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What I overheard at the Ranching for Profit workshopWhat I overheard at the Ranching for Profit workshop

Cow depreciation is one cost cow-calf producers don't recognize too often, but there are ways to reduce this non-cash cost.

Curt Arens

January 19, 2016

2 Min Read

This past week, I attended one of the University of Nebraska Ranching for Profit workshops in Ainsworth. Although prices for the cow-calf producers have still been very good, with herd expansion underway, producers continue to be concerned about declining profitability. They are interested in each and every expense.

At the meeting, UNL Extension educator, Aaron Berger talked about a potentially hidden non-cash expense for cow-calf producers. That is depreciation. It is something we don’t consider when we think about our costs of owning a herd.

Here are a few things I overheard during Berger’s session.


“Cow depreciation is frequently the second largest expense to the cow-calf enterprise after feed.”

“Three ways to decrease depreciation include reducing initial cost; increasing salvage value of cows leaving the herd; and increasing the number of years a cow is productive.”

“Use a systems approach to replacement heifer development by utilizing more inexpensive feed resources to develop heifers to lighter target weights at breeding.”

“Lower input systems allow producers to develop replacement heifers at lower cost without sacrificing reproductive performance.”

“You can do things with management to make a smaller cow that will still have a good calf.”

“Pick your time to sell cull cows, understanding that the cull cow market is seasonal.”

“Cull value is depressed in November and December because there is a surplus.”

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“What if you held the cull cow to mid-March, feeding her crop residues, good hay or meadow? She would gain weight and would gain value.”

“Increase the productive years of a cow by selecting replacements that fit feed resources and environment.”

“Don’t forget the value of hybrid vigor.”

“Heifers that calve early in the calving season are more likely to stay in the herd.”

You can get all the details of this workshop by reading an upcoming article in Nebraska Farmer online or at our Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter @HuskerHomePlace and Editor, Tyler Harris @tyharris08. Try #NebFarmNow and #HHD15.

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About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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