Getting the Most Return from Your Forages

Wesley Tucker
University of Missouri Extension Specialist & Cow-Calf Producer from Polk County

What truly drives profitability in a beef operation?  What separates a profitable producer from an unprofitable one?  Long term studies tell us the “average” cow-calf producer loses money rather than making it.  But just because the “average” producer is losing money, doesn’t mean you have to.  By definition average means that for every producer below that amount there is one above it.  Research conducted has shown that while the “average” producer may be losing money, 25% of producers are consistently profitable year after year.  What’s their secret?

Feed Costs

Our modern beef industry was built upon four things: cheap land, cheap feed, cheap fuel, and cheap fertilizer.  As the price of each of these has increased, it has significantly raised the costs of feeding a cow throughout the year.  A recent study by Iowa State and Illinois University collected both production and cost variables from a wide range of beef producers.  The operations ranged in size from 20 to 350+ cows.

Production variables included:

  • Calf Weight  Cull Price
  • Calf Price  Weaning Percentage
  • Cull Weight  Calving Distribution

Cost variables included:

  • Feed Cost  Capital Charge
  • Operating Cost  Hired Labor
  • Depreciation Cost  Family Labor

Want to take a guess which variables were distinctly different between profitable and unprofitable producers?  You might be surprised.  (Read More…)