beef Steer 1-2 years||1,200-1,600 lbs||$130 CWT ($1.30 lb)||$1,820|
|Beef Steers 1-3 years||1,600 -1,800 lbs||$154 CWT ($1.50 lb)||$2,618|
You can check the current weekly averages at USDA.
The Cost of a Milk Cow in 2023
Dairy cows are valued more for their dairy output than for their weight. When a dairy cow is slaughtered, it is usually priced much lower than beef. That’s because it weighs roughly half the weight of a beef cow but still costs the same to slaughter.
A dairy cow can cost between $1,200 and $2,500 per cow. In the spring of 2023, this price includes either a bred dairy cow or a cow and calf combo. A family milk cow can cost as little as $900, depending on the daily output. Certain breeds with high production can cost as much as $3,000-$4,000.
|Breed||Average Age||Average Cost||Additional Info|
|Brown Swiss||3 yrs||$1,500||Registered costs an additional $500 on average|
|Jersey||3 yrs||$1,200||Includes jersey cross|
|Mini Jersey||3 yrs||$2,900||Mini’s add about $1,000 in value|
|Guernsey||3 yrs||$1,750||Some sales include calf|
Tip for Buying a Family Dairy Cow: Consider purchasing from a local dairy. Dairies must keep their milk production high and will often sell a cow that’s only producing 4 or 4-4.5 gallons of milk a day for a discount. That’s usually more milk than most families can easily consume.
Before You Bring a Cow Home
You must decide on the various factors of your cow before you purchase one. Let’s discuss the four main factors.
Age of the Cattle:
Calves under 8-9 months old are cheaper than yearling calves. The older a steer or cow is, the more it costs. That’s due to how much it weights. But, as cattle age, their value per pound decreases.
Weight of the Cow:
The optimal weight for a calf is usually 600 lbs and higher. This drastically reduces the risk of illness and possible death. Calves and steers are priced highest at about 800-1,100 lbs. This is when they price the highest price per pound.
If you are looking for a deal, a steer or heifer that’s 1-2 years old is usually priced less per pound than a yearling, although the total price will be higher.
Utility Purpose of the Cattle:
Beef cattle are usually priced per pound or per 100 pounds (CWt.) Dairy cows are usually priced by their milk output and whether they are a heifer or a cow (given birth). It’s critical that you understand the purpose you want a cow for to price one accordingly. A dairy cow priced for beef would be very overpriced because its weight is much lower.
Breed of the Cow:
Breed makes a difference for both Dairy and Beef cattle. That’s because some breeds such as Limousine, Simmental, and Shorthorn are beef breeds that get much larger than Angus and Hereford. They are also rarer so you’ll pay for these larger breeds.
In Dairy cows, Brown Swiss, Dairy Shorthorn, and Guernsey are especially sought-after and harder to find. As a result, they often cost more than Jersey or Holstein cattle, which can be a little spotty on the milk production (depending on lineage).
Preparing to Bring a Cow Home
Before you purchase a cow, there are a few things to consider. Make sure that you have a way to haul it. If you don’t own a horse or cow trailer, check if the farmer can deliver the cow. Many will for an additional fee.
Next, make sure your land is ready for grazing. Cows graze heavily, and if your grass field isn’t prepared, it can decimate your field. That will cost you additional money in reseeding.
You’ll also want to secure how you will water your cows and fields. Prepare for winter watering- when it’s cold outside, and you may not want to spend as much time outdoors.
You can raise a couple of cows on 2 acres, but that won’t give you enough hay to harvest for winter feeding. If you don’t have more property to bale hay on, you’ll need to purchase it. In 2023 the cost of hay went up from $145 per ton on average to just over $200.
Of course, there are many types and qualities of hay you can feed your cows. They can do well on trifoliate, a cheaper cereal grain hay. Pregnant and nursing cows need a little alfalfa supplement. Alfalfa is priced by crop. The second crop alfalfa is the highest quality, with the third crop considered the lowest quality alfalfa.
You’ll save more money on hay if you can locate a local farmer to sell it because the shipping costs for hay in 2023 has drastically risen with rising fuel prices.
Lastly, make sure that your fences are in order. If you don’t have working fences, a simple 2-3 strand electric fence is cheap and straightforward to install.
FAQs About Cow Values
How much does it cost to buy a half cow to butcher in the USA?
The cost of a half cow has increased in 2023. Half cow prices range from $4.05 per lb to $5.95 per lb. Slaughter costs have risen and will cost approximately $500 plus a $65 kill fee split among owners.
How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Cow in the USA in 2023?
A beef cow ready to butcher can cost between $1,800 and $2,400. A beef calf ready to fatten will cost about $800, while yearlings cost closer to $1,000.
How Much Does a Milk Cow Cost to Purchase in the USA?
A dairy cow will cost approximately $1,500 to purchase. Heifer dairy cows cost between $800-$1,100 because their dairy production is unknown. 3-year-old dairy cows are worth the most because they are young but have proven consistency with two years of calving and milk production. 3-year-old milk cows usually go for $1,800.
How Much Does It Cost To Raise a Cow in the USA?
The cost of raising a cow depends on whether or not you can raise the hay for it. If you raise your own hay, a cow costs about $609 to raise to slaughter. If you have to purchase the hay, a cow will cost between $800-$1,050 a year to raise. This depends on the type of hay and local prices. Costs factor in vaccines, vet care, water, minerals, and transportation.
How Much Does a Calf Cost (Baby Cow) In the USA?
Bottle Calves can cost as little as $150 and as much as $400 per calf. Weaned calves usually cost $500-$800. Yearling calves cost up to $1,000. Calves cost more CWT but much less per head. CWT is the unit of weight that stands for 100 lbs.
How Much Does it Cost to Butcher a Cow in the USA?
It will cost between $300-$600 to butcher a cow. The price of the butcher depends significantly on how swamped regional butchers are. In areas where butchers are swamped, the prices have risen drastically.
How much does it cost to butcher a steer?
Should I buy beef or raise a cow?
2019 Average Cost of a Cow (for historical reference)
Cattle Prices and Profitability in 2019 | Drovers
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