Free tools help cow-calf producers calculate cost of production

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Without a little office time, it’s almost impossible to know which enterprises are profitable, and which aren’t.

As a result of collaboration with the federal government, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, the Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC) has developed templates to help producers in the process of calculating cost of production.

RealAgriculture’s Debra Murphy sat down with Kathy Larson at the inaugural BeefTech in Edmonton, AB. 

“There are two free options available. The Excel-based one is for users…that are proficient or feel comfortable working in that spreadsheet tool, Excel,” says Kathy Larson, beef economist with the WBDC, and developer of the COP Calculator.

The other option, CowProfit$, was developed by the WBDC to generate cost of production benchmarks for the province until 2012. It was upgraded in 2016.

“They virtually do the same thing, there’s maybe just a little bit of ability to customize the CowProfit$ one,” says Larson.

According to the CowProfit$ website, some features it offers above the COP Calculator include: rollover ending inventories, asset listing and allocations to the next calf crop. It’s available for install on Windows-based systems.

“Both are free, both assist you with cost of production analysis for your entire operation, and…it’s just kind of up to what a producer wants to use for their own operation.”

When sitting down to get to this work, Larson suggests drawing on production and financial records. For most producers, the process takes about 1.5-3 hours to set up, and then requires tweaking from year to year.

“But I think you get really valuable information for your own needs to even talk with your banker or look at participating in the price insurance program, even if you can figure out what it’s costing you for your break-even on your calves.”

Related: Calculating the true cost of replacement heifers

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