If you have the chance to raise some Jersey calves for butchering steers, should you do it? What about the cows, are cull Jersey cows good for beef?
Jersey and Jersey cross cattle are great for beef. Jersey steers are friendly, cost less to purchase (as a calf or a finished steer) than a beef steers and have wonderful tasting meat.
Is Raising Your Own Beef Worth It? will go over the costs of raising your calf, including butchering costs.
Jersey cattle have good tasting meat
Jersey meat has a good flavor. Jersey is a favorite of small farmers and homesteaders, alike.
Meat from Jersey cattle is good. We have eaten meat from cows and young stock and are always happy with the results.
Maybe you have heard the rumor that Jersey meat is gamey. Not true. What folks are referring to as “gamey meat” is just the grass fed flavor. You’ll see this in yellow fat. Yellow fat is just fat from grass, white fat is from grain.
If don’t like the grass fed flavor or are worried you won’t like it, add a small amount of grain to your steer’s diet. That will add fat more easily to the meat and eliminate the potential for “gamey” flavor.
One of the first cattle we had processed for the freezer was a Jersey heifer that broke her leg in a spot that was too high for the vet to fix. He recommended eating her, we did.
Sad to see her break her leg, but glad to be able to use the meat. And, once again, the taste was super.
Buy a cull cow if you want the best priced, full flavored beef
If you don’t want to raise a calf or buy a finished dairy steer, consider buying a cull cow. If you are interested in bargain priced meat, get a Jersey cow for your butchering appointment.
A cull means she is being sold out of the milking herd because she is not performing up to standard any more. A cull cow should still be healthy, just not a great producer for the dairy farmer.
Cows are selling for $0.60 per pound live weight at the local auction near me. This means for a full size Jersey cow, you would pay $450-480. That’s a lot of animal for under $500!
I have to admit, if you are wanting steaks, a cow is not going to work for you (with the exception of the loin, be sure to get that for steak). If you just want great beef, bring on the cull cows, you’ll get tons of flavor for an amazing price.
For inspiration, check out Cinnamon Ridge Farms in Iowa. They milk Jerseys and sell the Jersey steers that they feed out on the farm as freezer beef in their on farm store.
Jersey or Jersey cross steers make wonderful beef steers
We usually have a half Jersey half Angus calf running around here. They make wonderful steers! If given the time your steer can be completely grass fed and really well finished, fat and sassy!
Our last few halvsies have been heifers, so we just keep them around for brood cows.
The last calf our family cow had was a Holstein cross bull calf and the one before that was a purebred Jersey bull calf who is now a steer.
I have to admit, had I known they were going to be bull calves, we would have bred her beef! Instead, at least for the purebred, we were hoping for a replacement heifer, obviously, we are still working on that one.
The 100% Jersey steer is now just at a year old, he is just about as tall as his mom, but not as wide yet. He’ll get there.
He and his mom, Aleene, are mostly grass fed. I say mostly because they do sneak a bit of shelled corn that is put out for the poultry, so he’s not completely grass fed, just mostly.
You Don’t Have To Be A Rancher To Raise Beef! is an article I wrote going over raising dairy breeds for beef. A lot of folks overlook dairy or dairy crosses for beef, but they can make great small acreage beef projects!
Feed your steer a bit of grain to increase marbling of the meat
If you want fat on your steer and he is under 2.5 years old, you need to feed him some grain. You don’t have to go crazy with it and certainly not steer stuffer (high grain diet), but some grain will be needed.
Your other option is to wait 2.5 years or so for him to finish growing and start putting on fat (marbling) from grass. It will happen, you just have to give him the time to do it.
If you are not a fan of the grass fed taste, some folks feel it’s a bit gamey, you can just supplement his diet with some grain and that will get rid of any tendency toward gaminess.
Jerseys will have less meat per head than a “beef” breed
Your Jersey calf will have less of a chunky build than a 100% beef genetics calf, so he will also have a thinner build. Being thinner from end to end means there is less meat on the carcass when it hangs.
This is not a problem, just something to know.
Jersey cattle will cost you less to purchase than a beef breed cattle
A Jersey calf, finished steer or cow will cost you less to purchase than a similar aged beef calf, finished steer or cow.
Look up the types and prices of feeder cattle (calves that are weaned, but need more time to grow to butchering size) and cull cows and run some numbers.
What exactly is dairy beef worth in your area? What about beef from the more common beef breeds?
The reason you need to know this, or at least you should figure it out is that the cost to butcher your steer or cow will be the same per head no matter how big he is.
The cost to cut and package will be the same per pound of meat, this is where the difference for you between a dairy steer and a beef steer will show up.
Figure the cost of a dairy steer vs a beef steer for your area
Let’s do some math to see if a dairy steer or a beef steer, would be better for your situation, based strictly on money. Even if you decided to raise the steers yourself and not buy them, this is the current pricing for your work.
Currently, in the August 18, 2021 Mt. Hope Auction Market Report, a nicely finished beef steer is selling for $1.30 per pound and a 1,000 dairy bull (the closest I can find to a Jersey steer) is $0.76 per pound.
For the beef steer: 1,200 pounds live weight at $1.30 per pound means you paid $1,560 for the steer. The processing feed is $100 plus $0.76 per pound of meat.
Since you should get about 500 pounds of meat, your processing is 0.76 x 500= $380 + 100 kill charge equals a total of $480 in processing cost.
$480 + $1,560= $2,040 total cost for 500 pounds of beef, which is $4.08 per pound. If you raised the steer yourself, you’d just have the $480 plus your feed and cost to buy the calf.
For the dairy steer: 1,000 pounds live weight at $0.76 per pound is $760 to buy the Jersey steer. The processing fees are the same as above, $100 + $0.76 per pound of meat.
Since this is a Jersey, you’ll be getting more like 300 pounds of beef, so 300 x $0.76 =$228 for the processing. $760 + $228= $998 in total cost for 300 pounds of beef, which is $3.33 per pound of meat.
Do not keep a Jersey bull for beef, only keep a steer!
Please, above all things, castrate your little bull calf! I know he’s cute and I know he’s little (for now) but sooner than you’d think, he’ll be getting to the age where keeping a bull around is for professionals only.
Castrate your calf while he’s young and easy to catch. It will save you from extra work and worry later.
If you put off castration until he is bigger, now you’ll have to get a vet to do it or have a local beef farmer do it for you. Castrating bigger calves is not a job for the inexperienced.
Use elastrator bands to castrate your young Jersey bull calf
The easiest way to castrate a bull calf is to get one of the elastrator banders and a pack of bands. Borrow some from a neighbor if you are only doing one or two steers of your own, trust me, they have extra bands!
The only “catch” here is to make sure you have both testicles through the band before you slip the band off the pliers and onto the scrotum. Getting just one testicle means he’ll still have the bad attitude you are trying to prevent.
Elastrator band castration is fast and easy. Keep an eye on the scrotum to make sure it does not get infected, but other than that, your job is done. The testicles will fall off in a few weeks without any further action from you.