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Getting Started: How Cattle Ranchers Make Money

by cattlefarmer on July 15, 2009

It’s the first question anyone contemplating raising cattle should ask: Can cattle farming be a source of money and if so, how do you do it! Most cattle farmers might politely joke that there’s no money to be made. And to be sure, cattle farming is a tough business.
But some farmers are making money. We’ll take a look at exactly how in an upcoming article. In the meantime, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments. How do you get started making money in the cattle ranching business?

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Jail Bird July 18, 2009 at 3:26 am

well you can buy and sell cattle at autions. Prices very from cattle being to big, too small, meat or dairy cattle, and overall look.

tommyboi_9i6 July 19, 2009 at 4:24 am

If you SERIOUSLY want to start a cattle farm, you’re going to invest a lot of money and have to determine what type you want to run. There are 3 main types (feedlot, farrow to finish, and some other one i forget). I really don’t think you should be getting into it if you’re going to ask a question like this on Yahoo. It’s a whole lot more complicated than you’d think.

eyesinthedarkness July 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of pasture. You’ll also want to have hay fields. These last couple of years have been dry all over and hay prices have gone up high enough that there have been a lot of hay thefts.

Buy you a small herd and get a bull. He’ll do his thing and before long you’ll have calves. You usually want to let them get pretty big before you sell them, and you’ll keep a few. Then you’ll get rid of that bull and get another (to avoid inbreeding) and go it all again.

dlmrgnk July 22, 2009 at 2:13 pm

The price of cattle varies day to day week to week. Same thing is true for the offspring. It’ll take about 2 acres of land to support a cow-calf “unit” in reasonable good pasture country.
Out here in cattle country they say you can make a small fortune raising cattle–if you start with a large one! It’s a tough, tough business. Start by inheriting a ranch, a fortune, or going to work on a ranch.

stacipm July 25, 2009 at 8:25 am

I hate to sound negative but if you haven’t been raised in the business or have someone to run your operation you have no idea how hard it is to make any money. It takes a lot of expense and a lot of time to ever see a profit, but on the other hand if you are looking for a “loss” tax write off you might want to try it. Start out small and get ready for a hard work, head ache, and loss. It just about has to be in your blood before you can enjoy it.

cmdynamitefreckles July 28, 2009 at 6:14 am

The first thing you better look for is where you are going to raise these cattle. Are you going to buy the land or lease it? Around here, it is hard to find any kind of ranch that is not already leased out or is for sale. Next, how many head of cattle can your land support? It varies in different parts of the country; some as little as 2 acres per cow/calf pair up to 30 or 40. Next, you have to decide what kind of cattle you want to raise. Registered or not? Registered cows are generally more expensive. Next you need to buy a lot of equipment. Pickups, cattle working chutes, branding irons, fence building materials, trailers, farm equipment (if you want to raise your own hay), overhead cake bins, cakers, a horse or four-wheeler to get your cattle in, the list is endless. Starting a cattle raising operation from scratch is going to take several years before you get to worry about where to sell your cattle and it will be years before you make money on them unless you are already rich. Start by befriending someone that raises cattle and have them advise you. It is way too complicated to have any one person be able to explain it to you in this forum.

Roger Johnson November 2, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Hello Everyone,

I can’t help but notice all the hype I have even heard about Wagyu despite the fact that most producers/farmers seem to agree that most of them are kind of out there supporting each other in a market where it is very hard to make a profit or where profit margins are very small. I live here in Japan where owning wagyu is nothing spectacular; even though calves go for $3500.00 each (and expected to sky rocket with more import restrictions on the way). Feed cost run about $100.00 for cow and calf per month, but it is still a very profitable business for any farmer here and the market is unlimited. As you know, Japanese like to make all kinds of things and sell them to everyone else, yet buy nothing from anyone unless its absolutely necessary to substain there existance as a nation(I know, I’ve lived here 25 years). This creates the prefect opportunity for us farmers because Japan only imports as much beef as it cannot produce itself (to feed its people). I have decided to provide investment opprotunities for persons outside of Japan; I can own wagyu in Japan because I am a perminant resident and land owner. Please view the information list on this site and contact me from there if you are interested in investing in cattle that can be sold at 7-10 times the price of Wagyu in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Roger D. Johnson
Managing Director
International Wagyu

SC March 14, 2010 at 10:10 pm

how much space does one cow need im thinking of getting some but i have to put up fence didnt know how big to go i know it depends on how many u have but this will make my decision when i know how much they need. thanks

billyb August 9, 2010 at 8:01 am

I am reading all of these post and am really curious where all the hard work is. My dad died about three years ago and left me with about 100 head of cows. We also have a hay business. I do all this and have a full time job and i make money off the cows. Not so much money off the hay though matter of fact i want to get rid of my square bale business and just roll enough hay for my cows. and bumb them to about 200 head.

David Strawn September 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm

My wife and I have put 5 bred angus cows on 12 acres of well grassed pasture. We have done a bit of fence mending. Have a stream but also water daily from home water. When growing up my dad had a herd of about 15 cows. Biggest problem with them was getting out of the pasture occasionally. Compared to working a stressful management job from 7 am to 6:30 pm daily, this is pretty relaxing so far. Not yet seen the “tough” part.

Kirk September 18, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I agree with BillyB, farmers and ranchers have the whole world believing that what they do is so hard, and that their is never ever money in it. But take a look at income statistics and you’ll see that farmers make an average income well above the average (about 60 thousand yearly and that counts a lot of semi- retired ‘hobbyists’).

