Economic, productive & financial benchmarks for Alberta cow/calf operations


Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry,

Economics and Competitiveness
The Economics Section, Agriculture and Forestry, works directly with producers across the province through its AgriProfit$ Business Analysis & Research program. Participating cow/calf producers receive a customized business analysis of their operations and a multi-year economic, productive and financial performance benchmark report of the program participants for comparison.

The primary value of these reports is to enable producers to gauge their productive, economic and financial performance relative to their peers locally and provincially. Benchmark analysis, comparing to one’s own detailed business analysis, is the first critical step in identifying operational strengths and weaknesses in a cow/calf operation.

The benchmarking process has two key time perspectives. The first is an historical analysis, involving comparisons over time. The second is a within-year comparison, focusing on how your operation performed, responded to, or weathered the challenges faced by you and your local peers.

Historical benchmarking generally focuses on the relative movement of major cost totals, financial performance indicators, and key productivity measures over time. Important questions to be posed by producers in historical benchmarking include:

  • “are my efforts to improve my productivity visibly separating me from the benchmark?”
  • “is the trend in my unit costing improving relative to comparables?” and
  • “where am I leading and/or where am I lagging in financial performance compared to regional or management benchmarks?”

Historical benchmarking highlights the elements of growth and competitiveness over time.

Cross-sectional, or within-year benchmarking is generally more detailed in its approach, letting producers focus on specific operational strengths and weaknesses. Comparisons are on an element-by-element basis, offering insights by each costing, production and financial criteria. Important questions to be posed by producers in within-year benchmarking include:

  • “given the weather, market and production situation in the benchmark year, how did my unit costing compare to the benchmark?”
  • “what is the effect of my ‘production system’ (ie. how I produce) on my unit production costs as compared to the benchmark?”
  • “what can I do differently, from a production, operational, or infrastructure point of view, that will make me more cost effective?” and
  • “from a financial point of view, am I better positioned than my peers to take advantage of production or business change opportunities?”

Cross-sectional benchmarking promotes identifying priority long and short term areas for change and gives incentive to individual producers to utilize their own costing, based on their own “on-farm facts”, as a basis to budget, plan and monitor business changes and progress.

In past years, AgriProfit$ benchmarks focused primarily on within-year comparisons. As the research pool has grown, so to has the ability to present historical production, economic and financial benchmarks.

Provincial benchmarks provide an indication of the “competitive environment” in which beef producers operate. They bridge a wide range of land resources and climate zones, plus a range of economic choices among competing enterprises. Comparisons to provincial averages, or “totals”, are confined to higher level, economic and financial performance issues.

The confidentiality of producers’ information is paramount in the AgriProfit$ program. Producer information is held in strict confidence. Only aggregated, non-identifying information is published and made available to the general public and organizations for research purposes.AgriProfit$ Benchmarks for Alberta Cow/Calf Producers

The cow/calf enterprise benchmark has recently been updated. 2013-2017 Economics, Production and Financial Performance of Alberta Cow/Calf Operations currently available.

Previous Years’ Benchmarks:

Alberta Total
2007- 2011

Special Edition 22 Year Economic, Productive, and Financial Performance of Alberta Cow/Calf Operations (1995-2016)Return to AgriProfit$ Beef Economics Home Page


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