The cost of grain and feed most affects the cost of cattle per head in the U.S. The lifespan of the cow and how much it will cost to replace it within the herd is also considered.
Farmers and ranchers must first determine how much food a cow will eat each year. In most parts of the country, cows are grain fed during the winter months and allowed to graze during the warmer months. Therefore, in addition to the cost of feed, the amount of acres that a cow will consume must also be determined. Then, the amount of grain and acres needed per cow must be converted to a cost.
Food costs are the primary basis for the maintenance cost of the cow. Other factors, such as veterinary bills and the labor to care for the cow, must also be considered. Finally, farmers and ranchers must determine the relevance of the average lifespan of a cow within a herd and the cost to replace it. This is done by determining how long a cow is kept before it is sold minus the number of years that calves can be bred to replace and expand the herd. The difference of the cost of feeding and caring for the cow, as well as the cost of replacing it, is subtracted from the price of the cow, resulting in the average cost per head.