We decided that this year we would get into cattle for fun, profit, and delicious steaks! We really had two options: buy cattle or buy horses. Those are the only animals our land is fenced for. And we needed animals on our land! That's because the property tax on most of our land is at the "agriculture exemption" rate. It had this exemption when we bought our house and land and it does grant us a significantly lower tax bill every year. Of course, the only reason the government gives you such a tax exemption is if the land is used for agricultural production. This is one of many ways the government incentivizes certain activities that it deems good. Preserving rural culture, producing food, or growing trees are good and those who do that pay less in property taxes. If you take land that has been used for those good purposes and do something else with it, you lose the agricultural exemption. That means your taxes go up. Not only that, they then hit you with a tax bill for seven years of back taxes for the difference between the regular rate and the agricultural rate! That's a lot of taxes that we don't want to pay. Instead, we're buying cattle.
But don't think we got backed into this decision. We bought this house and this land specifically because we wanted a place where we could raise a few heifers and steers. We want to grow our own beef, not only because it tastes better, but it's just plain better for our bodies. It has just taken us a couple of years to get some things out of the way so that we had time to mess with cows.
But we're ready now. All we need are calves to buy!
We could have gone to the sale barn to see what we could find. But this was our first foray into cattle buying and there is a real possibility of buying some duds at auction. We would also run the risk that the freshly weaned calves could be exposed to all sorts of diseases at the sale barn that would have to be treated after they came home. There are plenty of wonderful calves that go through sale barns, but we wanted to keep our risk level down.
We also considered trying to find "bottle babies." These are surplus dairy or dairy/beef calves that are sold off by dairy farms. Dairy cows have to be bred every so often in order to keep their milk flowing. To help those births go easier, they are often bred to certain breeds of beef bulls so the calf will be smaller. These calves are taken from their mother within a few days of birth so that the cow can then provide milk for humans. The calf is then sold and fed milk replacer until it's old enough to eat grass. Bottle babies are pretty cheap. Milk replacer not so much. Plus calves that are taken from their mother at such a young age have a higher risk of dying from disease. And all that nursing is a whole lot of work!
So we decided to skip all that. We went across the road to see Mr. T. He raises purebred British White cattle. We hosted some of his cows a couple of years ago. We liked them a lot. They had a very good temperament. We told him that we were looking for some calves to buy. His small herd produced four calves this winter (last year was a severe drought that was hard on everybody that has cattle, Mr. T included). He decided that he would sell all of them. A couple of weeks ago we agreed to buy a bull calf and a heifer from him. Yesterday we selected the calves we wanted and closed the deal.
We "weighed" them by using a tape measure especially designed to estimate their weight.
After checking the latest prices from the sale barn, we agreed on a price. Our calves are currently being weaned at Mr. T's place for a few days before they come to our place. Since they will be living within hollering distance of their mommas, we want mommas and calves to get used to being separated before the calves come to us. Nobody wants cows crossing the highway!