Herd productivity is connected to profitability.
Simply think of the break-even calculation for a cow-calf operation, also known as the cow-calf unit cost of production (UCOP):
The break-even price on weaned calves (or UCOP) is calculated by dividing Total Costs by Total Pounds of Calf Weaned. The UCOP (break-even) can be lowered by decreasing total costs or by increasing total pounds of calves weaned. Increasing the total weight (lbs) of weaned calves can be achieved by improving herd productivity, such as:
INCREASING - conception rates, weaning rate, etc.
DECREASING - calf death loss, calving span, etc.
Benchmark productivity measures for the cow-calf sector are important gauges for sector profitability. Having a good understanding of the production and management practices (and the resulting productivity measures) of cow-calf producers can go a long way towards guiding research and extension and identifying areas for improvement and areas of excellence among cow-calf producers.
That is why a group of individuals from British Columbia to Manitoba, representing Provincial Producer Associations, the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture specialists, the Beef Cattle Research Council, Canfax and the Western Beef Development Centre have worked to revive a survey last conducted in Alberta in 1998.
The Western Canadian Cow-Calf Survey was carried out across Western Canada starting late October 2014 until February 28, 2015.
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About the Survey
- Original Survey - The original survey was called the "Alberta Beef Herd Analysis" or "Cow-Calf Audit" . It was first conducted in 1988 and last conducted in 1998 through a mail survey in Alberta. The 1998 survey asked questions about producers' 1997 Breeding to 1998 Weaning. Over 1,700 producers participated in the survey. A full report summarizing findings from the survey can be found by clicking on the title or PDF icon below.
- 2014 Survey - Using the 1998 survey as a starting point, a new survey has been developed with questions related to the 2013 Breeding until 2014 Weaning time frame. The survey was expanded to all cow-calf producers from BC to Manitoba. Producers had the option to complete a paper copy of the survey or an online version. Everyone's individual results will remain confidential, but they are aggregated to generate productivity and management practice benchmarks which will be widely shared with industry.
WCCCS Survey Findings Coming Soon!
Read the Beef Cattle Research Council blog entry from June 16, 2015
Results were shared at WBDC's Summer Field Day at Lanigan on June 23, 2015
Below is the link to the full summary based on all 411 survey responses plus a one-pager that was part of the complimentary reporting package sent to survey respondents requesting feedback.
Additional releases looking at the responses on a provincial, herd size, age of operator and soil zone basis will be released in the coming months.
What Will the Survey Results Be Used For?
The results of this survey are being used in a number of ways:
- Offer historical comparison with previous study findings to determine how the industry has changed
given that the last time this survey was conducted was 16 years ago in 1998;
- Guide extension and research efforts;
- Validate anecdotal evidence on production matters;
- Identify which management practices are linked to strong production performance;
- Generate an updated set of production benchmarks for the cow-calf industry.
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How Can a Producer Find Out Their Productivity Measures?
Over 230 of the survey respondents took advantage of the opportunity to receive a complimentary report summarizing their productivity measures based on their survey responses.
Are My Numbers Kept Confidential?
Everyone's individual survey responses remain confidential. Survey responses are aggregated to generate productivity and management practice benchmarks on regional, provincial and herd size basis.
How Do I Get a Copy of the Survey?
This survey was handed out at Provincial Producer Association district meetings starting October 2014. It was also handed out at producer events such as Agribition, Cow-Calfenomics, FarmFair, the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference, etc.
We are very thankful to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture's Agriculture Development Fund and Agriculture Canada's Growing Forward II through Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development for providing financial support to assist in conducting this survey.
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