Monday, May 11, 2009

Here's the Beef! All Two of Them!

In my former life as a Californian there is one thing that I never would have guessed I'd be doing in a million years and that is raising my own beef cattle. I do not fancy myself has a true rancher of beef because I only raise 2 or 3 steers a year. We raise one for ourselves that we usually end up splitting with friends or family. The other ones are sold to friends , too.

We purchased our first heifer out of necessity right after we purchased our home here in North Idaho. Our property taxes are reduced if we have some sort of consumable livestock grazing on it. So, we could raise cattle, sheep, pigs or goats to have our place designated as "dry grazing" land.

At first we thought we wanted to breed our own beef cattle and purchased a hereford heifer from a local rancher. Part of the purchase price included a breeding back to his angus bull. After we had her for a few months he picked her up and pastured her with his herd. She was returned to us pregnant and the next spring gave birth to a baldy bull calf that we castrated ourselves. We raised that baldy steer and he was our first home raised beef.
We leased a beautiful hereford bull in trade for pasture when our hereford cow was ready to breed again. The bull stayed with us the entire summer and we thought for sure we would be raising a new calf the following spring. Unfortunately, our cow did not get pregnant and we had an entire summer with no beef calf to raise for ourselves.
So, this is when we changed our plan: Instead of breeding our own beef, we would sell our cow and purchase beef steers in the spring and slaughter early in the winter after the big fall rush at the meat processors. This has worked out well for us and it makes most of winter easier by not having to worry about feeding any livestock during the coldest monthes.
We have been blessed to meet a wonderful neighbor and his family that raise locker beef and pork for a living. Mike has become our supplier of steers and he has made purchasing them so much easier by shopping the auctions and picking out reasonably priced animals for us that have a gentle temperment and are not too flighty.
Also, we have a few loyal customers that purchase these animals from us at the end of the season. Last year, we raised 3 steers and kept one for ourselves. We are only a family of 3 so one steer that has a hanging weight of 600lbs can last us a couple of years or more quite easily. So, these two new steers will be sold to other families in January.

Raising your own beef is truly fun and satisfying. It's wonderful to have animals that can take acres of grass and turn it into food for your family. We do not have to buy hay until almost October if it is not too dry out to keep the grass alive. And with the cost of hay and grain this year it's nice to have to buy hay only for the last three months of the time that we are raising the steers.


  1. I understand what you are saying. We raise our own cattle. We have 5 cows and a bull. There is only one difference, we raise and cut our own hay too. It's a lot cheeper in the long run. I think.

  2. SMGirl,
    I think you're right, raising your own hay would be the ultimate set up. A lot less stressful than having to call around and hunt down the cheapest good hay. Like I do every fall.
    You are blessed!