2023 cow prices rise with feed costs

How Much Does A Cow Cost To Buy? 2024 Cattle Prices

Guide to Purchasing Cattle in 2024

If you are looking to purchase a cow (to raise) or a steer (to butcher) , there are many considerations including your location, local supply and demand, your goals, equipment and amount of land you own. Your own experience owning and raising cattle will also affect the life-time cost of the cattle you purchase. Cattle costs are dependant on several factors:

  • The breed of the cow
  • Purpose of the cattle (dairy, meat, breeding stock)
  • Health-level or independance of the cow
  • Current market conditions of cattle and hay
  • Life span, usefullness of the cattle

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How Much Do Cows Cost in the USA?

How Much Do Cows Cost in 2024? Generally, a cow costs between $2,100 and $5,100 per cow. The average price is closer to $3,000 per adult cow. But, the actual cost depends on weight, gender, and breed. Yearlings sell for between $850 and $1,550. Cows will also differ in price based on whether they are dairy or beef cows. Bulls sell for more than cows.

In 2024, we’ve seen cow prices stay around the same as they cost in 2023, with a slight increase of about 5%. You can check out our detailed pricing charts here.

Cows can be sold for a flat price for the cow or based on their weight of the cow. Cow and Calf pairs are also sold, which can cost less than individual animals. Let’s explore some of the differences in cows and their prices.

Cow Costs Depend on the Purpose and Breed of the Cow

Beef cows cost more than dairy cows. This is especially true with steers. Bottle calves can cost as little as $50-$100 while yearlings are typically between $800-$1000. Milk cows are usually work around $3,000, but beef steers can sell for as much as $4,000-$5,000 if they are fully finished. As a cow gains weight, the average cost per pound decreases, but the overall price increases because the cow weighs so much more. 

*Don’t forget to check out our Guide to Buying the Right Cow, Calf or Cattle For Your Homestead

  • Bottle-fed baby cows (calves) $50-$100
  • Dairy yearlings $550 averag
  • Beef yearlings $800-$1,000
  • Older beef steers $1,000+ depending on weight 
  • Producing Dairy Cows price $800-$3,000
  • Older Dairy Cows $800-$1,500

Cow Prices By Weight Chart

Type of Cow CostAverage WeightCalculationCost
Slaughter Cows1,200 Lbs$75 per 100 lbs$900
Bred Cows 800 lbs$165 per 100 lbs  $1,320
Steers Calves550 lbs$155 per 100 lbs$850
Steers1,200 lbs$140 per 100 lbs$1,680
Heifers Calves520 lbs$145 per 100 lbs$755
Slaughter Heifers1,000 lbs$130 per 100 lbs$1,300

How Much Do Baby Cows Cost?

Age, breed, gender, and purpose affect the cost of a cow. A day-old calf will require more work and will have to be bottle-fed. Those often cost between $35 and $50 per calf. They also have a higher mortality rate, with about half of the calves dying.

A yearling cow that is 4-6 months old is more stable and will cost more. A beef yearling will cost between $650 and $750 per calf. Older calves will cost more based on weight. A dairy yearling can cost as little as $450-$600 for a calf.

  • Beef yearling: $700
  • Dairy yearlings: $550
  • Older calves $800-900 depending on weight

What’s A Beef Cow Worth?

Beef heifers will generally cost about $2,500 to $3,000 per head with an average price of $2,800 per cow. A calf will generally cost based on the weight of the calf. CWT is the unit measurement used to price cows and stands for 100 pounds. The cwt for a beef cow is between $135 and $165. That’s an average of $140 per 100 pounds. A 500-pound calf would cost about $700.

Bred heifers cost a little more than 1.5 times the cost of a heifer. A bred heifer would cost about $1,300 to purchase. Full-grown cows can cost as much as $4,000 to $5,000 per cow. A full-grown cow can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds and go for as much as $1.85 cwt.

  • Calves: $800
  • Heifer $1,300
  • Heifer Calf combination $2,000
  • Full-grown beef cow: $3,000 to $5,000

What’s The Best Beef Cow To Raise?

The most popular beef cow in the United States is Black Angus. They require little maintenance during calving season. However,  Black Angus isn’t the only great beef cow available. Check out these varieties.

Black Angus: Marbled meat, low maintenance

Charolais: Heavier cattle, coat thickens in the winter

Hereford: Early maturity, great fattening abilities, docile, good milkers also

Simmental: Easy during calving season, fattening ability

Red Angus: Marbled meat and docile

Texas Longhorn: Has horns, survival cows

Highlands: Thick coats, do well in very cold climates, lean and marbled meat

Cow costs fluctuate with increased cost of supplies

How Much Does a Dairy Cow Cost?

The worth of a milk cow varies between $900 and $3,000. This range depends on the cost of a yearly to the cost of a proven-family cow. Calves or yearlings are much cheaper to purchase than full-grown cows. Additionally, a cow that has been bottled or hand raised will cost more because they are people-friendly and better to have around the family.

  • Jersey cows can cost as little as $1,400 to $1,800
  • Cows sold by weight are usually sold between $1.05 and $1.35 per pound
  • Heifers are cheaper than bred cows, ranging between $500 and $1,000
  • Lactating dairy cows usually cost between $1,500 and $2,100
  • Tame, bottle fed, or hand raised cows generally cost more because they are used to close human contact.

