How Much Do Dairy Cows Cost?

Written by: Staff

A dairy cow is bred to supply fresh milk, and farmers raise these cows in order to produce large quantities of milk to be supplied to the market.

Cows by katesheets, on Flickr
Cows” (CC BY 2.0) by  katesheets

How much do dairy cows cost?

The price of the dairy cow can vary depending on the breed, the age and the geographical location you plan on buying the cow from.  The economy and local markets can greatly affect the price as well.  Dairy cows tend to be the most expensive breed available today.  With that being said, a dairy cow will usually cost anywhere between $700 to $3,000.  Older milking cows are priced lower than the younger ones.  Dairy cows around five years old, for example, may cost $1,800 to $3,000.

According to, she noted a dairy cow was about $900 to $3,000 in her part of the country.

Dairy cows overview

There are different cow breeds that are able to produce milk.  These common breeds include the Holsteins and Brown Swiss.  Holsteins are known to be used in the commercial industry and can supply a large quantity of milk.  A Brown Swiss, on the other hand, is one of the oldest breeds and are known more for a homesteader since its quality is quite low.  Its milk is also known to be much richer when compared to other breeds.  Other breeds include the Ayrshire, Busa, Canadienne, Dairy Shorthorn, Dexter, Guernsey, Illawarra, Irish Moiled, Jersey, American Milking Devon, Milking Shorthorn, Norwegian Red and Red Poll.

Regardless of the breed, you should be able to get at least three gallons of milk per day.

Between feeding and replenishing the water trough, plan on spending at least 15 to 35 minutes per day to take care of one cow.

How long do dairy cows live?  The average cow can live 18 to 23 years if taken care of properly.

When purchasing, transferring the cow from their location to your location may be included, but this will depend on the seller.

What are the extra costs?

If the seller won’t handle the transportation cost, then you will be responsible.  The transportation fees will depend on the distance traveled.

How much does it cost to feed a dairy cow?  This will all depend on how large your pasture is and the type of hay you plan on feeding your cow.  For every cow, plan on feeding it at least 30 pounds of hay, which again, depending on your geographical area, this could cost about $175 per ton (2,000 pounds).  Using the 30 pounds per day, $175 could last you about two months.  It could be much more if they don’t have a field to graze in.

While cows can roam and live on their own, they tend to do better with other cattle.  Again, while optional, you may want to consider budgeting for two.

Tips to know

Ideally, you should have about two to four acres per cow for pasture space.

Remember, in order for a cow to produce milk, it needs to have a baby first.  Most farmers will breed their cows at least once per year to keep the lactation cycle fresh; however, this isn’t necessary as having one baby can get the cycle going.  How long are cows pregnant?  For most breeds, it will be about 287 days.

If you’re thinking about selling your milk, check your local laws to make sure you’re able to do so.  Many states prohibit those who sell raw milk.

Still haven’t learned enough?  Consider reading Keeping a Family Cow: The Complete Guide for Home-Scale

How can I save money?

Buying from a seller nearby can help save you in transportation costs.

It is also cost efficient to buy a dairy cow breed known to produce larger quantities and higher quality milk.

There may bee ranch owners who are willing to sell their dairy cow at a package price; this means the more cows you buy, the more discounts you will receive.

Consider going to a local auction.  Many farmers swear by this as this is the best place to get a dairy cow at the lowest price.  Auctions tend to draw in fewer people, leading to lower bid rates.   If considering this route, it never hurts to check for some that are more than 90 miles away as you may find that the gas prices alone can offset the bid price.

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