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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
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The Cattle Business -- SPA-EZ Update

Livestock Update, December 1998

Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

As cow-calf operators approach the end of the year, it would be useful to take some time to evaluate the state of the farm business. Certainly, feeder cattle prices were far lower than early year expectations. Additionally, statewide drought conditions lowered weaning weights and are causing hay supplies to be used up early.

Cow-calf operators across the country use the Standardized Performance Analysis-EZ worksheets to measure the production and financial performance of their enterprises. Wherever producers are located they can complete the three page SPA-EZ package to use the same methodology to calculate measures of performance and the cost of producing a pound of calf.

The SPA-EZ forms are available through local Extension offices. The SPA-EZ forms walk the owner through the process of analyzing the economic performance of the cattle operation. Several producers have completed the forms for a number of years to measure year to year progress. Producers who complete the forms are encouraged to forward a copy of their completed forms to the Animal and Poultry Science department for inclusion in a Virginia aggregate of cow-calf operations. Being able to compare an individual herd analysis with an aggregate of similar operations offers a powerful management tool.

Two individual SPA-EZ analyses were submitted for inclusion in a aggregate of the 1997 production year. The averages displayed below indicate that these were two larger than average and very well managed enterprises. The excellent reproductive and growth performance of these two herds helped keep the breakeven cost of producing a pound of calf relatively low. The information from the 1997 aggregate is presented below to illustrate some of the information generated in completion of the SPA-EZ worksheets.

Production Measure1997 Aggregate Average
Adjusted exposed female inventory138.5 hd.   
Percent weaned calves91.3%
Average weight of calves weaned640.9 lb.
Pounds weaned per cow exposed585.3 lb.
Average price/pound (value) of calves$.771/lb.
Cash expenses per cow
Feed costs$99.78
Labor, management, family living (Paid and Unpaid) $76.73
Other (fuel, supplies, taxes, insurance, repairs, etc)$43.07
Depreciation on equipment and improvements$48.27
Change in inventory (negative indicate positive change) $15.16
Total cash expenses per exposed female$331.62
Calf breakeven selling price$53.18/cwt.
Total noncurrent assets per breeding female$1458
Total assets per breeding female$1566
Total revenue per cow$487

To complete the SPA-EZ forms, the owner would need expense and receipt records similar to those required for tax purposes, basic cow herd records, and a beginning and ending of the year inventory. Cow calf operators desiring a copy of SPA-EZ should contact the local Extension office or the Animal and Poultry Science Department at (540) 231-5253.

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