Specialty breeds like the longhorn cattle are worth more (1)

Cow Value Comparisons to Help You Make the Right Decision


The price of food is going up. Plus, it’s becoming harder and harder to know where your meat is coming from. It surprised me last year when I read the reports on how much meat is imported into the U.S. every year. 

How much is a cow worth? An adult cow is usually worth between $900 and $3,500, but many factors determine its worth, including breed, purpose, age, breeding status, and gender. Within the United States, location also plays a determining factor in a cow’s worth.  As a general rule: 

  • Dairy Cows cost more than Beef Cows
  • Bred Cows (females) cost more than Heifers
  • Adult bovines cost more than calves 
  • Quality steers cost more than cows 
  • Registered and Purebred cows are worth more than crossbreeds
  • Rarer breeds are worth more than common breeds
  • Mini Cow Breeds are worth as much as double their regular-sized counterparts
  • Heifers are worth more than bulls
  • Younger calves are worth less than older cattle
  • Older cows are worth less than other adult cows

There are a lot of things that go into a cow’s value. A cow’s average cost is dependent on many factors that affect the price

The Age of the Cow Determines The Cost and Worth 

Cattle worth is significantly affected by the age and size of the cow. Calves are not as valuable as adult cattle. The younger the calf, the less valuable it is. Younger cattle weigh less than older cattle, and they are more likely to die of complications.

Physical abnormalities are harder to spot in younger cattle. Plus, they will cost more to feed before they reach maturity. 

How much does a calf cost to buy? The cost of a calf ranges between $200 and $800. You might be able to find a bottle calf for as low as $125-175. Weaned calves usually average between $600-800. As calves age, their mortality risk decreases, and the price increases. Several factors affect the price of a calf, including gender, lineage, breed, purpose, and age. It’s also important to know what to look for and decide what kind of a calf works best for your purpose. 

Buying a calf has several benefits. Calves cost less than grown cows. 

But, although calves are worth less than mature cattle, so are older cattle. As a cow nears 10 years, her productivity decreases. She is more likely to have reproductive issues as she ages. Bulls eventually lose their reproductive stamina.

The age of a cow determines its value (1)

Making Decisions About the Calf You Purchase 

Before you purchase a cow, you’ll need to know why you want it and what the purpose is for your cow. Some people like to own a cow and have it mainly as a family pet with the added benefit of breeding it or milking it. 

Purchasing a Calf for a Homestead

Cows purchased from homesteads usually cost a few hundred dollars less than cows purchased for dairy or beef farms. That’s because homesteaders usually want unique characteristics, a family-friendly cow instead of “perfect” genetics. 

Plus, many homesteaders raise cows for fun or supply the family with either beef or dairy. A dairy farm may sell a cow for dropping production from 5 gallons a day down to 4.5 gallons a day. But, 4.5 gallons is still more than more families need. 

Most of the homesteaders I have spoken with are perfectly happy with a 3-4 gallon cow, and many are satisfied with even fewer gallons. 

Plus, homesteaders have different goals than mega-farms. Homesteaders aren’t usually raising cattle on a larger scale. A homestead herd can be as small as 2-3 cows or as large as 10-15 cows. 

Because the herds are smaller, homesteaders aren’t usually as worried about all the intricate profitability details. If a homestead calf takes an extra month or two to fatten, it’s usually not a big deal. 

Homesteaders often look for cows that are “cute,” tame, and that makes a good pet. They often want unique breeds, looks, or fun mixes. In the cow world, that’s called a great “yard decal.” Mini cows have become popular due to homestead popularity. 

And, I think that’s wonderful because a lot of cow breeds that aren’t as common are making a comeback because of homesteaders! 

Once the herd gets to 100 cows or larger, the homesteader has usually converted to a farmer and is breeding cattle for profit. At that point, their goals change, and the qualities they look for change as well. 

  • Homesteaders usually want a friendly, pet cow instead of a registered cow
  • Homesteaders are more forgiving of little issues if the cow meets other major criteria
  • They usually want something more manageable on a smaller scale
  • The table needs of the family usually outweigh market condition requirements 

Others want to make a more serious investment and purchase a bull or cow that can add to the long-term bloodlines of their herd. And, still others want to show their cow at fairs and professional jackpots. 

