Pastured Veal

Brood cows-vs-milk replacer

Rob Freeland

Situation: You or a friend of yours is considering starting a pastured veal operation. Here is a partial budget determining whether it is more profitable to use milk replacer or brood cows to raise the veal calves.


Head gate being used in Grafting Process

Facts & Setup: Below are the costs that Bill Callahan of Cow-a-Hen Farm incurs to raise 24 veal calves. The veal calves will be 3 months (1 season) of age when they go to slaughter. Six brood cows will be kept year round in the brood cow operation. The cows will be bought as cow/calf pairs for $800 a piece, and calves in both operations will be bought for $30 a head. The feed required for the brood cows is 180 square bales per brood cow per season at a price of $2/bale. A total of 4 hrs of labor per day is required to feed the calves using brood cows at start up, however the time required will decrease as the season progresses. A total of 1 hour a day is required to feed the calves on milk replacer. I gave the producer a wage of $8/hour. Breeding is only required for the system using brood cows, 3 straws per brood cow, and all calves will be vealed. This means the brood cow system will only be able to yield 3 groups of calves due to the necessity to dry the cows off before they give birth for the second time. In the brood cow system after the brood cow’s first calves (6 calves) are slaughter when the first group goes; the producer will have to buy 24 calves per season just as in the milk replacer system. The milk replacer system will yield 4 groups of calves because the system does not require a dry off period. Special equipment required for the brood cow operation would be a head gate to graft calves to brood cows safely. The milk replacer operation would require a special milk feeder, which will allow the producer to feed many calves very efficiently.

milk replacer

Milk replacer feeder

  1 group calves
w/Brood Cows
2 yr Projection
(6 groups)
1 group calves
w/Milk Replacer
2 yr Projection
(8 groups)
Feed 2,160 4,320 3,600 28,800
Purchase Cows 4,800 4,800 NA NA
Purchase Calves 540 4,140 720 5,760
Labor 2,688 16,128 672 5,376
Breeding 1,080 1,080 0 0
Other Equipment 1,200 1,200 400 400

Total Cost ($) 16,568 31,668 9,492 40,336
Veal Sales 9,360 56,160 9,360 74,880
Net Income ($)
Profit Difference 34,544 - 24,492 = 10,052

Conclusions: The numbers above indicate that if one were to start a pastured veal operation it would be better to raise the calves on milk replacer then to keep brood cows. However both systems are profitable. Since the milk replacer system is able to yield 4 groups of calves per year instead of 3 it obviously is going to generate more profit.