Looking to buy 2 4-month old heifers

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We have finished the fencing and we were going to wait until spring to get animals but I saw some heifers advertised through my husband's work. 2 four month old holstein heifers for $150 each. Says they are healthy, have their shots and are wormed. I am wondering if this is a good price and any questions we should ask. We haven't seen the animals yet. We were looking to raise them for beef. I understand that holsteins are not particularly good for milk (would want a milk cow at some point). I have several family members and friends who would want to buy part of the meat whne it is available. I feel kind of ignorant on the matter (although I have done a TON of reading). Should they be completely weaned? Can they just eat pasture with some supplemental hay at this age?

Amy Richards

-- Amy Richards (tiggerwife@aol.com), October 27, 2000


I was confusing my cattle breeds here. Holsteins are good for milking! Amy

-- Amy Richards (tiggerwife@aol.com), October 27, 2000.

Holsteins do not make good beef cattle as do any dairy cattle. Sure they can be used for that but they are not as efficient in turning food into muscle (meat) as beef cattle. They are more efficient at making milk! Generally they are skinnier. Also heifers are not as good for meat as steers. Beef steers around here are selling for about 80cents to 1 dollar a pound right now for one around 400# so that is a good buy but remember you get what you pay for! If I bought them, I would keep them for milk. At 4 months they should be eating grass so you would have to have hay for them for the winter. We prefer to wean our calves before selling them but a lot of people don't - they are weaned when they are sold and taken away from their momma and believe me they will bawl all night long, so don't keep them close to your house if you want to get any sleep!

-- bwilliams (bjconthefarm@yahoo.com), October 27, 2000.

Its a good price for heifers .At auction here day old are going for as much as $4.00 a pound .Look for beef/milk crossed calfs and have the best of both worlds.

-- Patty (fodfarms@slic.com), October 27, 2000.

Amy I'd ask why they were being sold-and are they all Holstein. A lot of dairy people will breed to a beef bull if they aren't looking for replacement heifers. For meat production, generally a heifer isn't as good as a steer, and a dairy breed isn't anywhere near as good as a beef breed. You'll have more trouble and expense putting "meat" on them than you would with a beef animal. The marbling and fat just won't be there. If these heifers are all Holstein, it is possible that their dams weren't great milk producers and the sellers aren't interested in the time and expense of raising these 2 to see how they do. But what isn't good for a production dairy could be just fine for you. However, there may be other problems inherited from their dams beside lower production.

I think that they seem like a fair deal from here. But I don't know if they'd be the best way to get into selling meat. While it would be a big help to you to have some money coming back in after raising them, folks are going to want steaks and roasts, not just a box of burger. Holstein heifers are going to be slower growing and need a lot of finishing yet still won't give you "ideal" meat. If you're hoping to sell a bit of beef in the future, you might turn off your customers. The upside could be that they were more "naturally" raised if not strictly organically raised. If that appeals to your family and friends, then you've got to consider that their dams may well have had BGH injections.

It also depends on where you live. If you're far enough south that your pasture is going to be putting on some growth for a while or even all winter, that will lower your feed costs a lot. Hay and "dead" pasture aren't the same nutritionally. Here in Iowa, our pastures are done for the year and we're feeding. You can get by with just pasture, but especially with a dairy breed, you're not going to get what you expect of the meat. If you're buying feed through the winter, decent quality hay and some grain will keep them. More grain, more good hay or alfalfa, more cost, but more growth. I'd probably go with the hay and some grain (remembering that they'll be growing and need ever increasing amounts of food), then put them out to pasture next spring, keeping up with the grain, then really start increasing their grain the last 2-3 months to try and get some fat on them. Talk to the folks at the grain elevator. If you've got storage room, you can bulk buy certain grains and have them delivered (MUCH cheaper than by the bag) and then just buy bagged feed designed to supplement whatever grain(s) you buy in bulk. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (ima_gerbil@hotmail.com), October 28, 2000.

I can sell day old heifers for $200 up around here. At $150 , if there not sick or something, how can you go wrong? At 4 months my heifers are eating 5 pounds grain and all the hay they want. After 8 weeks they are weaned cold turkey. I think they do fine. At the dairy auction here in SW MO those would bring around $300 or more each. Don

-- Don (dairyagri@yahoo.com), October 29, 2000.

Amy, If you want milk cows those heifers are a great buy. If it is meat you are looking for then they are still cheap but will not have the quantity or quality you are used to getting. I like to get calves from a local dairy. they are fed colostrum and are cross bred bull calves that must be turned into steers(putting it politely). At 4 months old those calves should be weaned and I would feed them grain daily as well as free choice hay and fresh water. Good luck

-- Karen (kansasgoats@iwon.com), October 31, 2000.

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