It’s also important to know if you are looking for beef, dairy, or dual-purpose cow. In my experience, most breeders who mix dairy breeds with beef breeds do so for the homesteading family. Dairy-beef crosses often have issues with fattening, milk production, or both. IT takes skill and knowledge to successfully breed a dual-purpose cow. 

How Much Does a Dairy Calf Cost?

A homestead dairy calf usually costs $100-200 for a very young calf, while a dairy yearling will cost closer to $800-1000. 

Dairy calves range in price depending on the breed. Various breeds are prized. While Jersey and Guernsey’s cows give more cream, Holsteins produce more milk overall. Some cows produce A1 proteins, while others are A2 only beta caseins. These differences affect the price of a dairy cow. 

A jersey dairy calf usually costs about $175 for a 1-2 week old calf, $275-300 for a couple of weeks old bottle baby, with bulls pricing about $200 at a couple of weeks old. Just under a yearling usually costs about 900, and a bred heifer will cost about $1,000-1,500. There is some adjustment for price based on where the cow is selling in the US and the current availability of calves.

In the United States, a Holstein costs about $200 for a bottle calf, $400-500 for a weaned calf, and $900-$950 for an almost yearling calf. 

Dairy cows are valued differently than beef cattle (1)

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Buy a Bottle Fed Calf?

A bottle calf can be tempting to buy because they cost a lot less than even a weaned calf. But, there are a lot of risks to a bottle-fed calf, and you should understand those risks before you take on a bottle baby.  

What kind of a cow should I buy?

It’s crucial to find the right fit for your family or homestead. When purchasing a cow, consider the age, breed, purpose, and temperament of the cow. Its health is also essential. I’ve known too many people who pay $1,000-$2,000 for a cow, only to find out she’s only good for culling and butchering. 

How do I choose a quality dairy cow for my family? 

Dairy cows must breed back (get pregnant) quickly and annually. If a cow has problems conceiving, she won’t work as a dairy cow. Dairy cows should also have a consistent and quality milk supply. You also want to find a cow with the right temperament, training, and age. I discuss what to look for in a dairy cow here

How long does a cow live?

The age of cattle varies greatly by purpose. Cows can live for over 20 years, but beef cattle generally live from one to two years old. Dairies usually keep professional dairy cows for 6-8 years. Many cows continue to produce a good quantity and milk quality into their late teens. These cows are usually kept by families and homesteaders. 

Recommended Cattle Supplies (And Dairy Supplies)

This list contains affiliate products. Affiliate products do not cost more but helps to support BestFarmAnimals and our goal to provide farm animal owners with accurate and helpful information.

This shelter is pretty easy to put together and it shelters a good number of cows. It’s sturdy and can withstand our high winds and heavy snows. And it’s cheaper than a barn and easier to build.

Colostrum is critical for calves. If you aren’t able to get some from your cows, this is a quality supplemental colostrum.

Probiotic for cattle with digestion issues in a oral tube. It works for other ruminants and is safe for goats, but is formulated especially for cattle.

A halter to lead Bessie around. This show halter also works for kids showing for 4H.

All Stock Feed is on Amazon, but you’ll pay less if you find it at your local feed store. It’s a great feed for cattle.

Electrical rope for your fencing. This keeps cattle in, but goats, alas- not so well.

Dairy Cow Recommended Supplies

Disposable towels or wet wipes are the first step in cleaning the udders.

Teat Dip and a dip cup are essential for keeping your milk clean. It lasts a while. Mine usually lasts a year to a year and a half.

I use a stainless steel bucket when I milk because it’s easy to clean and carry. These are my preferred milk filters and I use them for cow and goat milk.

This large jar funnel stays much more stable than regular funnels and can handle larger milk volumes.

I like this grain feeder while milking and use this size for the cows and goats being milked.

Balm ointment for sore udders. This cream is popular for people but formulated and created for cows’ udders.

Mastitis Test detects mastitis.

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