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Improved cow marketing boosts net worth and income

Capture appreciation and avoid depreciation on a cow herd and boost profits by 50%.

Alan Newport, Editor, Beef Producer

August 18, 2020

2 Min Read
Shannon Ranch tables of cow values & sales
The "high-turnover" model on the right captures appreciation and avoids depreciation in cow pricing.Wally Olson

The ideas Oklahoma rancher Wally Olson shared about improved cow marketing a couple years ago in Beef Producer have traveled far and wide, but some folks still need to see the potential profitability from the concept of a real “no-depreciation” cow herd.

To that end, Olson recently shared some data that he and a family member worked up using the family member’s ranch and his efforts to avoid cow depreciation and capture cow appreciation.

The numbers in the no-depreciation herd chart, labeled here as the high-turnover herd, are projected based on stocking rates, but the pricing is from real sales of cattle by the ranch in 2019 or of cows that size and type at nearby sale barns at that time.

Big sales boost

Here’s how it came out: On a 250-cow ranch, the change in cow marketing improved inventory value by about $27,000 or 5%, and increased annual sales by almost $98,000 or 52%.

It works this way: Cows actually appreciate in value until they’re about 5 years old, and then depreciate after that. Olson calls this the cow bell curve.

Once a cow begins to depreciate, in real financial terms you must deduct that depreciation against the value and profit of a calf she produces. Put simply, that cuts into your true profit margins.

On the other hand, if you sell cows about the time they are at their peak value around 5 years old and keep larger numbers of replacement heifers, you will avoid that depreciation “drag” on your calf prices and also increase your inventory value and the total dollar volume of sales.

See the chart

Look at the chart of Shannon Creek Ranch inventory value for the conventional operation with stratified cow ages and small numbers of replacement heifers. We’ve supplied this as the main artwork for the story, as well as another version to help you in this website format.

Small version Shannon_Creek_Ranch-tables

You will see the inventory value of the 250 cows and 55 weaned replacement heifers is $499,950. Below that you’ll see the sales returns are $186,150.

Now examine the inventory value of the high-turnover version of the same ranch. With 221 much-younger cows and 110 weaned heifers, creating the same calculated stocking rate, you’ll see a value of $527,100. This is just a little more than 5% higher inventory value. Look below that at the sale income of $283,880 for a much younger mixture of cattle. This is a little more than a 34% increase in income for the ranch.

The mix is different because of the type of animals kept. Obviously, the ranch would have more yearling replacement heifers that didn’t get bred. The few open cows are kept longer, improved in body condition, bred and sold as bred cows, thereby increasing their value. Remember that the numbers are estimated based upon setting the same stocking rate.

About the Author(s)

Alan Newport

Editor, Beef Producer

Alan Newport is editor of Beef Producer, a national magazine with editorial content specifically targeted at beef production for Farm Progress’s 17 state and regional farm publications. Beef Producer appears as an insert in these magazines for readers with 50 head or more of beef cattle. Newport lives in north-central Oklahoma and travels the U.S. to meet producers and to chase down the latest and best information about the beef industry.

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