Keeping cows offers so many benefits, but paying for one isn't an easy task.
A cow can be a great addition to your family and give you all the milk, cream, cheese, and butter you could ever want. Cows are friendly and beautiful to watch, and they can teach children valuable lessons about responsibility and life on a farm.
But when you actually go to buy a cow, you'll probably hear terms like market price, Cwt, cow-calf, and heifer calves. What does it all mean? You'll need to learn some terminology to be able to navigate the process of buying your first cow, but first you'll need to make sure you can afford to bring this animal home.
Bringing Home a Cow
Before you buy a cow, you need to consider whether you have enough land to support the animal. Patrice Woods, who raises livestock in northern Idaho, states that while you can keep cows on plots of just an acre or two, you'll need to budget for additional feed. Keep in mind that hay prices can range dramatically, and they're affected by issues like droughts and increasing gas prices. In 2018, large round bales of hay cost between $75 and $90 more per ton than they did in the previous year.
Your location within the country will also affect your ability to find affordable hay and feed. Feed cost can vary within different states and will also fluctuate with increased fuel costs.
A better option is to buy a cow when you have plenty of acreage, ideally in a situation where there's some sort of grass growing for most of the year. Don't forget that you'll need to offer your cow some sort of shelter, and you'll need strong fencing to keep it contained. If you have these already on your property, the total costs of buying and keeping a cow will be lower.
Where to Buy a Cow
So where can you buy a cow? In our modern digital age, the internet offers your best answers. The following websites all have cows for sale:
If you live in a rural area with an active cattle market, you may be able to find cow-calf producers who breed cattle who may be willing to sell you just one or two of their cows. It's still important to understand cow prices in the area so that you know if you're paying too much.
How Much Does a Cow Cost?
Because there's so much variation in the cattle industry, it's difficult to pin down an actual cost of what you can expect to pay for a cow. Andrew Griffith, the livestock economist for Extension at the University of Tennessee, makes the following predictions about the average cost of cows in 2019:
- Slaughter cows will average $50 per hundredweight (this measurement unit is equal to 100 pounds and is abbreviated as Cwt)
- 550 pound steers and 520 pound heifers should bring $145 and $130 per hundredweight
The average price will vary according to the weight of the cow at the time that it's sold. You'll pay less for a smaller cow, and more for a larger cow.
Keep in mind that average cow cost will vary within different areas, so you may pay more or less than the prices estimated above. If you'd like to buy your first cow, one of the best things that you can do is find an experienced cattle farmer who can help you choose a quality cow and can provide some lessons about care. A local farmer may be able to give you a better idea of the annual cost of caring for a cow so that you know you're ready for this long-term commitment.
This article was originally published March 21, 2020.