SDSU Extension provides easy-to-use tool to help producers

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — SDSU Extension developed the Livestock Decision Aid tool to help livestock producers make management decisions faster and more accurately.

“Tight margins in livestock production heighten the importance of making the best possible management decisions,” said Warren Rusche, SDSU Extension beef feedlot management associate.

The Livestock Decision Aid is a website that includes four separate tools:

• Feed Cost Comparison.

• Natural Feeding Comparison.

• Share Lease Calculator.

• Creep Feed Comparison.

The website can be found at

Because the Livestock Decision Aid is web-based, it does not require a spreadsheet program to run and will operate on any device that has an internet browser such as computers, tablets or smartphones.

Each tool contains a link to a resource page on that provides additional information and guidance for entering the required information to perform the calculations.

“As with any decision-making tool, the results are only as good as the underlying data and assumptions, so making certain that the values entered come as close as possible to the actual results is critical to getting accurate answers,” Rusche said.

Feed Cost Comparison: This tool allows producers to evaluate two feedstuffs on the cost of energy and protein components adjusted for dry matter content.

Shipping costs can be included in the analysis to allow comparisons on delivered costs. Book values for a variety of common feedstuffs are available, but using actual feed test results will improve accuracy.

Natural Feeding Comparison: This tool allows cattle feeders to compare the relative costs and returns to feeding cattle in a natural program (without antibiotics and/or growth promotants) compared to a conventional program.

It is critically important to estimate performance and costs differences between the two systems, as well as the number of cattle that would need to be removed from a natural program because they needed to be treated.

The tool will report the price premium required in order to make up for the lost production and performance.

Share Lease Calculator: This tool accounts for all the expenses (cash and non-cash) of a share cow lease, allocated between the cow owner and the operator.

The equitable split of the calf crop is determined by the relative percentages of the total cost paid by each party. Each individual cost item can be split in whatever way the parties agree upon.

The report also shows the expected profitability for both parties and return on assets for the cow owner.

Creep Feed Comparison: This tool allows producers to determine the expected returns for creep feeding calves.

The critical factors are expected feed conversion for creep feed and the price slide for heavier weight calves. Profit or loss is reported in dollars per head.