Seasonal Stockage of Cattle : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Several days ago someone posted about starting a cattle farm on about 40 acres. I replied I had 'been there, done that' and have now modified my herd to be a hobby cattle farmer.

Let me elaborate:

Traditionally there have been three phases of the cattle industry, cow/calf operators, stockers and feedlots. Of the three, stockers have generally been the most profitable. For a cow/calf operation you have to feed, in some manner, the cow all year and the calf for a while, plus maintaining one or more bulls. Your only real income comes from selling the calves. A stocker takes weaned calves and raises then to the point of being able to go into a feedlot. While some operations are year-round, many are seasonal, buying in early spring and selling in late fall. No over-winterage. A feedlot trys to buy and feed for the anticipated fresh meat market. They pretty well have to run at capacity to spread out fixed costs whatever their market turns out to be. These lines are becoming increasingly blurred as vertical intregration occur to a limited extent, such as large retain supermarket chains owning their own feedlots which are now taking in younger animals.

Several options for limited yearly involvement were mentioned in the thread, such as raising dairy heifers to the point they are ready to go on the milk line.

Another options is to buy really old cows with young calves or about to calve in early spring when the grass starts to grow, feed them and their calves on nothing but grass until late fall and then sell everything in late fall. Without a bull, the cows will be open and sell as slaughter cows. If bred, they may or may not have another market. To provide flexibility, a bull might be purchased and sold with the cows.

Locally cows are designated by age. A calf is a calf. A yearling is a weaned calf. A springer is a first calving heifer about to calve. Then they are designated by how old they are, based on their teeth, up to about the age of six, when they are now called full mouths. A long full-mouth is one which is older but still has good teeth. A peg is one in which the teeth have been worn down to stubs. A gummer is just that, one which has worn her teeth down to the gums. Pegs and gummers do fine on fresh grass as it doesn't require much chewing, but don't do well on hay. Also used are open, short-bred and long-bred, which indicates how pregnant they are.

My intent is to eventually go seasonal with old cows such as this. However, most of the 13 cows I have now have been here 7-8 years and we kind of know each other. Since I have been so busy with setting up the store, I have neglected fixing some creek overflow fence damage and the girls and bull have gotten out a couple of times. Last time they were in a neighbor's back yard by his pond. Really didn't want to be there but didn't know how to get back home either. I just called them and started down the road to one of my gate and they docilly followed me to it. They seemed a bit glad to be back home.

The poster asked about government backed cattle loans. I don't know of any. Personally I have a farm-related line of credit at my local bank. When I need funds I just call and have the amount desired transferred to my checking account. Interest is charged on the outstanding credit line balance. Any checks are get from the livestock auction are made out to both the bank and me, so I cannot cash them elsewhere. Collateral is just a general lien against the farm. They bank is pretty flexible on what I can use this money for since I have a good working relationship with them.

In farming areas similar loans were known as something like crop loans. Money would be lent in the spring for seeds and fertilizer, with the expectation the full loan would be paid off at after harvest. I would suggest the poster talk to their local banks on such an option. Collateral might be the bank being named as primary beneficiary on a non-cancelable life-insurance policy. My bank required this as additional collateral when I obtained my initial mortgage. Starting small, promptly meet all payment requirements and building up the bank's confidence will help increase loanability in the future.

If seasonal, you might have to do it several times on your own to prove to a bank any money can be made at it. For example, going in with three year's worth of purchase vs sales bills, plus your Form F from your federal tax return.

I should note the bank I deal with is a local one with only one major office and this branch. Run by local folks I know. I doubt I could get similar service at one of the other chain banks in town.


-- Ken S. in WC TN (, April 16, 2002

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