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How Much Does a Cow Cost to Buy for Your Homestead?

As a homesteader or small farm owner, you have many good reasons to purchase a cow. Not only can you save money by producing your milk and beef, but the quality of both of these will likely be much better than what you buy at the big box store.

Not only that – but raising a cow is a sustainable and enjoyable way to foster a closer connection to the land you live on and develop.

If you’re thinking about starting a homestead, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, how much does a cow cost? The answer, of course, depends on several factors.

We’ll take a closer look at these factors in this post. Keep reading to learn more!

How Much Does a Cow Cost?

A cow costs between $2,200 and $5,300. This cost delta is a wide range, of course. The actual cost will depend on the breed, gender, and weight of the cow. Where you live will also play a role in how much you pay to buy a cow.

When we say cow, we refer not just to females (who are, technically, cows) but also to males (bulls) and calves. 

Bulls tend to sell for more money than cows. Calves cost less than both bulls and cows. 

You can also buy cows based on the weight, with sellers usually charging by the hundredweight. Often, you can buy cows in larger groups or breeding pairs to save money.

You can even purchase cow/calf pairs for a cow-calf enterprise. Cow/calf pairs can save you money compared to buying individual animals. 

There are a few other nuances when it comes to cow pricing. Let’s dive deeper into the intricacies of cow pricing.

jersey cow herd in the field at dusk
The current marketplace cost for cows is around $130 – $160 cwt (per hundredweight.) So a 1,200-pound cow might cost anywhere between $1,560 and $1,920. However, cow price varies big-time according to the cow type and age. Where you buy your cow also plays a role.

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Cow?

It’s no secret that cows are expensive (but worth the money). Just how much does a cow cost, anyway? The price of cows varies drastically depending on breed, age, and location. 

Dairy Cow Cost

Dairy cows like Jerseys, Herefords, and Guernseys cost around $900 to $3,000. Again, it depends on the cow’s age and whether it’s proven – meaning whether it has bred and produced milk before.

Dairy cows sold by weight might hit the market at around $1.00 to $1.40 per pound. Cows that are currently lactating may cost even more.

Beef Cow Cost

white cow and calves in field charolais bull calves
Mature Charolais cows can weigh well over 2,500 pounds. They eat a ton of food! So – remember that the initial cost of your cow isn’t the only expense. Consider the ongoing cost of raising cows, such as cow feed, cow water, healthcare, labor, cow depreciation, marketing, and surprise medical costs.

Beef heifers – females – will usually cost around $2,500 to $3,000 per head. Beef cows are priced based on their weight, with the standard unit of measurement being CWT. It stands for 100 pounds. So if the CWT for a cow is about $135 to $165, you’ll pay around $750ish for a 500-pound calf

There are some exceptions to this, though. If your heifer gets bred, it may cost more than one and a half times what a non-bred heifer does. A full-grown beef cow can cost up to $5,000!

Again, this price gets impacted by the breed. Some of the most desirable cattle breeds to raise for beef include Black Angus, Hereford, Red Angus, Texas Longhorn, Highlanders, and Charolais.

While you might pay a bit more for premium breeds, they might also be easier or harder to find depending on where you live (and availability can drive the price up or down, too).

How Much Does a Calf Cost?

How much is a baby cow? There are a lot of variables that go into this – namely, the breed, size, and age of the calf. 

A day-old calf will require more work on the part of the buyer. It will need to be bottle-fed since calves need milk until they are four months old. They also drink around 8% of their body weight daily in milk (or milk replacer.) This cost adds up.

Because they require more work – and have a higher mortality rate – you can sometimes get them at a significantly cheaper price – around $30 to $60 per calf. Cow-calf producers anticipate that it will be harder to sell these calves. So they sell them at much lower prices. 

Calves that are a bit older – around four to six months – will cost more because they are more stable. And because the producer has spent more time and money on growing and nurturing the young cow. 

A beef calf will usually cost around $700, while an older calf is often priced based on weight and use. Dairy calves tend to be cheaper than beef calves. 

adorable holstein calf resting on straw on pennsylvania farm
Look at this adorable Holstein calf! Calves usually hit the market weighing around 500 – 600 pounds. Expect steers in this weight range to cost roughly $130 – $140. Heifers in this weight range will cost about $120. However, as you know, the marketplace conditions are volatile as of 2022. We expect cattle prices to keep rising. Prices for young calves also vary state by state.

How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Cow?

The average cost to raise a cow for a year is between $500 and $1,000. This number includes prices for feed and care! So there are plenty of ways you can cut costs.

The average herd size factors in here, too – it is an economy of scale so often, it will cost you less to raise beef or dairy animals if you have more animals. 

For example, cows usually need about 30 to 40 pounds of hay each day (or up to 100 pounds a day for dairy cows!). If you have to buy hay all year, you’ll pay upwards of $2,000

However, if you can grow your feed or, ideally, you can allow your cow to graze year-round, you’ll save much of that money instead. Of course, that depends on land prices, climate, and other factors.

You’ll need around two acres to feed a cow-calf pair for 12 months. That’s according to the National Resources Conservation Service. Of course, that acreage estimate is a rough number! Considering how many cows you can support in that space depends on their breed, age, and pasture type.

