Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.
David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.
Published on May 18, 2022 Updated on November 28, 2023
$208,000 - $520,000 p.a.
Time to build
6 -12 months
$62,000 - $156,000 p.a.
Many people find the idea of farm life alluring – wide open spaces and a slower pace, quality time with animals, and hard work that ultimately produces good food. Cattle farming is a massive and essential US industry; the beef and dairy farm markets are worth about $120 billion and experiencing steady growth.
You could start your own cattle farm and help people get the food that they need while making good money. It will require hard work and a sizable investment, but there are many government programs available to help farmers get started.
You’ll also need to learn some serious business skills. Luckily, this step-by-step guide has you covered, with all the entrepreneurial insight you need to launch a successful cattle farm.
Looking to register your business? A limited liability company (LLC) is the best legal structure for new businesses because it is fast and simple.
Average level of education – The average farmer has a bachelor’s degree.
Average age – The average farmer in the US is 48.6 years old.
How much does it cost to start a cattle farm?
Startup costs for a cattle farm range from $300,000 to $1 million. Costs include the land, land preparation, equipment, starter cattle, and an initial operating budget.
To learn cattle farming, you can get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in agriculture. You can also get an online agribusiness degree from established institutions like Penn State. Another option is to work as an intern or volunteer for a local cattle farmer to learn the business.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your cattle farm business, including:
Cattle health care equipment
Cattle handling equipment
Setting up a business name and corporation
$150 - $200
Business licenses and permits
$100 - $300
Business cards and brochures
$200 - $300
$1,000 - $3,000
Down payment on property
$100,000 - $500,000
Tools and equipment
$20,000 - $30,000
Land preparation and fencing
$100,000 - $300,000
$50,000 - $75,000
$25,000 - $50,000
$296,550 - $959,100
How much can you earn from a cattle farm business?
You should be able to bring in $2,000 per cow once they’ve reached full maturity. It will take a year or two to get your calves to that point, so you won’t see a profit for at least 12 months. Your profit margin after all expenses should be about 30%.
In your first year or two after cows reach their ideal weight, you could sell two cows per week, bringing in $208,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $62,000 in profit, assuming that 30% margin. As your herd grows, sales could climb to five cows per week. With annual revenue of $520,000, you’d make a healthy profit of $156,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
There are a few barriers to entry for a cattle farm. Your biggest challenges will be:
The high startup costs of starting a farm from scratch
Learning the skills necessary to succeed
Related Business Ideas
If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a cattle farm, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research cattle farms in your area to examine their products/services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing an organic dairy farm or a sustainable, grass-fed beef farm.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as black Angus cows or longhorn cows, or fully organic and chemical-free beef and dairy.
This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
You’ll just need to decide what types of cattle you want to raise. You could raise dairy cows, or you can raise cows for beef. You could raise them with chemicals and growth hormones or go fully organic and sustainable. You could also raise other livestock like chickens and pigs for additional revenue.
How much should you charge for cattle?
Prices for cows are very volatile, so it will depend on the market at any given time. Cows are sold by their total weight. They are currently being sold for about $130 per 100 pounds. You should aim for a profit margin after operating expenses of about 30%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your target market will be food production companies, butchers, grocery stores, and restaurants. You can find those business owners and connect with them on LinkedIn, but your best bet is to find them on Google or Yelp and call them directly.
Where? Choose your cattle farm location
Selecting the right location for your cattle farm is essential for its success. Look for a spot with abundant pastureland, access to clean water, and good drainage. Consider accessibility and convenience, ensuring that the location is easily reachable by transportation vehicles and has easy access to veterinary services and other supplies.
Additionally, assess the local regulations and zoning laws to ensure compliance and obtain any necessary permits. By strategically choosing the right location, you can establish a thriving and profitable cattle farm that produces high-quality meat and dairy products.
Step 3: Brainstorm a Cattle Farm Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
Including keywords, such as “cattle farm” or “Grade-A beef”, boosts SEO
Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Legacy Cattle Farms” over “Wagyu Beef Producers”
Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
Discover over 250 unique cattle farm name ideas here. If you want your business name to include specific keywords, you can also use our cattle farm business name generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Cattle Farm Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
Executive Summary: Brief summary outlining the core elements of the cattle farm business, including its objectives, target market, and financial projections.
Business Overview: Comprehensive introduction to the cattle farm, encompassing its mission, vision, and key operational details such as location and scale.
Product and Services: Details on the specific types of cattle to be raised, breeding practices, and any additional services offered, such as consulting or educational programs.
Market Analysis: Examination of the demand for beef products, consumer trends, and potential challenges and opportunities within the local and broader market.
Competitive Analysis: Assessment of other cattle farms in the region, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and distinctive features to identify the farm’s competitive edge.
Sales and Marketing: Strategies for promoting the cattle farm, reaching target customers, and maximizing sales, including online presence, advertising, and promotional activities.
Management Team: Profiles of key individuals responsible for running the cattle farm, outlining their expertise and roles in ensuring effective business operations.
Operations Plan: Detailed plan outlining day-to-day activities involved in cattle farming, covering feeding, breeding, healthcare, and other essential processes.
