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What it costs to rear a calf in 2023

Updated: Mar 11

Many farmers have been enquiring as to the cost of rearing a calf this season, given the level of inflation we have experienced and the drop in the livestock market, it is an important question when considering ways to grow your equity.


The New Zealand Dairy Exporter released an article recently (link at bottom of page) detailing the expenses researched by the On-Farm Research team at the Poukawa Research Farm in Hawke’s Bay. Note that the research was done prior to June 2023 so prices will vary.

*Based on servicing $300/calf for 90 days **EID supplied by dairy farmer, medium tags only ***Assuming most losses occur in first 10 days ****Assuming 100 kgDM at 20c/kgDM consumed by calf from weaning to sale


The above costing does not include the cost of the calf purchase, so if a calf is purchased for $100, it needs to be sold for a minimum of $540 plus cartage and commission, to be profitable.


It is difficult to provide an exact cost as every situation is different, with larger rearers getting access to discounts and potentially cheaper calves.


The figures are based on feeding one 25kg bag of calf milk replacer (CMR) per calf, however smaller or later born calves need more. They recommend feeding a premium CMR for the first 2-3 weeks, which cost ~$80-$90 a bag, then switching to a whey or non-curding CMR if needing to cut costs, which cost ~$75 a bag.


Based on these costs, a premium CMR fed at 125g/litre costs 53c/l and a non-curding CMR costs 47c/litre. For comparison, at a $6.75 milk price, a cow with an 8.9% milksolids content costs 60c/litre.


The figures are based on feeding 75kg of meal per calf, however those with limited access to land may feed more.


Link to the New Zealand Dairy Exporter article What it costs to rear a calf in 2023 - NZ Dairy Exporter


This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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