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Northwest Area Extension

February 2005

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In this issue
bullet Farm Accounting Software
bullet Cow-Calf News
bullet Iowa State University Swine Software
bullet Keep Current on Info This Summer
bullet NW IA Dairy Days

Farm Accounting Software
by Tom Olsen, ISUE Ag. Business Specialist

I resolve my farm books will not be such a mess this year. Had I planned a little better, I would not be giving such a big check to Uncle Sam. It is said every year about this time. Prudent financial decisions made in a timely fashion will more than pay for all the tools and the time invested to use them.  In other words, one good decision will pay for a computer, software, and all the hours spent using them. With the advances in technology, using these tools has never been easier or cheaper.

There are many levels of complexity and cost. A beginner can get up and running with relative ease and a pro can get buried with options.  The goal of this article is to mention a few tools and point to the sources of more detailed description.

Usually, the first step is for a farmer to keep an electronic check book ledger and several broad categories with a limited “chart of accounts”.  The first tier might be with Quicken or Microsoft Money.  This software may have come bundled with your computer or as an added option.  Retail discounters sell these in the $20-40 range.

You will, in effect, move your check register and farm ledger book to the computer.  The “chart of accounts” will include categories that can be transferred to your tax forms. One major change from the “hand-drawn” system is that it will now be important to balance all the accounts and the check register together.

Several land grant universities and others have set up “chart of accounts” for Quicken and Microsoft Money software.  They also have tutorials and other teaching materials.

 Quicken -

To this point, you have an IRS tool, not a production management tool. Many farmers keep the accounting as simple as possible and use separate tools for enterprise analysis, forecasting, etc.  Prepared spreadsheets (esp. using Excel) can be downloaded or built for these purposes. Examples of handy, useable Excel templates can be found at: Ag Decision Maker

Fast Tools       

Next month there will be more information on accounting software that features more in-depth analysis.

For an electronic copy of this article (so all the hot links are live), send an email to


Cow-Calf News
by Beth Ellen Doran, ISUE Beef Field Specialist

New Estrus Synchronization Software -
It may be winter yet, but it's not too soon to think about the calving and breeding season.  A newer technology that some cow-calf producers are considering is estrus synchronization for cows and replacement heifers.  Currently, there are 22 different systems for estrus synchronization.  Choosing and implementing the right one can be difficult.

But, there is help for cow-calf producers.  The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University is offering a new software program to assist cow-calf producers in making choices in estrus synchronization for their beef herds.  The "Estrus Synchronization Planner" is an effort of the Iowa Beef Center and the North Central Bovine Reproductive Task Force, a group of university reproductive experts from the Midwest.

The Planner assists producers with planning and implementing complicated synchronization programs and has several exciting features.  It offers 22 estrus synchronization systems in three categories.  One of the newest categories is fixed-time artificial insemination.  This means that producers can select the time they want to artificially inseminate the cows compared with having to monitor and breed the cows over a period of a couple of days. 

The Planner recommends various systems for cows and heifers.  Once producers have selected their preferred system and breeding date, the Planner provides a daily calendar of activity.  There is also a budgeted cost analysis of the various systems.

Software is available to producers for $35 (includes shipping and handling) by contacting the Iowa Beef Center (515-294-BEEF) or by downloading the Center's order form from:

Feeder Calf Prices - What determines feeder cattle prices?  The Iowa Beef Center recently analyzed data from 433 lots of feeder cattle (3532 head) consigned to three NW Iowa pre-conditioned feeder cattle sales a year ago.  The sales offered traditional green-tagged calves and double-tagged calves. The double-tagged protocol required mandatory green-tag procedures of vaccinations, castration, de-horning, 30-day weaning and 60-day ownership. However, additional procedures were required.  Two modified-live vaccinations were administered for the 4-way viral, 7-way Clostridial, and Haemophilus Somnus.  The second vaccination was required a minimum of one week prior to sale.  One vaccination for Pastuerella and internal parasite treatment were also required.  When all  requirements were met, calves were double-tagged by the attending veterinarian, and "Double-Tagged Program" was written on the certificate.

The analysis examined how sex, color, frame score, lot size, cleanliness (dirt and manure tags) and day of sale affected the price ($/cwt) of feeder cattle in the auctions.  Variables that resulted in price premiums included: steers, frame score, black hide, day of sale and the double-tagged protocol.  Steers received $7/cwt more than heifers.  Medium-sized animals sold for $1.30/cwt more than small animals, but less than large-framed cattle.  Black animals received $1.91/cwt more than non-black animals.  Animals in the February sale received $14.20/cwt and $9.90/cwt less than cattle in the December and January sales, respectively.  Market volatility due to BSE may have exaggerated this factor.  Double-tagged calves received a $2.25/cwt premium over traditional green-tagged calves.

Prices were discounted on heavier weight and manure tags.  An incremental increase of 100 pounds in the average lot weight caused an $8/cwt decrease in sale price.  Animals with manure tags sold for $6.50/cwt less than those without manure tags.  Lot size, the presence of dirty animals in the lot, use of a growth promoting implant and parasite treatment did not impact prices.  A full article will soon be available in the 2005 ISU Animal Industry Report. 