I purchased a farm a couple of years ago (produce) and was told by everybody that the work will be so difficult, and I won’t make a dime. Tough business, tough, tough business was all everybody seemed to repeat.

First year I made very little, but DID turn a profit without much experience. This year I almost doubled last years take. I’m not breaking the bank, but I’m getting by and next year I plan on doing even better.

And, as for all the hard work? I’m yet to experience it. Seeding is time consuming, harvest is a little stressful , but over-all I don’t find it all that tough.

Nathan October 24, 2010 at 10:46 am

So me and my wife want to start raising beef cattel how would we go about buying cattel and not getting ripped off and what brand of cattel is worth the most????

Nathan …

Kip October 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm

For Nathan above, I would recommend that you start your new endeavor by knowing the correct way to spell “cattle”.

Bret November 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Personally I think u can make a pretty comfortably living in the cow biz. If it’s a big enough operation it’s fersure a full-time job. But you defiantly got todo your studying because there’s a lot of stuf ” behind the scenes” that that the average person looking to get into the business dosnt know about.

cody February 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm

you should go to your local cattle auctions and buy some 3 or 4 weight calfs and just trade and sale them

jimmyd February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Recently a buddy came to me wanting me to consider going into the cattle business. He tells me that most of the money needed is primarily used to buy cows. But he already has the pastures and fences in place. I’m just trying to decide if its worth the while..

Rick July 2, 2011 at 7:19 am


Try visiting your local stockyard and try to pick up some cattle there. Id suggest going there and not buying anything for a couple weeks to understand how the whole process works. As for your second question, its all depends on whether you want to raise cattle for beef or breeding purposes.

rebel rancher July 4, 2011 at 8:11 am

All comments sounds good. Here is the way Buying land enough to raise cattle on is very hard to do unless you have money already. If you have the money don’t start rising cattle unless like one of the comments above you need a tax deduction. I have had land leases an most of the time you fix it up and lose it so don’t count on that. It is also hard to count on someone else to bail your hay when it is needed don’t count on that. SO that leaves us to you doing your hay your having some equipment that you don’t have alot of money in. That means you have to know how to fix it all yes don’t forget the welder and cutting torch. Have at less 50 cows for cow calf operation to have enough money flow to pay for all the repairs and feed. The easy way to start is have pasturein place buy 50 calves 250 to 300lbs put on pasture early spring sell in the fall at 600 ect lbs. Make sure you keep them in a pen for 20 days to settle them down never ever yell or chase your cattle just feed some cubes in a pen stay calm at all times. GOOD LUCK!

John Rawlings July 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I don’t really see all the hard work. I would say it is more paying attention to detail. My grandparents have raised cattle my whole life. Patching fence, running the cows, tagging are the most your really have to do unless it is calving season. They have 249 acres and had about 200 head of cattle. We would get up in the morning go out to count. The cows were aloud to roam all the land except the south 80. Raising cattle in this way there is not too much work to it except when you need to round up the herd and run them through the shoot for tagging and medicine. Then you get to change the calves from bulls to steers if you plan to sale to the butcher. We would run the cattle in the spring and in the fall. My grandfather did this until this year. Being 82 years old and taking care of my grandmother and cattle by himslef became too much for him. I currently live in Baltimore and look forward to the day when I will be able to continue what my grandfather has taught me about raising cattle with my own son. Have to get the land first 🙂

Ben September 17, 2011 at 8:25 am

Yes, you can make good money on cattle. Do you think people would raise them without making money? Remember, the more competition in any marketplace the less profit for everyone so don’t let a cattle farmer ever tell you there is not money in it. Keep your expenses as low as possible by being smart and you will make money.

Chris January 23, 2012 at 10:47 am

@ Nathan, Your last question first, Angus is the breed you want or an Angus cross.
If your new to this I wouldn’t start at the auction yard to begin your herd, to many reasons to state here. Look for a few local ranchers or farmers in your area, go look at their cattle (they love this) ask question about other ranchers who have healthy cows. Start your herd with good quality animals, quality sells. What makes the cattle industry so cool is, you have so many options, you can view cattle on-line and there are many cattle auction on T.V. almost every week during the spring. You can never ask to many questions and don’t let people discourge you.

Matt November 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

My question is for (rick). what’s better,raising cattle for beef or breeding? Is there a quicker turn around. me and my girlfriend have been interested in cattle ranching for about 2 years now. I’ve mostly been gathering information on it before i ever buy.

Hopjr15 November 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

there are many of you talking down our profession to new comers…. WELCOME them in with open arms…. if you are talking about how hard it is and how you would not recommend this and that….. then sounds like you are needing to find another job…. to the newcommers… i say welcome…. keep it going

Jennifer Marquez January 10, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I have a small farm, and I want to put cattle on it and I am all so looking for a little bit more land so I can move them around as needed .I want to buy good cattle but not some crazy price so when I sell there will be profit so please let me know what are the 3 top cattle out there to by then sell as a profit once you fatten them up? thank you Jennifer

David September 23, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Yes, you can make money in it, but most not making a living at it. Example, if you start out with 50 bred cows minimum $75,000, also 100 acres of land, $300,000; hopefully it will all be fenced, etc. Now you are $375,000 invested. If lucky, sell 45 head of calves at $1400 a head is $63,000, give the bank $20,000 for mortgage payment that leaves you $43,000. Didn’t count fertilize, feed and equipment, another $10,000 easy. Now you are left with $33,000. My point is, it takes a lot of money to make $30,000. The people that thinks it is easy is usually the second and third generation that inherited what the first generation started and paid for.

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