What Are The Best Dairy Cows To Buy?

  • Brown Swiss: Gentle cows, one of the oldest dairy varieties
  • Jersey: Smaller cow, richer milk
  • Guernseys: Smaller cow
  • Dexters: Smaller dairy cows also used for meat
  • Hereford: Early maturity, docile, good milkers also
  • Holstein: Popular for milking cows, great beef cows also
A cow costs is based on age, breed, and gender

Where Can I Buy A Cow?

You have many options on where to purchase a cow. Local farmers may be willing to sell you a cow for less than market prices. Dairy farmers will often sell male cows at a lower price because they aren’t needed for dairy production. In addition to finding a local farmer ready to sell, you can also order and purchase a cow online. Several places offer cow sales, including the following websites:

In addition, there are local auctions all around the country. If you seek a cow at an auction, be sure to bring someone knowledgeable to help you determine if a specific cow has potential problems.

How much does a cow cost annually?

Cows generally cost between $550 and $1,000 a year to keep. In 2024, you’ll want to plan on around $1,000-$1,500 due to the increased cost of feed. This includes their feed and care. A cow will cost less if you produce your own feed or if you have more acres to grass-feed the cow from. A single cow will need between 2-5 acres per cow to grass-feed.

Cows generally need between 30 and 40 pounds* of hay a day for meat cows. Actively milking cows can eat as much as 100 pounds a day in combined feed. If you need to buy hay for most of the year, it will cost you about $1,300-2,000 a year in feed. If you can grow your own feed or have enough land for the cow’s grazing needs, then a cow will only cost you $200-300 a year.

Other costs that you will need to factor include:

  • Grain, Hay, Alfalfa
  • Corn,  Oats, and Barley
  • Vet Bills
  • Minerals and other supplements
  • Other needs such as halters, equipment, etc
  • Breeding costs

* Cows eat 2.6% of their weight a day. That means they eat roughly 24-26 lbs a day in dry hay. But, there is usually a 15% waste. It’s best to plan on about 36lbs a day of hay per cow until you figure out the best ways to minimize hay waste.

In 2022, a ton bale of siliage hay cost $175 per bale. Grass hay cost $280 per ton. Alfalfa hay (for pregnant or nursing cows) cost between $400 per bale ton, depending on the cut of alfalfa. In 2023, the prices of hay started stabilizing. In 2024, prices continuie to remain stable from the increased prices of 2022. The high snowfall of 2023 that the Western US recieved in 2023 helped to stabilize it against the heavy droughts across the Western US. Hay prices stabilized, helping to stabilize the cost of raising cattle.

We expect that 2024 prices will continue to remail stable unless excessive rain in the East and low rain inthe West impacts the number of hay cuttings farmers get.

beef cattle cost more than dairy cows

Frequently Asked Questions About Cow Costs:

How much does a cow cost to keep in your backyard? It will cost around $25-$30 a day in feed if you purchase from a feed store, but you may need to purchase additional equipment if you keep a backyard cow. A steer will eat 15-20 pounds of feed, while a dairy heifer will eat as much as 35 pounds of feed a day (more when combining different food options).

In addition, you will need to have a way to keep your cow safe, contained, and healthy. You will need a barbed wire fence to keep it contained. Getting your backyard cow ready will cost you $300 or more.

How much does it cost to butcher a cow? If you pay to have your cow killed, it can cost as much as $100. There are several costs associated with butchering a cow, including the cost to kill, butcher, and prep the meat. The carcass will need to be butchered and prepped for consumption.

Hanging meat weight is the raw butcher weight of the meat. The cost to prep the meat is based on the hanging meat weight and not the final weight of the prepared meat. Butchering usually costs about $0.55 per pound of hanging meat weight.

Will I Save Money On Beef Costs To Raise A Cow? You won’t save money if you primarily eat lower-cost cuts, such as the meat used for hamburgers or roasts. You will save money if you primarily like to eat higher-end cuts such as those used for steaks or filets. Beef consumption can be broken into two categories: higher and lower.

When you raise your own beef, all the meat is averaged as a cost per pound. According to the University of Wyoming, raising your own beef costs $4.10 per pound. That means that with an average cost of $2.99 for cheaper cuts of beef, you will overspend by $1.11 per pound.

However, higher-end cuts average $8.44 a pound and will save you $4.34 a pound. If you average the costs of the entire cow, and you can consume the entire cow, then you will save yourself $240 a year in beef. That takes into account the consumer costs of $2,081 for 450 pounds of meat and the cost of $1,845 for the same meat in a raised cow.

 Retail CostTotal CostRaised CostTotal Cost
Lower End Cuts (315 lbs)$2.99$941.85$4.10$1,291.50
Higher End Cuts (135 lbs)$8.441,139.40$4.10$553.50

After reading this, check out our other articles on:


Reflecting on the comprehensive journey through the costs, considerations, and intricacies of purchasing cows or steers, it’s clear that embarking on this venture is more than a financial decision—it’s a commitment to responsible stewardship. Whether your interest lies in dairy, beef, or breeding stock, understanding the nuances of breed, purpose, health, and market conditions is paramount.

The fluctuating prices of 2024, holding steady with a slight increase from 2023, highlight the importance of staying informed and adaptable. Hopefully you gained a deepened appreciation for the factors that influence the lifetime cost of cattle, from initial purchase to annual upkeep.

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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