Iowa State University Swine Software
by Dave Stender, ISUE Swine Field Specialist

This article is a reminder that useful decision-aid spreadsheet software is available for swine producers.  This year I have seen renewed interest in the Diet Analyzer Spreadsheet.  This software is flexible enough to fit any production system and vastly differing pig nutritional requirements.  Standard recommendations are included from life cycle swine nutrition, but even the recommendations can be adjusted as new research unveils the need for change.  Multiple feed stuffs can be entered and feed tags from specific labels can be directly entered into the program.  Many producers use it to calculate a representative feed budget.

Group tracker is an Excel spreadsheet that tracks feed, other costs and performance for groups of pigs in nursery or finisher.  Features new to this software include optional feed budget to actual comparison, performance goal input, death loss analysis, and pork quality assurance records.  It is desired that producers use this software to compile and network confidential information, helping each other make better decisions and benchmarks.

A popular cash flow software is being updated. The “Swine Budget & Cash Flow Projection Software” has been revised as an upgrade to the former Iowa State University MCS-10 budget evaluation spreadsheet.  It can be used to evaluate a current or potential swine producing scenario in terms of both budget and cash flow. This spreadsheet combines all of the previous MCS series budgets (like farrow-to-finish and feeder pig finishing) into a single package, and adds a great new feature: users will be able to estimate the cash flow of a swine operation over a much longer (11 years) period of time than previous versions.  This allows a longer and more efficient look into the future.  Software will be available soon.

A Sow Longevity Spreadsheet is helping pork producers worldwide.  Customized farrow-to-finish and breed-to-wean spreadsheets in English and Metric units of measure have been developed to help pork producers accurately determine how long to keep a breeding herd female in their herds. Producers enter operation specific financial and production information in the appropriate form and get information they can use in their operations. To date the software has been widely distributed throughout the U.S. and the world. Users from 17 states and 26 different countries (on six continents) have one or more of the four different versions. The software users have indicated they control or have influence on over 20 million sows in production. This free tool is helping these producers make better production and business decisions regarding the replacement rate and the number of parities or length of herd life that is required for a sow to be a profitable investment. IPIC’s Ken Stalder and his University of Tennessee colleague Curt Lacey worked together on these spreadsheets, including recent revisions.

There are other simple calculator spreadsheets for such things as production scheduling, evaluating market weight and corn gluten rations.  Some of the spreadsheets are free others can cost up to $30.

For more information, contact Dave Stender at (712) 225-6196 or Ken Stalder at The Iowa Pork Industry Center, (515) 294-4683; <>


Keeping Current on Info This Summer
by Joel DeJong, ISUE Crops Field Specialist

Soybean rust, aphids, Western Bean Cutworms, and other pests.  How do you know when to scout and when an outbreak is occurring?  One of our jobs in Extension is to provide accurate information to crop producers.  As new worries develop, a lot of panic can sometimes set in.  If you are an Internet user, here are some resources that might help you stay current, and reduce panic, during the next growing season!

Paul Kassel (, Todd Vagts ( and I (, the NW Iowa Extension Crop Specialists, all write newsletters sent via e-mail almost weekly during the summer.  To subscribe, just send us an e-mail, and we will be happy to add you. 

ISU Extension has the Integrated Crop Management Newsletter.  You can subscribe via mail, or get it on-line free at this web site: .  This newsletter is searchable by topic - so you can see useful newsletter articles from previous years.  Other ISU Newsletters are also found on this page.

Other great reference pages include:

ISU Weeds page: ; the soybean rust page: ; and the "quick info" soybean cyst nematode page: .  Of course, the Iowa Manure Management Action Group web page is a must for anyone in the livestock industry: .
There are great Internet resources available from your Iowa State University Extension, and these are just a few.  Start on the main web page: and see lots more of what is out there.  Use them!


NW IA Dairy Days
by Chris Mondak, ISUE Dairy Field Specialist

Mark your calendar for the Northwest Iowa Dairy Days that ISU Extension will host.  Choose from two days and locations: March 8 in Sheldon at Northwest Iowa Community College and March 9 in Cherokee at Western Iowa Tech.  Registration and exhibit viewing begin at 10:30 am. each day.

The ISU Dairy Day program addresses concerns and questions raised by NW Iowa Dairy producers in recent months.  This local meeting is a good opportunity to receive information on pertinent topics, to network with producers and consultants, and get updates on industry products and services.

The program includes these topics:

  • Setting up On-farm Composting of Animal Mortalities. Learn how this simple method may save you money and improve bio-security.

  • Understanding the Iowa Phosphorus Index and How it will Apply to Your Operation

  • New Information about Johnes Disease Control Programs.  Learn how to interpret and use diagnostic tests and why it makes sense to us the new risk-assessment resource.

  • Updates on using Distillers Grain and Straw in Dairy Rations.

The pre-registration fee is $15/person and $20 day of the event.  To preregister call:  Sioux County Extension at 712/737-4230  or Cherokee County Extension at 712/225-6196.


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