How Much Does a Beef Cow Sell For? A Breakdown of Market Prices

Beef cattle are prized in the livestock industry for their superior genetics and high-quality meat. But before a beef cow ends up as steak on your plate, ranchers invest significant time and money raising these animals. So how much does a beef cow sell for at market? What factors determine the value of a cow destined for beef production? This guide will break down beef cattle prices based on common market influences.

Overview of Beef Cattle Pricing

The selling price of a beef cow depends on several aspects:

  • Breed – Angus, Hereford, etc.
  • Age – Calf, heifer, mature cow
  • Weight and size
  • Health status
  • Reproductive status – pregnant, with calf
  • Market conditions – supply and demand

Beef cattle breeds like Angus and Hereford known for yielding flavorful, well-marbled beef tend to sell at a premium. Heavier, mature cows also sell for higher prices than younger, lighter cattle.

Local supply and demand dynamics significantly sway prices too. When beef demand rises or supply tightens, prices typically increase.

Overall, beef cows sell for anywhere from $500 for a newborn calf to over $3,000 for a top-quality, mature breeding cow. Read on for a more detailed breakdown.

Typical Market Prices by Type of Beef Cattle

Beef Calves

Newborn beef calves usually fetch between $500 and $1,000 at auction. Higher-demand beef breeds like Angus may sell for prices exceeding $1,000 per head. Here are some of the main factors influencing calf prices:

  • Breed – Angus calves often top sales. Other premium beef breeds like Hereford also sell well.
  • Gender – Male calves tend to sell for slightly higher prices than females.
  • Weight – Heavier calves sell for more per head. Average newborn calves weigh 60 to 100 lbs.
  • Health – Calves certified as vaccinated and disease-free sell for higher prices.

While calves cost less upfront, expenses quickly add up raising them to maturity. Still, some ranchers like starting with calves to control development.

Beef Heifers

Heifers are adolescent female cows that have not yet produced a calf but are nearing breeding maturity. Beef heifers commonly sell for between $1,000 to $2,000 per head. Notable pricing factors include:

  • Age – Older, larger heifers sell for higher prices than younger ones.
  • Weight – Heavier heifers sell for increased prices per pound and per head.
  • Breed – Premium beef breeds still sell best.
  • Reproductive status – Heifers confirmed pregnant sell for more.

Since heifers are on the cusp of productive breeding ages, their price reflects future profit potential.

Mature Beef Cows

Mature cows ready for breeding generally sell for $1,500 to $3,000 per head or more. Here are the key traits that allow mature cows to command the highest prices:

  • Proven reproduction – Cows with multiple calves sell for substantially more.
  • Pregnancy status – Pregnant cows sell for higher prices than open cows.
  • Milk production – High milking ability increases value of breeding females.
  • Weight – Heavier mature cows sell for higher prices per pound and per head.
  • Breed – Angus and other top beef breeds sell best.

For cattle ranchers looking to immediately grow their herds, purchasing productive mature cows is the fastest option despite higher costs.

How Weight Affects Beef Cattle Prices

The weight of beef cattle significantly impacts their market value. Heavier animals sell for higher total dollar amounts compared to lighter ones. Weight also factors into price on a per pound basis. Here are general price ranges based on beef cattle weights:

  • Calves 400-700 lbs – $1.60 – $2.00 per lb
  • Heifers 700-900 lbs – $1.40 – $1.80 per lb
  • Cows 1000-1400 lbs – $1.20 – $1.60 per lb

Of course, factors like breed, health status, and market conditions influence prices too. But all else being equal, cattle weights directly correlate to higher market values.

Regional Variations in Beef Cattle Prices

Another consideration when selling beef cattle is that prices can vary across different regions of the US. Transportation costs, localized supply and demand, and other regional factors lead to pricing differences.

For example, prices may be higher in parts of the Midwest and Great Plains where beef cattle production is highly concentrated compared to other areas of the country.

Monitoring prices through local sale barns and talking with area ranchers can help gauge regional average pricing. Online price indexes also track national and regional beef cattle price trends.

Seasonal Trends in Beef Cattle Markets

Beef cattle prices are not static throughout the year but rather follow seasonal market patterns:

  • Winter – Prices typically bottom out around January and February before recovering. Harsh winters can further depress prices as cows lose weight.

