Trauma No. 1 is the fact that replacing cows is expensive. Utilizing the previously mentioned database, producers should be targeting and expecting cows to contribute $650 to $700 to the collection plate. However, along with increased income comes an expensive replacement heifer.

As cow numbers continue to decline, money set aside for replacements on an annual basis should be $150 per cow in the breeding herd. If a producer replaces a cow on the average of every six years, the cow has six years of productive life in the herd. Therefore, the $150 per year sets aside $900 to buy a replacement, plus the cost of developing the replacement. That will not be enough given the increase in replacement values.

The only redeeming feature may be the continued increase in calf values. The bottom line is that cows are and only will become more expensive to replace.

Trauma No. 2 is the fact that expenses are increasing at a greater rate than income. The bottom side of the equation ultimately determines net profit. Historically, as the model grows, approximately 75 percent of direct costs are feed-related, regardless of net return. If one was to project direct costs per cow at $400 per year, the producer has $300 of feed expense to work with.

As Mother Nature and energy production demands toy with beef producers, the industry can ill afford spiraling feed costs. The current production models have little room to absorb imported high-dollar feed. That is why, as noted before, cattle move to feed because feed does not move very well to cattle.

These are tough thoughts and will have producers pondering who should be in the beef business. The cow business works with gross margins of $600 per cow, provided direct costs can be held to less than $400 and overhead to less than $100.

If the previous year’s estimates put feed input at $300 per cow, Mother Nature and energy demands may and actually are pushing feed input costs out of what many would consider a comfortable risk area.

Too much input and not enough output equals one less beef producer.

May you find all your ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at

For more information, contact Ringwall at 1041 State Ave., Dickinson, N.D., 58601, or go to on the Internet.