Commodities & markets, Costs & returns, Management, Studies

New cost and returns study for a beef cattle operation by UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center

The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Agricultural Issues Center has released a new study on the cost and returns of a beef cattle operation.

The study estimates costs for beef cattle production located on Public Lands-San Francisco Bay Area. The study focuses on a 100 head cow-calf operation. The cost calculations in this study are based on economic principles that include all cash costs and uses the rental value of the Animal Unit Month, (AUM) as a cost of operation.

The analysis is based upon a hypothetical cow-calf operation, where the cattle producer leases all range and pasture land.  The “typical” ranch in the San Francisco Bay Area is an owner-operated cow-calf operation using multiple private and public leases. The practices described represent production practices and materials considered typical of a well-managed ranch in the region.

Input and reviews were provided by ranch operators, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. Assumptions used to identify current costs for the cow-calf herd, material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead are described. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of average market prices. Other tables show the costs and revenue for production, monthly summary of costs and revenue, and the annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.

The new study is titled “Sample Costs for Beef Cattle – 100 Head Operation, Cow- Calf Production on Public Lands-San Francisco Bay Area – 2017”.

This study and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. They can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at

For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Donald Stewart at the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651,, or Sheila Barry at

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The Agricultural Issues Center is now the UC Davis California Agricultural Issues Lab.


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