Beef Cow-calf Operation

Producer video describing the benefits, challenges, and marketing opportunities of a cow-calf operation.
Beef Cow-calf Operation - Videos


Farm Management Risk Management Production Economics

More by Jayson K. Harper, Ph.D. 

H. Louis Moore, Ph.D.

John W. Comerford

View Transcript

Hi my name is Cheryl Fairburn and together with my husband Bill and two children, we own and operate Lisangeer Farm which is located in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

The farmer is home to a hundred registered Angus cows and we farm about four or five hundred acres of mainly grass hay. What are benefits of a beef cow-calf operation? The cow-calf operation provides a number of benefits.

There are a number of marketing opportunities with the cow-calf operation. You can sell can sell your calves at weaning time, you can retain ownership, keep them until yearling, sell them as yearlings.

Or you can keep them and feed them out as finished steers.

With the registered heard, which is what we have, we also have the ability to sell replacement heifers and purebred bulls. On top of that, it's a great operation to raise a family with. Our kids are involved in the calving process, the feeding process, and they learn to respect life and develop a very good work ethic.

What are the challenges of a cow-calf operation?

Some of the challenges that producers who just want to begin need to face is the equipment that's needed with a cow-calf operation.

Mainly a chute system. I often recommend to anybody who comes to us that they need to buy a chute system before they even put one cow on the property because that allows them the ability to work those animals, treat those animals, pull calf, whatever might need to be done very safely to both the animal and to the to the person that's trying to push those cattle through.

Secondly, you have to be around during calving season, which for us occurs January, February, March and then at weaning time which is usually in September, October, November.

Other than that, you can get away, you know, for maybe a small summer vacation or whatever. But those are would be some of the main challenges that we have found with a cow-calf operation. What is your marketing plan for your animals? Our animals are marketed several ways.

Our steers, art calves that are not good enough quality to remain as bulls are moved, are sold to a feed lot over in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.

Our heifers that are not are going to be kept back as replacement heifers I'm is due a feed lot in Lebanon County. Our bulls are sold out in the Midwest.

They are shipped out at about 7-8 months of age to a gentleman in Iowa who markets those bulls for us to commercial producers.

We also do, can sell a few breeding animals to local purebred producers, local commercial producers and then on top of that we do market about 15 steers as freezer beef. What other marketing operations are available?

You can, and there are people in this county who do this, where they will go and get a label and then retail their products either through farmers markets or they will set up a maybe a a small retail store right at their site.

That requires a lot of time in marketing and for us, it didn't work but for a lot of people that is a great way. Also, you can retain those calves and feed them to the finish point. But since we don't grow crops and we don't have the equipment to grow crops, it works best for us to sell our calves off to a feed lot and let them handle that. We could retain ownership on those calves also, but you need to find a feed lot that will allow you to retain ownership and then you pay them to feed those calves, so those are some other options people can take advantage of. Is there anything else you want to say about beef cow-calves? It's a very challenging, but very gratifying business.

The best time of year for us is when those calves are born because now we can see the matings that we made.

You know, are they working? There's nothing better than watching black cows and calves out on green pastures, out through the spring and the summertime.

We've met tons of people through the business and as long as you set it up correctly and you have that working system, you have good fences, and you learn to work those cattle the proper way, it can be a very fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

Thank you.


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