There's profit in them thar grasses…

Posted: April 4, 2010 by Thrivelearning in Grass Fed Beef Cattle
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(While I don’t raise Holsteins, we’ve certainly had some tall grass this year.)

For grass fed beef, you really have just two major profit points – as long as you’re feeding hay:

  1. When they’re weaned.
  2. When they’re yearlings.

Anything else gets eaten up in the winter hay cycle. While a grass fed beef is only about 22 months old at harvest, it’s gone through at least 2 winters, usually 3. Because you have to add in the 9 months of gestation to the cost – which takes it up to nearly 2 1/2 years.

Cost of hay isn’t just baling it, you also have to fertilize the land it came from, or it won’t produce as well for you the next time (and eventually, you’d only be raising short, unpalatable weeds – or sand.)

So working to finish cattle actually takes the remaining profit out of that last 8-10 months. They are going to put on their final weight, but this is also where they lose their efficiency of gain – each pound of gain takes more and more pounds of forage to achieve. And so the relative efficiency of grain-fed beef, who are harvested at about 14 months. That is, if you have the cheap grain to feed them.

Trying to finish cattle on grass usually means another winter of hay, which is additional cost. Auction prices for beef gets you paid commodity prices, which are as low as buyers can get away with. So your fertilizer cost, plus equipment and fuel, eat up any profit from those last few hundred pounds.

Now Missouri has lots and lots of tough, but tasty fescue grass. So this is why it is one of the top beef-producing states. Mostly, it has feeder or stocker (yearling) calves which are then shipped off to feedlots for fattening.

What’s becoming more popular are grass-finished beef, locally marketed. This is where you get your premiums and the reason for finishing anything at all. When you can jump the final price up above your costs for that last year, you can then simply be able to make any profit you want that the final consumer will pay for.

Example is that while a cow at auction will bring about $800 and your 600-pound carcass will cost you another $300 for processing – this comes to somewhere around $2.00 a pound for the whole animal. Visiting the local big-city market found that just hamburger from a verified grass-fed beef was bringing $5.50/lb. and sirloin steak was $18-19.00 per pound.

Now, that was individually wrapped, USDA-inspected. But it shows that farmers taking over their own market can reap the profit harvest to the tune of somewhere around $3,000 per animal.

Without taking your own marketing into your own hands, you are really stuck with sellling yearlings at auction, your next best profit margin.

To create a sustainable farming solution, increasing profit on grass fed beef at commodity prices is to take out the hay costs – which entails something called mob-grazing. By intensively grazing cattle and letting the land recover (one expert at this says his cows only see the same spot twice a year) – this actually make the grass lusher and means you don’t have to feed hay at all, there’s plenty out there if you ration it during the winter.

The other point would be to get a premium above commodity levels – in other words, quit selling a commodity.

But I’ve got far more to study on this. I sure would like to move onto finished cattle, but there’s going to have to be some changes in order to “mine them them hills” of grass to see more gold.

  1. Rufor Dufor says:

    Hi there,
    Glad you’re getting the truth out about grassfed beef, and thanks for a post. Wish I had a farm to try it all out on. Keep up the good work.

  2. […] I was not only the scammer, but was also figuring out how to get out from being scammed. Had to do with owning some land in Texas, which was being used to finance an online scam.(And I, of course, was saying he could make more money raising grass-fed beef…) […]

  3. […] There’s profit in them thar grasses… […]

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