Friday, January 8, 2010

Economics of Keeping a Family Cow

I don’t know what got me thinking about this, but the more it runs through my mind the more I want to do the math and see what the bottom line is. For anyone that has the pasture for it, keeping a family milk cow just might be profitable. Where we live, Elsie can graze in the pasture with no supplemental feeding from at least April thru October, which is 7 months. We started supplementing her feed in November and will probably be able to let her graze with supplemental alfalfa in March. That leaves 3 months where we have to supply her whole feed ration from purchased hay. While she’s pregnant, she gets 5 flakes of hay per day, so a bale lasts 3 days. That’d be 10 bales a month times 3 months. For the two supplemental months let’s assume we provide 70% of the feed with hay and the other 30% is free pasture.

10 (bales per month) x 3 (months) = 30 bales
30 x 8.75 (cost per bale) = $262.50
7 (bales per month) x 2 (months) = 14 bales
14 x 8.75 = $122.50
Cost of hay per year = $385
Now, our two acres are bare, and to keep Elsie company we boarded 2 horses for 4 months of pasture, bringing in $720. So far we have a gain of $335. We paid $600 for Elsie, already pregnant. Running town water to the lot was $400 plus about $25 per month for the water (the $400 we’d pay after we built, so it’s not a cost specific to Elsie, but the monthly water cost is). We’ve been paying that since June, so about $175 for her to have water. [Side note, she’s now at our house with the goats and we’re on well water, but we still have the basic fee to pay to the water company.]

OK, so if we take our gain of $335 and subtract the other costs, we’re in the hole by $440. She’s due to give birth any day, but we won’t start milking right away so that the calf gets all the colostrum. Let’s assume that we start milking February 1st and get ONLY a gallon of milk per day. Let’s also assume that we could do all the things we’re going to do with her milk if we bought the same quantity of milk from the store (yeah right). In our area we probably average $2.50 for a gallon of milk. So that’s 334 days of milk for 2010 times 2.50 equals $835. We’re now ahead by $395. That’s a low figure too. She will likely give an average of 2 gallons of milk per day, and we all know that the dairy products made from milk are expensive, so the savings are even greater than the $2.50 per gallon of milk. The woman we bought Elsie from sells fresh cow milk for $8 a gallon. If we could sell 334 gallons of milk at $8 each, we’d bring in $2672!
Wow! Wait til Tony sees this! Just being ahead by $395 is awesome! The best part is that we’re doing this to improve our health, not make money. However, the savings over what we’d have to pay to get raw milk dairy products from a health food store is far greater even than what we could earn selling her milk. And we get a cute cow to love on in the whole deal! I didn’t even go into the cost to breed her annually vs what we would either A) sell the offspring for or B) save in not buying beef at the store any more. I’m so excited to see it on paper!

Did I mention that raw, pasture fed milk will be a great boost to restoring adrenal health?  Yeah, that's priceless.