how much does a cow cost

Dairy Farming Guide: How Much Does a Cow Cost?

Over the years, dairy farming has proved to be a worthwhile business venture, especially for the people who are willing to endure the capital-intensive activities of rearing cows.

If you wish to try your hand at dairy farming, the first step you need to take is to do thorough market research to understand its ins and outs, including the cost of purchasing and raising cows. This article answers this question: How much does a cow cost?

How Much Does a Calf Cost?


As you prepare to venture into the dairy farming business, you need to know the best cows to start with. Several factors determine the type of cows you buy for this type of business, including the main objective of rearing cows and their age. Most dairy farmers start with calves that grow to form a generation of adult cows.

By starting your dairy farming business with calves, you’ll have an opportunity to study the entire generation of your cows to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Starting with adult cows may not give you a chance to understand your cows enough, which may be a disadvantage to you. Furthermore, starting with calves is more cost-effective than starting with adult cows because calves cost less to purchase. So, how much does a calf cost?

The overall cost of a calf depends on several important factors like its body weight and age. So, if you are planning to buy a calf at an advanced age, expect to pay more than buying a tot calf. Also, the heavier the calf, the costlier it is.

Currently, the cost of a calf ranges between $40 and $600. If you are purchasing a day-old calf, it’s likely to cost you $40 to $50 because its mortality rate is very high when it’s separated from its mother at such a tender age. It also costs less because it’ll require more care than an old calf.

A young calf needs to be fed with milk on a daily basis using a bottle. All these expenses need to be factored in when coming up with a price for your calves. If you are buying young calves, you’ll be saving the seller these expenses, and therefore their prices shouldn’t be too high. But if they’ve already taken care of the calves for a few weeks or months, then they’ll add these expenses to their price.

If you want to buy a yearling calf, expect to pay anywhere between $450 and $750 per calf. Currently, a yearling beef calf that is healthy and stable costs between $650 and $750, while a yearling dairy calf costs between $450 and $600.

How Much Does a Dairy Cow Cost?


Just like calves, the cost of a dairy cow is determined by several factors, including its age, gender, weight, overall health, and breed. So, if you are planning to buy a yearling dairy cow, you’ll pay less than buying a full-grown cow. Also, the cost of buying yearling dairy cows sold in pairs (a mother and a calf) is generally less than buying a full-grown heifer without a calf.

Where you buy your dairy cow also determines its cost. For example, the cost of buying a dairy cow from a slaughterhouse is lower than that of a dairy farm because cows from slaughterhouses tend to have underlying conditions that may cost you a lot of money to treat. Generally, a yearling dairy cow currently costs between $900 and $3,000.

The huge price difference depends on whether the dairy cow is a yearling or a proven family cow. As mentioned above, the cost of yearlings and calves is lower than that of matured cows. The cost of your dairy cow also depends on how the cow was raised. For instance, if it was bottle-fed and hand raised, it will be more sociable with people, thus pushing its cost further up.

A dairy cow needs to be sociable because it makes it easier to milk. The weight of the cow is also essential because it helps you to know if the cow is properly fed. If you are buying a lactating dairy cow, it’ll cost you between $1,500 and $2,100.

The cost of a lactating cow is higher than the rest because such a cow can consume more than $2,000 worth of animal fodder per year. Studies have shown that a lactating cow can eat more than 110 pounds of wet feed and more than 50 pounds of dry fee every day.

How Much Does a Beef Cow Cost?


The main factor that determines the cost of a beef cow is its weight. Since beef cows are kept for meat production, they need to have enough weight to fetch the best price. More weight translates to more meat. Even if you are buying a beef calf, the price will be based on its weight.

Generally, the cost of a beef cow ranges between $2,500 and $3,000. The weight of a beef cow is usually measured using CWT. This unit of measurement offers the estimated price of a cow based on 100 lbs, which costs between $135 and $165.

So, going by this pricing, a beef calf that weighs 500 lbs should cost about $700. A matured beef cow that weighs about 2,200 lbs will set you back about $4,000 or $5,000.

5 Factors That Influence the Price of a Cow


The current cow price movements have shown changes in both demand and supply. These changes have been influenced by numerous factors, including the following:

1. Consumer Demand for Dairy Products and Beef

Despite the ongoing debates around the health benefits of dairy products and beef, the demand for these products has remained fairly steady around the world. A recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that the country’s annual per capita consumption of beef stands at 80 pounds. This impressive demand has led to an increase in the price of beef and dairy products.

2. Feed Prices

When the feed prices are favorable, they help to keep the cost of operating dairy farms and slaughterhouses down. This translates to impressive costs for cows. If the feed prices go up, expect the cost of cows to go up respectively.

3. Weight

As mentioned above, the weight of a cow plays a critical role in determining its cost. The heavier a cow is, the costlier it will be. This concept is particularly important when buying a beef cow because the cost of your beef will be based on weight.

4. Age

The cost of a calf is not the same as that of a heifer or a matured cow. Whether you are buying a dairy cow or a beef cow, make sure you know its actual age to know how much you are likely to pay. A day-old calf will cost less than a yearling because the former’s mortality rate is very high when it’s separated from its mother.

5. Breed

Some breeds of cattle are known to cost more than others. The most expensive ones are the ones that produce more milk and beef. Some breeds of cows are also known to be more resistant to diseases than others, thus making them more expensive. Also, if you are looking for a breed that consumes less and produces more, then expect to pay more.

Where to Buy a Cow


As a new dairy farmer, the first headache you have to deal with is finding the right cows. Deciding on the type of cows you want to keep and where to find them can be a real challenge for a first-timer because there’s a lot of misleading information out there. Generally, there are different ways of buying a cow.

For instance, you can buy your cows from public auctions that are usually held in different parts of the country throughout the year. At these auctions, you are likely to find different breeds of cows, including crossbreds and single breeds. You can also buy your cows from reputable cow breeders in your area.

Some of these breeders are solely involved in breeding cows for sale, while others own dairy farms where they keep cows for beef and milk production. You can also buy your cows from small-scale farmers who keep small herds of cattle for their domestic beef and milk production.

When you are selecting your cows, pick the best bulls and productive females that can wean at least one calf per year without losing their body conditions by becoming too fat or thin.

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