Grady went to the butcher at the end of November. I picked up the finished meat, bones, hide, and organs just before Christmas.
The Numbers: We didn't come out ahead as much as I'd have liked with Grady. I'll be making some changes to our methods for better yields from future calves. Our total cost ended up being about $3 a pound, which isn't bad.
Butchering costs $180
Cattle cube & sweet grain feed $135
Total Costs: $685 Total Meat: 220 pounds
We raised Grady on goat milk. If you have to buy milk or milk replacer you will have that expense. Grady was a healthy calf and we did not end up needing any medicine or veterinary treatment for him, but those costs are possible and need to be considered.
Transportation costs might also be a factor. We are fortunate that my mother has a small stock trailer and that my husband has a truck large enough to pull it. We were able to transport Grady on our own, but if you didn't have access to a truck and trailer you would need to find a transporter. Ask your butcher for recommendations if you need one.
In addition to the meat we got, I also asked the butcher to save the bones for me. I'll be using these to make broth. I asked for the hide and organs as well. I'll be using the organs for dog food, and I'm going to try my hand at tanning the hide myself. Getting everything into our freezer was an adventure.
Things I'll Do Differently:
I'll definitely be castrating the next calf we get young. Waiting to castrate Grady ended up really backfiring on me, and so he was never castrated. I think he would have put on more weight and been easier to handle if he had been a steer.
I'll definitely get my next calf in the spring instead of in the fall. I didn't want to feed Grady hay all winter, which is why I sent him to the butcher in November. He was 15 months old. I would have preferred him to be 18-20 months old, so I plan to get a calf in March or so and have him for 2 summers and get him to the target age.
I'll definitely feed more. I fed Grady a gallon of milk a day. I will feed the next calf 2 gallons a day, I think. I will also start introducing him to cattle cube/sweet feed earlier, and I'll give extra grain just before butchering. (If you want grass-fed beef, ignore this advice.) In general I want to re-work the way I offer feed to the calf so that the sheep can't get in to it and I can feed more freely.
Some fence repair is needed and I'll be making changes to the fencing in the pasture with a calf in mind.
All in all, I feel pretty good about raising my own beef. It certainly takes longer than raising chickens or pigs for your freezer, but you get a larger yield from one animal. If you have the space for it, I think it's a great way to provide for yourselves.