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Annual buy & sell of cattle methods

 
Christopher Robbins
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Hi I'm in western Colorado outside of Glenwood Springs. I want to have a few meat animals every year during the summer to eat my hay, fertilize my pasture, have emergency food on hand, and make a small profit that's worth my time. I've got 23 acres fenced of irrigated pasture that makes about 1.5 ton per acre of high quality hay with about 5% weeds and 5% alfalfa.

I want to buy cattle of some sort every Spring and sell them by first of November. I want to raise it entirely off my field grasses and water I have at no cost. All natural grass fed...no grains and no injections unless required by law. Usually my grass is growing good and water is flowing by middle April. It turns off in September and is plentiful until late Oct or even Nov.

I know nothing about ranching animals. I know how to drive a trailer though, like working outdoors, and have a 3-4 adult cow trailer I can use.

I want to buy 3-4 weaned cows or other species in April or May, pasture them until October, and then sell at market or otherwise (craigslist?) in Oct or Nov. Double or more my money.

I want to at least double my money on most years, and minimize risks whatever way I can. I don't want to keep them over winter because I travel, don't have running water in the middle of winter either, and don't want to feed them hay or other purchased food.

I'm open to using any pasture animal: cows, goats, sheep, lamb, etc. Just as long as I can load them up on my 3-4 adult cow trailer and transport in one trip to buy or sell.

How do I know if this will work? I've done a little searching online and can't find what I'm looking for.

I'd appreciate any direction or suggestions for this small annual animal venture!
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Your best bet with such a small volume [unless you want to find a few loyal annual customers, well worth the effort but it can be a LOT of effort] is to reach out to other grass-meat producers in the area and see if they have a funnel for your product.
 
Christopher Robbins
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OK thanks. A friend of mine tonight mentioned buying 1,500 lb yearlings rather then calves. That way come 18 months of age in Oct/Nov they can be sold for butchering.

Could it also be sold to feed lot to be fattened up even more the last 6 months of life?

Is 18 months a good tasty age to butcher if heavy enough? What might I want to buy at (gender, weight, and size), and then also sell at after I grass feed through October?
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Christopher Robbins wrote:Is 18 months a good tasty age to butcher if heavy enough?

Depends on the size of the animal's frame. Certain breeds are more inclined towards being 'finished' between 16 and 18 months, others are more to the tune of 2 years or higher. Google is probably your best friend here [though I seem to recall this particular subject also having been discussed elsewhere on this board.]
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi Christopher,

i have a few suggestions -
if you are looking to buy cows at auction, check out the ft collins auction (cenntenial livestock auction), its the largest in the state that i know of. in the beginning of the year there are literally thousands of cows for sale of all different breeds and crosses.
i am not familiar with the prices and sizes as they generally change through out the year.

that said, it will be hard to bring a cow to butcher weight in less that 16 months unless - unless you buy older cows to start with. most people i know with cows are feeding them over the winter and selling them at ~ 18 months.

all of that said, and i admit, im not familiar with your irrigation setup - but i would start to think about what you will do with the animals when irriation water comes (and up to a week after, when the pasture is to wet for cows to be out).
we are in a similar situation to you. (irrigated land on the south slope of pikes peak) we have had a hard time trying to rotate animals through the pasture using only the feed we can grow.

we have recently added sheep in an attempt to get all of the forage eaten. we added sheep for a few reasons - they are quick growers - they are ready for market between 75 days to 10 months old. this fits perfect for the "here in spring, gone by december" that you seem to also want. they also are able to eat the forage closer to the ground then cows do - we found that irrigating after only having cows was much harder as the grasses were a bit to tall to irrigate around. the sheep pretty much make the pasture look like it was hayed, so its much easier to irrigate. their manure distribution is much better than cows too (imo)

currently, we are grazing 2 dairy cows and 35+ sheep on ~4 acres of irrigated pasture. it is looking like we are going to get all of the forage eaten by the time our next round of irrigation comes, so we will have to cut hay this time.
for us that isnt a big deal, as we use this hay to feed the animals when we irrigate as they will tear up the field if they are out there when its wet.


id be glad to type more, but i wanted to give you some things to think about and hopefully itll spur conversation.
talk soon.
 
Christopher Robbins
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Thanks for the suggestion. I'd like to raise lamb/sheep more than cattle anyway. Easier to handle, better for us nutritionally, and less, if not anything, to inject, right? Sheep don't need medicines and such as much right?

The only problem is with my fencing. It's mostly 4-wire barbed or straight. Won't sheep stray through that? On 2 sides of our pastures we have other irrigated fields that sometimes look "greener" because he treats them with fertilizers. Do sheep wander off as much as cows?

I don't know how many lamb and sheep I can support correctly on 23 irrigated acres. Any idea? I'd think at least 2 adults per acre?
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Christopher Robbins wrote:Thanks for the suggestion. I'd like to raise lamb/sheep more than cattle anyway. Easier to handle, better for us nutritionally, and less, if not anything, to inject, right? Sheep don't need medicines and such as much right?

The only problem is with my fencing. It's mostly 4-wire barbed or straight. Won't sheep stray through that? On 2 sides of our pastures we have other irrigated fields that sometimes look "greener" because he treats them with fertilizers. Do sheep wander off as much as cows?

I don't know how many lamb and sheep I can support correctly on 23 irrigated acres. Any idea? I'd think at least 2 adults per acre?


i guess the amount of injections would depend on where you bought the sheep from, as well as the type of sheep you hair.
we hair hair sheep (katahdin and royal white sheep). they dont need to be sheared and shed their wool in the springtime. they are bred for meat and are much hardier that wool sheep.
we havent ever wormed any of our sheep. we do keep DE out and rotate pastures to lower parasite load.

fencing can be a problem - not only to keep sheep in, but to keep predators out.
we use electric netting/fence internally and have wire fence around the perimeter. we also keep a llama as a guard, but our predator load isnt to high.
the good thing about sheep is, you will rarely find 1 or 2 far away from the rest of the flock. if a few get through the fence, they will either come back, or all the sheep will follow. good and bad i guess.

im not sure how many sheep you can run. do you plan to give access to the entire 23 acres at once? if not then the amount of temporary fencing and how often you plan to move them will in part dictate how many sheep you can carry.
i would think with good grass and irrigation, you should be able to carry 5-7 sheep per acre. lots of variables here though.
if we didnt have our 2 dairy cows, i would likely add ~12-14 more sheep, for what thats worth.
 
Su Ba
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Since you have absolutely no livestock experience, you may wish to work along with another rancher for the first year. Perhaps lease out your pasture for the first season? Ask the person questions and read every book on the topic that you can get your hands on. Working with livestock has a lot of inherent risks, and novices often find lots of them. If you lose animals, then your profit disappears real quick.
 
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