Financial Calculators

Farming is a challenging business where the difference between success and failure is often the willingness to embrace a spreadsheet. Budgeting and tracking finances are essential, but for most of us neither easy nor fun. There exist a cornucopia of tools, guides and calculators covering everything from farm financing to land leasing and meat marketing. As a starting point, here are three calculators useful for different planning decisions.

Do you have a favorite calculator or other financial analysis tool?

Please let us know.  We are excited to feature the best of what is out there to help graziers.

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Livestock enterprise budgets – all species (basic)

Iowa State has developed simple per unit calculators for cattle (beef and dairy), sheep, lambs and pigs helping you determine the break even selling price. These are a simple and straightforward starting place in looking at your finances. These calculators do not assume pasture-raised conditions.

BudgetsLength: 30-60 minutes
Level: Basic
Topic: Livestock Enterprise Budgets
Author: Shane Ellis, Extension Field Specialist, and Lee Schulz, Extension Economist

Publisher: Iowa State University Extension

What you’ll get out of it: Iowa State has developed simple per unit calculators for cattle (beef and dairy), sheep, lambs and pigs helping you determine the break even selling price.

Why we love it: These are a simple and straightforward starting place in looking at your finances.  These calculators do not assume pasture-raised conditions.


Pasture-raised beef calculator (intermediate)

This calculator is appropriate for cow-calf, stocker, finishing, or direct market enterprises and includes five year cash flow projections and a value calculator for purchase and sales decisions. It is designed for beef but can be modified to be appropriate for any pasture-based animal production.

cow calfLength: 30-60 minutes
Level: Intermediate
Topic: Livestock Enterprise Budgets
Author: Allen Williams and Rod Ofte

Publisher: The Wallace Center

What you’ll get out of it: This calculator is appropriate for cow-calf, stocker, finishing, or direct market enterprises and includes five year cash flow projections and a value calculator for purchase and sales decisions.  It is designed for beef but can be modified to be appropriate for any pasture-based animal production.

Why we love it:  This calculator remains simple but is broadly useful for most planning and financial forecasting needs.

Allen Williams tutorial Use the Calculator

More complex beef calculators (advanced)

This site features multiple calculators. The one most broadly useful in analyzing one’s operation is the Feedyard Cash Flow planning tool. It includes a number of fields irrelevant to pasture-based operations but is helpful for more complex operations or those who want to engage in more rigorous analysis. Other calculators on that page support specific decision points.

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calculatorLength: 1 hour
Level: Advanced
Topic: Iowa Beef Center Calculators
Author: Iowa Beef Center

Publisher: Iowa Beef Center

What you’ll get out of it: This site features multiple calculators. The one most broadly useful in analyzing one’s operation is the Feedyard Cash Flow planning tool.  It includes a number of fields irrelevant to pasture-based operations but is helpful for more complex operations or those who want to engage in more rigorous analysis.

Why we love it: Listen to Larry Tranel explain the basics of the calculators, what you can do with them and how they can be useful in our webinar.

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Ryan Jepsen talks about how he uses and supplements the ISU calculator in decision-making (begins at 12:52.)

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