With the rising costs of pasture, feed and fuel, production costs in the beef industry are well above previous years. The University of Missouri Farm Management Agriculture Budgets are updated every year. “According to the Beef Cow/Calf Budget for Calves sold in 2008, total cow/calf operating costs are expected to be more than $800 per cow this year, an increase greater than 25 percent since 2005,” says David Hoffman, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist. Traditionally, feed costs are a big driver in the total cost of production for a beef operation. Kansas data shows feed costs have increased more than 25 percent between 2007 and 2008 and more than 45percent since 2001 (the recent low in cow/calf feed costs per cow).

While costs have increased, calf prices have declined since a peak in 2005 ($130 per hundred for 500- to 600-pound steers). Kansas State University researchers estimated breakeven calf prices ranged from $100 to $110 per hundred from 2000 to 2006 but were projected at $119 and $132 for 2007 and 2008, respectively.

“Beef producers are facing a challenge to find ways to remain profitable in light of the current increase in input costs of raising cattle,” says Hoffman. “Making adjustments to current operations will be necessary, but finding the right adjustment will take some time and work. If weaning weight is increased, what will it cost? If feeding practices are changed, how will it affect reproduction? To determine impact, producers will need good records and information in order to make informed decisions.”

Cow/calf records need to include information to determine total herd production. Producers need to know more than just an average weaning weight. Important information such as percent calf crop based on females exposed, pregnancy weight, weaning weight per cow exposed or calving distribution are all valuable in determining the profitability of an operation.

The Integrated Resource Management Redbook was designed to help producers track this type of information. This pocketbook allows producers to record birth information for each calf, along with tracking herd inventory, pasture usage, weaning data and breeding data. The Redbook has several pages to help summarize the data on a whole herd basis. This data, combined with financial records, can be used to get a cost of production on a per unit basis. If you would like to receive an IRM Redbook for next year, please contact your local University of Missouri livestock specialist.

“Cow/calf producers are facing the challenge of rising input costs after a few years of profitability,” says Hoffman. “Producers who take the time to calculate whole herd performance and unit cost of production will be in a better position to make good, sound management decisions.”

For more information, contact David Hoffman, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist,; call your local Extension office; or visit

Recommended for you