Financial Plan: Comprehensive financial projections, including startup costs, revenue forecasts, and break-even analysis, providing a clear picture of the business’s financial viability.
Appendix: Supplementary materials, such as permits, licenses, and additional documentation supporting the information presented in the business plan.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to cattle farms.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your cattle farm will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)– Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
You can visit the USDA website to find various loan and grant programs for startup farms. That’s probably your best bet for financing, although bank loans may also be an option.
You should contact your state’s department of agriculture to find out if any specific cattle farm licenses or permits are required in your state.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your cattle farm business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
You may want to use industry-specific software, such as CattleMax, folio3, or muddyboots, to manage your herds, quality, sales, and reports.
If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.
You can create your own website using website builders. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
For your cattle farm, the marketing strategy should focus on showcasing the quality of your livestock, your commitment to sustainable and ethical farming practices, and the superiority of your beef products. Emphasize your farm’s unique approach, whether it’s grass-fed cattle, organic practices, or heritage breeds. The goal is to establish your farm as a trusted source of high-quality beef and a leader in responsible and sustainable cattle farming.
Professional Branding: Your branding should reflect the quality, naturalness, and ethical approach of your farming practices, from your logo to your product packaging.
Direct Outreach: Establish connections with local butchers, restaurants, and farmers’ markets to create a steady demand for your products.
Digital Presence and Online Marketing
Professional Website and SEO: Develop a website that details your farming practices, cattle breeds, and product offerings. Implement SEO best practices to optimize your site for relevant search terms related to cattle farming, sustainable agriculture, and quality beef.
Social Media Engagement: Utilize platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to share insights into farm life, cattle rearing practices, and the quality of your beef products.
Content Marketing and Engagement
Farm Life Blog: Share posts about your daily farm operations, sustainable farming techniques, and stories of farm life.
Customer Testimonials and Success Stories: Feature stories from customers and businesses that use your products, focusing on the quality and taste difference.
Educational Videos and Infographics: Create content that educates consumers about the benefits of sustainable cattle farming, grass-fed beef, and ethical animal treatment.
Experiential and In-Person Engagements
Farm Tours and Events: Offer tours of your farm to let customers see your operations firsthand and connect with your cattle and land.
Participation in Agricultural Shows and Farmers’ Markets: Showcase your products and farming practices at local and regional agricultural shows and farmers’ markets.
Collaborations and Community
Partnerships with Local Businesses: Collaborate with local restaurants and stores to supply them with your beef products.
Community Engagement: Get involved in community initiatives, sponsor local events, and participate in educational programs about sustainable farming.
Customer Relationship and Loyalty Programs
Direct Sales and Subscriptions: Offer the option for customers to buy beef directly from your farm or subscribe to regular deliveries.
Referral Programs: Implement a referral program that rewards customers for bringing new business to your farm.
Promotions and Advertising
Targeted Advertising: Use targeted advertising in local and regional lifestyle magazines, agricultural publications, and online platforms frequented by your target market.
Email Marketing: Send newsletters to your customers with updates about your farm, new product information, and special offers.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your cattle farm meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your cattle farm could be:
100% grass-fed, sustainably-raised beef
The best Angus beef you’ve ever tasted
Top quality free-range veal, from our home to yours
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a cattle farm business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in cattle farms for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in cattle farms. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a cattle farm business include:
Farm Hands – assist with farm chores
Farm Manager – herd management, accounting
Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
If you’ve always dreamed of farm life, your dream can become a reality. You can join an important and thriving industry, make a good living, and provide quality foods to growing families. It will take time, diligence, and a significant investment, but if you have a passion for farming and for producing good food, you can build a lucrative cattle operation.
You’ve got a good understanding of the business now, so it’s time to put on your work boots, roll up your sleeves, and launch your successful cattle farm.
Cattle Farm Business FAQs
Is a cattle farm profitable?
Yes, a cattle farm can be profitable. It will take time to start making money since you have to wait until the cattle get to their ideal weight to sell them, but after a few years, you should be turning a nice profit.
How should I price my beef products?
Prices for cows are very volatile, so it will depend on the market at any given time. Cows are sold by their total weight, with the price set per 100 pounds.
Which state is best for cattle farming?
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are good states for cattle farming because they have a solid infrastructure to support farmers. Land in those states is also inexpensive.
Where is the cheapest place to start a farm?
Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming have the cheapest farmland prices. South Dakota and North Dakota are also affordable.
How do I start a cattle farm with no money?
You can’t start a cattle farm with no money. Costs are at least $300,000. However, the USDA can help you access financial resources, and they offer other support services to help beginning farmers.
How to Start a Cattle Farm
Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Hone Your Idea
Brainstorm a Cattle Farm Name
Create a Cattle Farm Business Plan
Register Your Business
Register for Taxes
Fund your Business
Apply for Cattle Farm Business Licenses and Permits
Open a Business Bank Account
Get Business Insurance
Prepare to Launch
Build Your Team
Run a Cattle Farm - Start Making Money!
Cattle Farm Business FAQs
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