Costs estimated for producing grass-fed beef

  • May 25, 2004
  • N / A
  • CONTACT: Pete Livingston, (530) 752-2414,
  • DAVIS -- With growing interest in specialty meats, grass-fed beef is making a name for itself. In the first study of its kind in California, grass-fed cattle practices, revenues, and costs are identified and scrutinized by University of California Cooperative Extension researchers. The study includes the cost of a 200-head cow-calf operation that produces the grass-fed heifer herd. 
    The cost study details when most major operations occur, as well as when the cattle are sold. Pasture and winter feeding, normal veterinary care, fencing, and life cycles are represented in both text, table, and chart formats to show the general layperson how a cow-calf or grass-fed beef operation works. 
    Actual costs and returns are highlighted in the eight tables at the end of the study. Laws, ordinances, and Internet sites relating to a grass-fed claim are discussed and locations for finding them are given.
    A separate marketing section addresses possible avenues for ranchers to sell grass-fed beef products. Considerations about potential marketing decisions are charted in the report. Although specific processing, promotion and sales costs are not included in the tables, three scenarios are documented from different ranchers who have branched into grass-fed beef and market their own products.
    The study is intended as a guide only and can be used to make production decisions, determine potential returns, prepare budgets and evaluate production loans. The study is based upon a hypothetical ranch using practices in the region. UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisors, researchers, ranchers, equipment and medical suppliers, and other agricultural associates provided input and reviews.
    Assumptions used to identify current costs for the cow-calf operation, establishing the grass-fed beef herd, material inputs, and ownership costs are described in the study. Tables show herd costs, monthly cash costs, profits/losses over a range of prices and yields, and annual investment costs.
    The study was prepared by Stephanie Larsen, UCCE Farm Advisor, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Cary Thompson, former UCCE Intern, Sonoma County; Karen M. Klonsky, UCCE Specialist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis; and Pete Livingston, UCCE Staff Research Associate, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis. 
    The study, "Sample Costs for a Cow-Calf/Grass-Fed Operation, 200-head Cowherd with 30 Grass-Fed Cattle in Marin and Sonoma Counties" is available online at; from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616; and from local UC Cooperative Extension offices. 
    Similar reports are available for many commodities from 1931 to the present. A $3 handling fee is charged for each report mailed from the department. For more information, call (530) 752-2414 or (530) 752-4424.