You’ll also have to factor in costs, such as mineral supplements, grain, breeding costs, veterinary bills, maintenance, and equipment.

There are butchering expenses to consider, too! Usually – expect to pay a fixed price per pound. But – your local butcher may have different deals. Ask around!

Read More – We Found the 7 Best Cow Breeds for Delicious Milk!

Is It Worth It to Buy a Cow?

The production cost of raising cows can be high, but ultimately, it’s worth your effort. You’ll be able to produce your beef for less than grocery store prices.

 Not sure that you want to raise your cows? That’s okay. If you don’t have room to house cows, you can always buy a whole cow carcass or half a cow share.

Buying whole cow carcasses will generally give you the best prices on meat without going through the work of keeping your own. 

Read More – What Do Hungry Cows Eat? Other Than Grass?!

Cow and Cattle Cost FAQs

young baby jersey calf 3 weeks old
The breed of your cow impacts cost. Take the Jersey cow as an example. Jersey cows are not only adorable! They also produce some of the most delicious (and buttery) milk of any cow. But the offspring of Jersey cows can cost more money if crossbred with a meat cow. Genetics and demand count in the world of cattle cost.

Finding reliable cow-cost advice is tricky these days since the economy changes so quickly.

So we put together a list of the most helpful cow and cattle pricing answers to make your cow or cattle acquisition proceed smoothly.

We hope these cow pricing answers help you!

Best Books and Learning Resources for Raising New Cows and Calves!

Raising dairy cows and beef cows is a ton of fun – even if the cost of cows may increase a little bit this year.

After investigating the current marketplace price of cows and calves – what’s next? Well, we recommend that you continue learning.

We also want to share our favorite books and resources to help you raise a cow with the most luck possible.

(We think it’s easier to get lucky with your cow herd if you do lots of reading – and research!)

The books below are our favorite places to start.

We hope they help you in your cow acquisition process!

  1. The Backyard Cow
  2. The Backyard Cow
    $18.95 $14.99

    The Backyard Cow by Sue Weaver is one of the best guides for keeping a productive and happy family cow. Her motto is that you don't need massive acreage to keep a cow happy and healthy. You'll learn how to raise cows in your backyard and produce ample milk for your family. (How about six gallons per day?) You'll also select the perfect cow breed for your situation, learn daily maintenance, health care, and more.

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 12:33 pm GMT
  3. Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle - Fourth Edition
  4. Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle - Fourth Edition
    $12.99

    If you're raising beef cattle, then the Guide to Raising Beef Cattle by Heather Smith Thomas is one of the best resources you can read. You'll learn about beef cattle health, breed selection, feeding, pasture, handling, and breeding. And more. You'll also learn about the business side of cattle farming - so you can identify and capitalize upon niche beef and cattle markets.

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 09:52 am GMT
  5. Keeping a Family Cow
  6. Keeping a Family Cow
    $24.95

    Are you interested in holistic dairy more than culling and beef? If so - Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman is one of the best resources we've found. Joann dives deep into how you can help nurture your cow and help it produce ample and delicious butter, milk, cream, and cheese. Perfect for small rural farms who want to enrich their lives naturally - and the lives of their herd.

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 07:48 pm GMT
  7. The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
  8. The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals
    $24.95 $20.49

    Plan on raising more than cows? What about chickens, goats, ducks, bees, or goats? Then check out The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Animals by Gail Damerow. Gail helps the reader imagine how to produce delicious eggs, honey, bacon, milk, cheese, and other animal products. You'll start by choosing the perfect breeds from a beautiful full-color breed guide. You'll then learn efficient strategies for producing various animal products - even if you have a tiny farm or homestead.

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 01:23 pm GMT
  9. The Family Cow Handbook
  10. The Family Cow Handbook
    $29.95

    Want buckets of healthy and delicious milk for your family? Then we recommend The Family Cow Handbook by Philip Hasheider. It's the perfect guide to keeping milk cows! You'll learn the most vital steps when buying a cow. You'll also discover the secret to effective cow milking and feeding. You'll also learn how to help your cow when she's giving birth to calves. There's no making up for experience when it comes to raising cows. But - this book will make you wiser in a shorter amount of time. For sure!

    Get More Info

    We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    12/08/2022 03:53 pm GMT

Conclusion

So – how much does a cow cost? Crunching the numbers may seem like it’s common knowledge. But the actual price of cows can vary greatly depending on factors such as breed and location. 

What about you? How much do dairy cows, beef cows, and calves sell in your area?

We know the economy seems to change by the hour – so we would love to have an update from your neck of the woods.

Thanks so much for reading.

Have a beautiful day!

Read More – 275+ Adorable and Funny Cow Names for Your Entire Herd!

Author

  • Rebekah Pierce

    Rebekah Pierce started a small farm with her husband in 2016 in upstate New York, near her native Adirondack Mountains. With a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in special education, she has been writing professionally since 2017, but only recently left the world of teaching to pursue writing and farming full time. She now writes full-time in the education, business, finance, and of course, homesteading and farming niches.

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