  • Spring – Prices strengthen through spring as demand increases and winter-related losses subside.

  • Summer – Prices tend to peak around June to August as grilling season boosts beef demand. Limited marketing numbers also support prices.

  • Fall – Prices start declining in fall as more calves and yearlings come to market. Lower demand post-grilling season also contributes to the seasonal price slide.

Understanding seasonal market patterns allows cattle ranchers to make informed selling decisions to maximize profits.

Market Factors Influencing Beef Cattle Prices

Many additional supply-and-demand factors beyond seasonality affect beef cattle market prices, including:

  • Corn prices – Since corn is a major cattle feed component, high corn prices lead to higher feed costs and lower profitability, decreasing cattle prices. Low corn prices have the opposite effect.

  • Feeder supplies – Limited numbers of feeder cattle ready for feedlots can bolster prices for weaned calves and yearlings.

  • Packer demand – When beef packers reduce harvest levels, the derived demand for slaughter-ready cattle declines, lowering prices.

  • Beef demand – Prices react directly to consumer beef demand. High demand leads to greater willingness to pay higher cattle prices.

  • Exports – Strong export demand for US beef supports domestic cattle prices.

Monitoring market influences allows cattle producers to make timely pricing decisions.

Alternative Marketing Approaches Beyond Auction Barns

The classic model of selling beef cattle involves hauling them to regional auction barns and selling to the highest bidder. But alternative marketing approaches are also gaining popularity:

  • Direct sales – Selling cattle directly off the farm saves transport stress and auction fees. May require farm biosecurity practices.

  • Forward contracts – Locking in future delivery dates and prices reduces market risk.

  • Marketing alliances – Joining an alliance that pools cattle for sales helps smaller producers gain marketing leverage.

  • Video auctions – Virtual auctions open up broader buying markets compared to local physical auctions.

  • Direct-to-packer – Selling directly to beef processors can streamline marketing but may sacrifice premiums.

When selling cattle, evaluate options beyond simply selling at the nearest auction barn.

Tips for Maximizing Beef Cattle Sale Prices

Here are some tips cattle ranchers can follow to help maximize their sale prices:

  • Time sales to target seasonal price peaks around summer grilling season.

  • If possible, background calves to add weight before selling; heavier cattle sell for more.

  • Sort cattle into uniform groups by weight, breed type, and gender – buyers pay more for consistency.

  • Certify cattle as vaccinated and implant-free to boost value; some export markets restrict implants.

  • Provide catalog listing info like weights, breeding, genetic background to attract buyers.

  • For bred females, ensure positive pregnancy checking and provide breeding dates.

  • Reduce sale barn marketing fees by direct-selling or joining marketing alliances when possible.

With proper timing, preparation, and marketing, cattle producers can optimize their profits when the time comes to sell their quality beef cows.


A multitude of factors like weight, age, breed, and market conditions influence beef cattle sale prices, which commonly range from $500 for calves to over $3,000 per head for mature cows.

Understanding the seasonal patterns and market forces impacting cattle prices allows ranchers to make shrewd business decisions. Likewise, utilizing best practices for preparing cattle for sale and employing optimal marketing strategies can help maximize returns on these significant livestock investments.

By following the recommendations in this guide, cattle producers can confidently navigate the market successfully when selling their beef cattle.

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How much can you sell a 1200 lb cow for?

Based on the 2019 budget, slaughter cows (1,200 pounds) are expected to average $50 per hundredweight, while 550 pounds steers and 520 heifers are expected to average $145 and $130 per hundredweight respectively.

How much profit from 10 cows?

The self-evident answer to these questions is “no.” It does not matter if you are milking 200 cows or 2,000 cows, 10 cows is a big deal when looking at the bottom line to your income over feed cost. In this scenario, 10 fewer cows results in $99 per day, $693 per week, $3000 per month in potential lost revenue.

What is a 900 lb steer worth?

Apr. 19
600-700 lbs.
+ $1.26
700-800 lbs.
– $2.05
800-900 lbs.
– $5.16

How much can you make on 100 head of cattle?

Maybe a reasonable retirement income or supplement to off farm or row crop income? By this logic, 100 cows would produce a net profit of about $34,000/year. 200 cows selling 200 calves/year would then produce a net profit of about $68,000/year.

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