As is typical during the turn-around phase of the cattle cycle, I am currently receiving a lot of calls from folks who want to buy beef cows. Increasingly, more of these calls are from potential first-time cow owners. It seems everyone wants to own beef cows when calf prices get high in the cattle cycle.

I believe the last two years of high calf prices have now triggered the current cattle cycle's “everyone wants to own beef cows” phase. By 2005, that phase will change to “I have got to own some of these profitable beef cows!” Generally, this phase abruptly ends when calf prices break downward.

I project calf prices will stay strong for the next two, and perhaps three, calf crops. Calf prices will go south toward the end of the decade. Purchased females need to be paid for before calf prices turn south.

Now that calf prices have increased is not the best time in the cycle to buy beef cows. The best time to buy cows is when no one wants them — like a couple of years ago.

Anyone intending to buy cows over the next two years should buy them now, and the sooner, the better. Buy them now so newly purchased cows have more high-priced calf years to pay for themselves. I fully expect bred cow prices to get stronger until current calf prices turn sharply downward — like calf prices did in 1994. Bred cow prices peaked in the last cattle cycle in 1993.

Five calculation steps

Here are my five steps for calculating the economic value of bred females:

  1. Prepare a set of long-run planning prices. Beef cow producers find the development of a set of long-run planning prices one of the most difficult and complex tasks of the planning process. Start with my planning prices in Figure 2, and modify them to fit your economic projections.
  2. Prepare an economic budget for your herd. I used the five-year (1999-2003) average enterprise accounts for 769 Northern Plains beef cow herds as my base year. These enterprise accounts are posted by the University Of Minnesota at: (www.finbin.umn.edu/output/41075.htm).
  3. Utilizing your long-run planning prices, annual enterprise budget projections must be prepared for each of the 7-9 years a heifer might be in your cow herd. I utilized each year's long-run planning price and constant five-year average production costs for my projections. Figure 3 presents my long-run economic profit projections for the 2005-2012 time period.
  4. Project the salvage value of cull cows. Use the University of Missouri's FAPRI Baseline Briefing Book as your source of long-run cull cow planning prices. Find it at: (www.fapri.missouri.edu/outreach/publications). My suggested long-run cull cow planning prices are presented in the left-most column in Figure 4.
  5. Determine the appropriate discount rate. This should be your after-tax interest rate for borrowed money. I use a 6% discount rate.
  6. Calculate the net present value (NPV) of a bred heifer. Figure 4 is a simple spreadsheet used to take the projected annual net economic profits and calculate the economic value of a bred female. The bottom line presents the calculated NPV of bred females under different numbers of lifetime calves produced. Additional bred female tables can be found at www.beefcharts.blogspot.com.

Harlan Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Laramie, WY. Reach him at 701/238-9607 or harlan.hughes@gte.net.

 

You might also like:

6 Tips To Reduce Stress On Your Family Ranch

Cow Fixer Vs Herd Health Vet? BEEF Vet Examines Production Medicine

80+ Photos Of Our Favorite Calves & Cowboys

7 Ranching Operations That Personify Environmental Stewardship

Readers Show The Love For Their Ranch Sweethearts