Every Farm Has Different Goalposts – Setting Goals and Defining Success

What does a “successful” Canadian beef farm look like? How do you define success on your farm?

Canfax and the Beef Cattle Research Council recently released the results from their Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network. The project collected data from 115 beef producers across Canada and summarized production benchmarks such as cow size, weaning weight and calf mortality. The network also looked at profit and expense benchmarks like feed costs, cow depreciation, enterprise revenue and more. A detailed summary of these results can be found here.

Interested in the Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network?

Producers receive:

  • Opportunity to learn from and share experience with other similar producers
  • $500 honorarium
  • Farm summary of production system including physical performance indicators
  • Summary of the whole farm, cow-calf enterprise and retained ownership enterprise, with 2020 baseline and five years of historical indexing
  • Summary of future farm scenarios

Sign up at: https://www.canfax.ca/COPNetwork.aspx

While profit and production numbers are often touted as measures of success, participants in the Cost of Production Network pointed out that fiscal targets are not their only focus. Success looks different for every farm because individual goals and values vary. Some producers may put a spotlight on strategies to increase revenue and reduce costs while other farmers view success as working well with family members or having less overall stress. All definitions are important and worth striving for.

Andre and Katie Steppler were named Manitoba Region’s Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) in 2020. They manage the cattle division of Steppler Farms, where they run purebred and commercial Charolais herds as well as the recent addition of a registered Black Angus herd.

While winning the OYF award may be the very definition of success for most farmers, Steppler, who works alongside his three brothers, their families and his parents near Miami, Manitoba, is quick to point out that there is no single goal or target that makes their multigenerational farm work. “It’s about shared visions and goals and it’s a revolving thing,” he says. “You can’t stand still.” Continue reading

Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network – 2021 Results

 



You may know what you want out of your operation, but do you record what you put into it? Knowing the difference between what you get and what you give is essential for profitable decision-making. This is the purpose of calculating cost of production.



The Canadian Cow-calf Cost of Production Network launched in 2020 with the objective to benchmark different production systems across Canada. Baseline data was collected from 115 producers who attended virtual focus groups between January and March 2021. This created 25 cow-calf and 3 dairy-beef production systems. These benchmarks are the first set in a standardized pan-Canadian process looking at the many types of cow-calf production systems across the country. The network only requires data to be submitted every five years; and should reduce response burden for producers while allowing for improvements to be tracked into the future. Results from the 2020 reference year are now available online  Continue reading

Networks Make The Dream Work

This is Part Two of a three-part series (see Part One and Part Three).

Editor’s note: this article is also available in French. Download the translated version here. 

As the industry has been rocked by COVID-19, volatile market prices and uncertainty have occurred. There is an opportunity for producers to examine what they can control – their cost of production. During the boom years when prices are high it is easy for costs to get out of hand. You may be considering changes to your operation but are not sure where you will get the biggest bang for your buck.

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) will develop benchmarks for specific production systems and ecoregions across the country. Scenarios will be developed for what future farms could look like utilizing the 5% Rule to identify where incremental improvements could be made around productivity, input costs, and output prices. Each production system will have its own set of opportunities, limitations, and areas where greater focus may be beneficial. Consider cattle operations with different production systems:

  • A beef operation in the east is considering raising dairy-beef but is uncertain about the costs and management changes needed to succeed.
  • A small, land-locked operation may be utilizing multiple income streams from multiple different commodities to manage risk. The focus is on using each acre in different ways throughout the year to generate revenue.
  • A large, specialized operation may be focused on economies of scale in purchases and sales and efficiencies in labour productivity.

When looking at competitiveness and profitability, each region needs to evaluate the limitations and opportunities unique to them. Is land, labour, or capital the limitation? Will the biggest impact for the operation come from reducing input costs, or improving productivity, or increasing price? Continue reading

Silage is top choice for these three beef producers



Editor’s note: The following is part two of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of silage production across Canada. Read part one on silage cost of production. 

Many Canadian beef producers have been harvesting and feeding silage for decades, while others are relatively new to the practice. There are upsides to silage, including the ability to harvest forage during variable weather, being able to produce more feed on fewer acres, and the potential for a more economical feed ration. There are also drawbacks to consider, including additional feeding infrastructure and equipment investment. Also, as with any new method or management practice, producers considering silage need to do their homework, develop a new skillset and be prepared to adapt and adjust as they learn.

Read about the experiences of three beef farmers from across Canada who have incorporated silage on their farms.

Kevin Duddridge
Pansy, Manitoba

Kevin Duddridge describes silage as the “future of beef production” and has been relying on silage to feed his cow herd for the past five years. Duddridge and his family run a 220 head cow-calf operation that they started in 2003 and they feed a total mixed ration based on corn silage. “We don’t use dry bales at all because it’s hit and miss from year to year,” says Duddridge, who added that their cost of production has reduced since shifting away from dry hay. “Corn is an amazing plant. It has a root that will find water in dry years, and in years where conventional hay fails, you will still get a crop of corn,” Duddridge explains. “It’s basically half the price per pound of dry matter for our production costs,” he adds. Continue reading

Silage Cost of Production

Editor’s note: The following is part one of a two-part series that will help you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of silage production across Canada.

Hay is a major forage source over the winter-feeding season in the cow/calf sector, but an increasing number of producers are considering silage if they aren’t already using it.

According to the 2016/17 Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey, most respondents practiced some type of extensive feeding method, such as in-field feeding, for most of the winter. While all respondents used rolled bales (baled hay or straw) as part of their feeding program, about 30% also used other winter-feeding methods and materials including silage and chopped hay with a bale processor. In the east, the 2015/16 Ontario Cow-Calf Survey shows that 91% of producers winter their cattle using baled hay, while 45% reported feeding silage. According to the 2016/17 Atlantic Cow-Calf Survey, average days on feed by feed type (non-exclusive to one feed type) are 83 days on silage, 74 days on baled hay, and 52 days on crop residues.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Silage

A major benefit to putting up silage is that, provided the crop is at the right stage, it can be harvested in almost any weather condition. Lengthy dry down times can be avoided and harvest operations can continue even in cool or moist conditions. When harvesting silage, it is recommended that the crop be at 60-65% moisture level to maximize quality and packing effectiveness.

Compared to most other systems, such as baling dry hay, silage has fewer harvesting losses and more nutrients can be harvested per acre. Ensiling permits the use of a wider range of crops including grasses, legumes, grains, corn and salvage crops that have suffered weather damage or weed infestation. Also, silage harvest can typically be done in a much shorter timeframe compared to hay.

The major disadvantage of silage compared to hay is that it requires more capital investment or cash costs. Due to the high costs of planting and harvesting equipment, many livestock producers choose to not own the equipment, but rather hire custom operators. As custom operators are usually booked well in advance, producers need to plan seeding and harvest well ahead of time and make sure they have custom operators lined up. Also, silage has limited market potential, because trucking costs restrict the distance hauled, so it must be produced near the location where it will be fed. Continue reading