The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Issues Center recently released a beef cattle cost study, detailing the cost and returns for beef production in California. The new study titled “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle, Cow-Calf Production – 200 Head Operation, Central San Joaquin Valley – 2019” provides an in-depth analysis of the beef cattle business.
The report is based on representative analysis of what is considered to be a “typical” moderate-sized cow-calf operation consisting of 200-head in the central San Joaquin Valley where the cattle producer both owns and leases rangeland. The study uses sample costs of raising beef calves on a cow-calf operation to provide guidance for producers contemplating operational decisions. The sample costs for materials, equipment, custom services, and labor are all based on January 2019 figures. The report can help a producer estimate potential returns as well as help formulate budget strategies and evaluate production loans.
Information that the study was based on was provided by individual ranch operators, as well as UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and others closely associated with the industry. The practices described in the report represent the most common production practices and materials used in the operation of a well-managed ranch in the region. The study also provides a “ranging analysis” demonstrating potential net returns through a range of market prices.
The report also highlights the role of cattle in shaping California’s environment and landscape through grazing. The size of cow-calf operations can vary significantly, but altogether grazing land accounts for approximately 15 percent of the total land area of California. Cattle operations are one of the most important contributors to the state’s agricultural economy, ranking fifth overall in revenue among agricultural commodities. A series of tables detail average costs and revenues and their distribution over the course of a year, as well as other overhead expenses.
The beef cattle cost study, as well as other agricultural cost of production studies, is available through the UC Davis website.