Someone on Facebook asked why the grandson sold his calf along with ours, since his original reason for buying the calf was for meat. My answer to that question got rather long and involved, and I thought perhaps I should share it on my blog as well.
Plans with the animals around here are always changing: The grandson was out of meat in his freezer so he bought the one Holstein calf, but of course the calf wasn't going to be big enough until he was around a year old. I decided our runt bull would never stand tall enough to breed a cow, so I told the grandson if he wanted meat, he could just have the bull any time he wanted to have it butchered. The bull must have heard the conversation, because somehow he managed to impregnate Grace, the cow. Well, the other cow, Penny, will have her calf in early May, and she is smaller than Grace, so I told the grandson, "Just wait until he breeds the other cow (probably in June some time) and THEN butcher him. I knew I wouldn't keep him around any longer that that, because Jersey bulls can get really mean and dangerous once they get around two years old. The real reason we went ahead and sold our two calves is because the big calves needed a separate pen from the grown cows (because they would still try to nurse Grace until they are fully weaned) AND from the new baby calves (because I turn Grace in with the babies twice a day and the big calves would latch right on to a teat), and we were pretty much out of space, not to mention that our pasture is overworked already with four horses and two to four cows grazing. The grandson said, "Are you sure you will be ready to get rid of the bull after he breeds the other cow?" I said, "No doubt about it." And now you know the REST of the story.
The Holsteins we just sold were bought from the dairy at $325 each. I honestly spent very little money raising them: I only give the cow a bite of feed twice a day when she goes in with the calves to feed them, and the calves went through a bag of calf starter before they graduated to sweet feed. I imagine I had $100 worth of feed in each one, at the most, and the cow didn't charge me anything for letting the calves have her milk.
A reader of my blog said I should figure in the cost of my labor when I'm talking about a profit: That is like asking a hunter to figure what his labor is worth for the time he is out hunting, or asking a golfer to figure up how much his time was worth while he was playing golf. The cows and calves are a hobby. They are only here because working with them makes me happy; a high spot of my day is when I see those calves cavorting in the lot, kicking up their heels and bucking and running for the pure joy of having a belly full of milk and lots of energy.
The preacher asked me one time why anyone would bother raising a garden: "You can buy a can of green beans in the store for fifty cents," he said, as if all the effort put forth in a garden is a waste of energy. He's an avid hunter who spends plenty of money on guns, and hunting in general, and I have always wished I had asked him, "With all the expense of buying guns and paying for hunting licences and travel expenses, couldn't you buy pork, chicken, and beef in the store for less money than the wild game eventually costs you?"
You see, it isn't about money when you are doing something you love.
We won't even discuss the superiority of a home-raised tomato over the ones you buy in the store, because that's another topic. I am willing to bet, though, that every home gardener, right now, has visions of a sun-warmed, red-ripe tomato fresh off the vine, even though the vision won't become reality until July. That vision alone is worth the effort of a garden, because it gets us through the winter.