Financial, economic, and biological data collected from cow-calf producers who participated in the Illinois and Iowa Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) programs were used in this study. Data used were collected for the 1996 through 1999 calendar years, with each herd within year representing one observation. This resulted in a final database of 225 observations (117 from Iowa and 108 from Illinois) from commercial herds with a range in size from 20 to 373 cows. Two analyses were conducted, one utilizing financial cost of production data, the other economic cost of production data. Each observation was analyzed as the difference from the mean for that given year. The independent variable utilized in both the financial and economic models as an indicator of profit was return to unpaid labor and management per cow (RLM). Used as dependent variables were the five factors that make up total annual cow cost: feed cost, operating cost, depreciation cost, capital charge, and hired labor, all on an annual cost per cow basis. In the economic analysis, family labor was also included. Production factors evaluated as dependent variables in both models were calf weight, calf price, cull weight, cull price, weaning percentage, and calving distribution. Herd size and investment were also analyzed. All financial factors analyzed were significantly correlated to RLM (P < .10) except cull weight, and cull price. All economic factors analyzed were significantly correlated to RLM (P < .10) except calf weight, cull weight and cull price. Results of the financial prediction equation indicate that there are eight measurements capable of explaining over 82 percent of the farm-to-farm variation in RLM. Feed cost is the overriding factor driving RLM in both the financial and economic stepwise regression analyses. In both analyses over 50 percent of the herd-to-herd variation in RLM could be explained by feed cost. Financial feed cost is correlated (P < .001) to operating cost, depreciation cost, and investment. Economic feed cost is correlated (P < .001) with investment and operating cost, as well as capital charge. Operating cost, depreciation, and capital charge were all negatively correlated (P < .10) to herd size, and positively correlated (P < .01) to feed cost in both analyses. Operating costs were positively correlated with capital charge and investment (P < .01) in both analyses. In the financial regression model, depreciation cost was the second critical factor explaining almost 9 percent of the herd-to-herd variation in RLM followed by operating cost (5 percent). Calf weight had a greater impact than calf price on RLM in both the financial and economic regression models. Calf weight was the fourth indicator of RLM in the financial model and was similar in magnitude to operating cost. Investment was not a significant variable in either regression model; however, it was highly correlated to a number of the significant cost variables including feed cost, depreciation cost, and operating cost (P < .001, financial; P < .10, economic). Cost factors were far more influential in driving RLM than production, reproduction, or producer controlled marketing factors. Of these cost factors, feed cost had by far the largest impact. As producers focus attention on factors that affect the profitability of the operation, feed cost is the most critical control point because it was responsible for over 50 percent of the herd-to-herd variation in profit.
Iowa State University
Miller, A. J.; Faulkner, D. B.; Knipe, R. K.; Parrett, D. F.; Berger, L. L.; and Strohbehn, D. R., "Critical Control Points for Profitability in the Cow-Calf Enterprise" (2002). Beef Research Report, 2001. 16.