Cattle tips from the Sandrocks
Even if you're only going to run 10 cows on pasture, you can learn from folks who've raised cattle for a long time. Gary and Kathy Sandrock, and their sons, Matt and Ben, are the fifth and sixth generations on Sandrock Farms.
The farm, near Rock Falls, Illinois, is home to 300 head of purebred Angus cattle. Ben oversees the management of the family herd, and he shares these tips for raising a few cows of your own.
Whether as a hobby or a business venture, raising cattle can be expensive. With your first herd, it's best to start small so you can keep your input costs manageable.
"Keep equipment and other overhead low," Ben advises. "Too many producers have $100,000 or more in equipment with only 30 or so cattle."
Before you buy those first cows, be sure you have an adequate amount of land for pasture. The Sandrocks recommend 1.5 acres per head based on their region, but you'll want to talk to local livestock owners to get an estimate of stocking rates where you live.
Try alternative feed solutions
Feed is the largest expense for your herd, so look for cost savings where you can. The Sandrocks use corn silage, distiller's grains, and gluten to provide added protein to their cattle.
"It's a way to get more protein in our herd for less dollars than corn," Ben says. "We run enough cows here to where we really have to manage our input cost or it can get away from us."
The Sandrocks' farm is in the heart of corn country -- where silage and stalks are easily accessible and comparatively cheap. A practical way to approach buying silage for your cattle is to find another herd owner who already buys feed from a distillery or ethanol plant. Work out a purchasing agreement or partnership. Buying in bulk should help keep your feed costs low.
Consider selling meat directly
The Sandrocks have a boxed-beef program for direct sales to local customers. All beef is offered in quarters, halves, or wholes, but the Sandrocks are happy to accommodate special processing requests. Consider working with a local locker, if one is available, to arrange for direct sales of your beef.
8681 Hickory Hills Road
Rock Falls, IL 61071
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