New benchmarking program aims to help you up your game

Initiative will not only help cow-calf producers evaluate their performance but become more innovative

It’s not very helpful to benchmark against operations that have different grazing, calving, and feeding regimes, so a key goal of the new Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network is to allow producers to make apples-to- apples comparisons.
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This is an abridged version of Part 1 of a three-part series. The full article and the two upcoming parts (when released) can be found at (in the BCRC Blog section).

The Canadian Cow-Calf Cost of Production Network (CDN COP Network) has been developed collaboratively with provincial co-ordinators and funded by the Beef Cattle Research Council with the goal of helping cow-calf producers evaluate new technologies and enhance their competitiveness in an international marketplace.

This article looks at the four reasons for creating the CDN COP Network.

Regional benchmarks

Producers use cost-of-production data to benchmark and evaluate their own farm’s performance over time, but also to benchmark against a provincial average to determine competitiveness and resilience.

However, provincial averages mean, for example, that data from an operation in one region of a province with less than 100 days of winter feeding and an operation located in an area with over 150 days of winter feeding are aggregated together into a single benchmark.

These ‘benchmarks’ do not make sense to producers and discourage participation in these programs.

Grouping farms together based upon production practices rather than using provincial boundaries will allow producers to self-select benchmark farms that they can identify with through a set of management practices that best fit their operation’s situation.

National coverage

There has been limited cost-of-production data available to cow-calf producers outside of Alberta for several years. Historically each province has had its own system for collecting and calculating cost of production. Differences in methodology has meant results could not be compared, or if they were, it was done with caveats that methodology differed.

Over the last 20 years, investment by provinces has declined from annual on-farm collection to surveys every five years, or no collection at all in some areas.

With the CDN COP Network, there will be cost-of-production benchmarking data from coast to coast for the first time. All will utilize a standardized methodology that allows for international comparisons in agri benchmark, an international cost-of-production network with coverage in 34 countries representing 80 per cent of global beef production.

Improved efficiency

Producer data will be collected every five years with prices indexed annually.

This means that historical data will be available right away for analysis and research projects.

Data collection through the CDN COP Network provides the basis for the different types of production systems in each region, while provincial averages will be used for the appropriate sale weeks and weights for each animal type annually.

In addition, duplication will be minimized as this cost-of-production information is used in research projects, reducing the need for additional data collection from producers. Specifically, the CDN COP Network data will provide the basis for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef’s updated economic assessment in 2021-23. This project will connect cow-calf economics with practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions on farm to find win-win solutions.

Learning in community

Producers will be able to learn from each other and share ideas on how to implement different practices once they complete their participation in a focus group.

The goal of the network is not just to provide benchmarks, but also to encourage innovation and pass on knowledge to a new generation of producers entering the industry and learn from other producers.

This is an opportunity to be a part of a producer network committed to learning about the benefits and costs of adopting different practices and improving together. Scenarios will be developed for what future farms could look like utilizing the Five Per Cent Rule to identify where incremental improvements could be made around productivity, input costs, and output prices.

To participate, go to and fill out the Producer Sign-up Survey.

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