New tools to help you make beef cow herd decisions

New tools to help you make beef cow herd decisions

Should you purchase heifers or retain replacement females for your beef cattle herd?

Whether you decide to buy heifers to replace older cows or decide to retain your own heifers rather than feed them out depends on your situation. Due to differences in enterprise goals and, perhaps most importantly your own costs, management practices, and expectations about future market prices, each producer should make this decision independent of other local operations. Using capital budgeting analysis to determine the value offered by purchased or retained replacement females allows producers to properly reflect upon the economic opportunity presented by alternative investments in replacement females.

RETAIN REPLACMENTS?: Updated tools on ISU’s Ag Decision Maker website can help you make correct decisions about replacing older cows in a beef herd. Or maybe you want to expand the size of your herd. Should you buy replacement heifers or retain the heifers you raise?

Updated tools for calculating net present value of replacement females
Before decisions regarding purchasing or retaining replacement females for a beef cattle herd are made, producers should consider the economic value of replacements entering the herd. Just like any other capital investment, replacement females are only worth the sum of all the cash they can earn over their lifetime, which includes their salvage value as cull cows, less all the expenses they create.

That advice comes from Iowa State University Extension livestock economist Lee Schulz and his colleague, ISU Extension beef cow specialist Patrick Gunn. They’ve updated online tools you can use for calculating the net present value of replacement females in a beef cow herd. Here’s how they say you should use those tools to help make the best decisions.

Pay attention to size of cash flow the replacement heifers generate
The net cash flows the replacement females can generate over their life time depend on the future prices of calves, cost structure, and the eventual salvage value of the cull cows, says Schulz. Not only do the size of the cash flows impact the value of the replacement females, the timing of when the replacements generate income and expenses is important in determining the replacements’ value because money has earning power of its own.

Information on the components for analyzing economic feasibility can be found on Iowa State University’s Ag Decision Maker website, in AgDM Information File B1-74, Net Present Value of Beef Replacement Females.

Helpful aides and other information for making your decisions
Two Ag Decision Maker Decision tools have been developed to aid in calculating payback period, internal rate of return, net present value, and maximum bid price of potential purchased or retained replacement females.

The first spreadsheet, B1-74, Net Present Value of Beef Replacement Females (single replacement), specifies input and output variables outlined above on a per-head basis over the period of time between the decision to purchase or retain a replacement female and when the replacement female is projected to be culled from the herd.

The second spreadsheet, B1-74, Net Present Value of Beef Replacement Females (group of replacements), specifies input and output variables on a group of replacements over the period of time between the decision to purchase or retain replacement females and when the last replacement female(s) from the group is projected to be culled from the herd.

You enter the inputs required for your beef herd situation
These two decision tools differ in the number of inputs required and complexity of the models. The single replacement decision tool works off of a greater number of assumptions, primarily impacted by the user needing to project the number of calving opportunities and marketable calves for a single replacement. This model is useful for analyzing the single replacement case.

Many times replacement females are purchased or retained as a group, says Gunn. As such, accounting for the biological production realities associated with the particular group of replacements is important to the investment decision. The group of replacements decision tool allows users to input more management variables, such as cow death loss and cow culling rate, allowing the model to account for fall-out of animals from a contemporary group over time.

Productive life of replacement females influences your decision
“The key aspect of this model is that the productive life of replacement females, resulting from the user inputted magnitude and timing of death loss and culling, influences the investment decision,” says Gunn.

Summing up: Using capital budgeting analysis to determine the value offered by purchased or retained replacement females allows producers to properly reflect upon the economic opportunity presented by alternative investments in replacement females. Due to differences in enterprise goals and, perhaps most importantly their own costs, management practices, and expectations about future market prices, each producer should make this decision independent of other local operations.

For farm management information and analysis visit ISU's Ag Decision Maker site extension.iastate.edu/agdm

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