How much does a cow cost? Some factors that influence price include the area you are in, the age of the cow and the cow's genetics. Purchasing a milker from a line that is known to produce high quantities of milk may cost more than a cow from a line that produces an average amount of milk. If you're interested in raising cattle, figuring out a fair price to pay for a cow is only part of the equation.
Doing the Math
In addition to the initial cost of a cow, you must figure in the cost of caring for the cow. The cost is figured by adding the cost of the pasture the cow grazes on, which must idle for new growth; the cost of the corn, grain and hay to feed the cow; the cost of irrigation to water the pasture in dry seasons and the cost of getting water to the cow. Cows need water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You must also figure in veterinary costs and extra labor if you pay farm hands.
After the cost of buying and raising the cow is figured, you then need to subtract the price of the milk received from the cow. Bulk milk from a farmer is sold by the hundredweight. Milk may sell for anywhere from $11 to $22 per hundredweight, as of 2008, according to Gary Frank at UW-Madison Center for Dairy Profitability.
Figure how much milk the cow will produce over a year's time. Multiply that amount by the price the milk sells for. This is the break-even point. Of course, you want to make a profit on the cow, unless you're raising one cow solely for personal use.
You can ensure a profit if you find high-quality feed for a low price. Often, feeding corn and grain is cheaper than allowing the cow to graze, since the land must be irrigated and must not be grazed to allow the grass to rejuvenate. If you have a free supply of fresh, clean water, this can also reduce your costs.
Learn about the types of cows commonly used for dairy farming in the United States.
How much milk does a dairy cow produce? While the production potential varies from cow to cow, there are also environmental and dietary factors to consider.