ADS 4221: Capstone: Beef Basics: Starting a Cow-Calf Operation

Note: This blog post was written by a group of students in the Capstone in Animal and Dairy Sciences course, who were assigned to work with a local livestock producer to solve a production challenge.

Our partner has challenged our group of MSU Animal & Dairy Science students to prepare a plan for him to begin a cow-calf beef operation. With 20 acres of land available, our producer wants to start with 7-10 Red Angus heifers.

This challenge is important to our producer because he wants to successfully enter into the beef industry. For many years, he wanted to start his own operation but never knew where to begin due to a lack of knowledge about the industry. He is now ready to step into the industry as a proud Red Angus beef producer. This challenge, if successfully completed by our group, should allow him to begin his operation with confidence and success.

Our group has many tasks to complete in order to obtain all the needed information. We have already visited our producer’s farm to assess his property and learn about his general goals for his operation.  Our next step will be to calculate the initial investment cost for our partner to begin his operation. These costs will include the purchase of the heifers, feed (grain and hay), any repairs needed on his fencing, a tractor and trailer, water troughs, vaccinations, and dewormer. We will need to determine what types of forages he has on his property so we can decide if these forages should be kept or replaced with a different forage variety of better quality. With his limited space, we have decided that rotational grazing will be most useful for our producer’s operation.  Our producer prefers to utilize natural breeding, rather than artificial insemination, and hopes to purchase a Red Angus bull.  We will need to calculate the costs and benefits of this type of breeding for his operation. Through this process, our group is learning that starting a cow-calf operation is neither easy nor cheap, and that it requires a substantial amount of money, time, and planning to create a successful operation.

Bagwell