Cow Profitability Programs in SE Iowa

Byron Leu, Beef Field Specialist, Southeast

Problem Statement: 

Beef cow producers are facing ‘tough times’ for a broad scope of reasons.  Market prices have declined over the past year to limit the potential of the beef enterprise.  Plus, inputs such as feed costs, utility/fuel costs, pasture and hay ground expenses, and a weakening economy have all significantly impacted the ‘bottom line’. 

Programmatic Response:

To address this critical situation, the Iowa Beef Center sponsored a number of educational programs designed to discuss a variety of management schemes.  The central theme of these programs focused on the reduction of selected input costs in an effort to remain cost competitive.  Included in the discussion were topics such as feed cost control, reduction of feed waste, feeding for need, utilizing alternative feeds, improving grazing management, as well as other cost controlling methods.  Seven educational sessions were conducted in southeast Iowa from December 2008 to January 2009. 

Outcome Statement:  

At the seven educational events, the 98 attendees had the opportunity to participate in a pre- and post-program evaluation using the ‘clicker’ technology.  This approach was well received although several individuals did not choose to participate. 

Relative to short-term outcomes, the awareness and knowledge base of attendees was increased in the area of projected ‘total production cost’ and ‘feed cost per cow’ estimates.  When calculated on a per day cost, producers realized that they were under-estimating their winter feed costs in the pre-test (49% felt their per day cost was $1.00-1.50 and 29% estimated $1.50-2.00 per cow per day).  Following the program, the post-evaluation reflected that 41% of the southeast Iowa attendees estimated their cost/day at $1.00-1.50 (8% decrease) while 51% (increase of 32%) indicated their costs were in the $1.50-2.00 range.

The following medium- and long-term behavior changes were identified with producers that participated in the clicker evaluation system:

Separating cows into groups:  Producers indicating they were going to separate cows into production groups to reduce production costs and improve animal productivity increased by 16% (69% to 85%).

Forage testing:  62% indicated that they would utilize forage testing in the future to optimize feed use and reduce feed costs.

Modify rations:  60% indicated they would make feedstuff/ration changes to remain cost-effective—with 16% stating they would reduce using ‘hay only’ rations (36% used ‘hay only’ in the pre-test and 20% in the post-evaluation).  Cornstalk and corn by-product use increased from 7% in the pre-test to 15% in the post-evaluation.  Attendees clearly reflected that feedstuff input costs had to be addressed to be cost-effective producers.

Cost impacts:  77% of the attendees responding indicated a $0.10-0.50 per cow per day reduction in feed costs due to attending this program.  A breakdown of these attendees showed that 47% indicated a $0.10 per cow per day reduction, 26% indicated a $0.25 per day reduction, and 4% reflected a $0.50 per head per day reduction. 


140   Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: April 7, 2009
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