What Are Opens Costing You?

As many of us know, ranching is very reliant on current markets. We often hear, “I don’t need to gamble; I have cattle!” Inflation, drought, feed costs, and cattle markets are all factors out of most producer’s control. Therefore, it is as important as ever to make informed management decisions. Do you know the cost of an open cow on your operation? Pregchecking by ultrasounding early can help you make more educated management decisions through offering more data.

A major expense for any cow calf operation is feeding an open animal. Open animals are expensive and will not raise a calf to sell for profit. Open animals continue to consume resources including feed, medications, labor, and more. Each operation is different, but we all understand that prices for inputs are going up, and it is important to understand where we are with pricing. Retaining open cows can drastically reduce the profit made when selling calves.

According to the 2022 Livestock Enterprise Budgets for Iowa put out by the Iowa State University Extension, the back to cow cost for a beef cow for breeding is $850 per cow not including investment or depreciation on equipment, insurance, taxes etc. According to the budgets, the total variable costs for one cow unit is $734.56; once the fixed costs (fencing, machinery, interest etc.) are added, the total cost per one cow unit is $919.86.

Another way to look at the cost of an open cow is from an older article from VitaFerm and Midwestern published in March 2018:

$600 (cow cost) + $990 (calf revenue) = $1,590 (expense for keeping an open cow)

Meaning that keeping that open cow for one year will cost almost $1,600 in expenses and lost revenue. When an open cow is removed from the herd, we then have to think about replacement costs and cull cow prices. According to the same VitaFerm/Midwestern article (in 2018), the numbers are:

$1,200 (replacement cow) - $800 (cull cow income) = $400 (expense for replacing an open cow)

Of course, these numbers have changed drastically since this article, but it remains important to know the cost of an open cow.

Preg checking early with the use of an ultrasound can help you determine accurately which animals are open/do not have a viable fetus. Additionally fetal aging with an extension arm ultrasound can offer you more data as to the expected calving window. If you would like to learn more about when the best time to age is, contact your veterinarian or take a look at our training page.


Livestock enterprise budgets for Iowa - iowa state university. (2022, July). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/livestock/pdf/b1-21.pdf

What is the cost of keeping an open cow? VitaFerm. (2020, June 9). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://vitaferm.com/2018/04/24/what-is-the-cost-of-keeping-an-open-cow/


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