Most farm expenditures continue to rise in price, and calf care costs are no exception.
In order to get a better grasp on calf and heifer rearing costs and to provide industry benchmarks, University of Wisconsin-Extension agriculture agents collected information from 26 dairy farms. Similar surveys were done in 2015, 2013, 2007, and 1999.
Looking specifically at the daily costs to raise a calf from birth to weaning, the most recent survey found a price of $6.13 per day. That was up from $5.51 in 2015.
When comparing today’s price to 10 years ago (2017), it was 82 cents more. These prices are all substantially higher than in 1999 when the daily cost to raise a calf was $2.68.
The biggest expense in today’s dataset was liquid feed, at $1.87 per day. That was followed by daily paid labor, which was $1.17. Calf starter was 80 cents per day, while fixed costs (housing and equipment) totaled 89 cents. Other daily variable costs included veterinary (24 cents), paid management (18 cents), death loss (14 cents), interest (7 cents), bedding (22 cents), and forage (1 cent). There was also an opportunity cost of unpaid labor and management of 54 cents.
Individuals versus groups
In the 2017 data collection, farms were separated into two categories: individual housing or group housing with automated feeders. The cost per day for the individually housed calves was $5.84. The calves fed with automated feeders had a cost of $6.35 per day.
This was the first time group housing with automated feeders was separated out in the University of Wisconsin-Extension survey. More details about the cost differences between the two systems can be found in the article, “Extra milk drives up calf raising costs.”