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Market Livestock Profitability for 4-H & FFA

Before he retired, Tom Platt designed a calculator to help youngsters and their families evaluate the economics of 4-H and FFA market livestock projects is available. It should be used as a planning tool prior to beginning the project, and again to evaluate the project after it is completed. CLICK HERE


Planning for your market livestock project

by Sara M Smith

As we all are aware the basic costs of living has increased significantly in the past few years and many individuals have also faced difficult economic times during this time. The cost to raise agriculture commodities (corn, hay, potatoes, wheat, cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats) has also risen significantly in the past few years as equipment purchases/upkeep, feed, and fuel prices continue to rise. With these increased prices and depressed livestock prices, producers are experiencing a very tight profit margin and profit losses in the livestock industry.

So what does that mean for youth looking forward to being involved in a market animal project —It means two (2) things: 1) Youth and their parents cannot expect to pay the same amount for a project animal, feed, equipment, etc. as you paid 20 years ago, 2 years ago, or even a year ago. The cost to produce those product, be it a animal, feed, or equipment, has increased—so expect to pay more for them; and 2) Youth need to set down with their parents, leaders, and/or advisors and identify their resources, goals and production/show alternatives for being involved with a 4-H/FFA market animal project. Both youth and parents need to develop a plan for purchasing and raising a market animal that fits into their budget.

I don’t want to be accused of saying that the only reason to take a 4-H/FFA project animal is to make money—there are many important life skills that can be developed/learned from raising a food animal—responsibility, leadership, compassion, etc. However, in addition to these life skills, sound financial decision making is a critical life skill youth need to develop for future economic and personal success and satisfaction. Today, U.S. consumer debt is at an all time high and delinquency on credit card debt in American is at shocking rates.

For these reason—I challenge parents, exhibitors, and leadersadvisors to evaluate and review economic goals and financial losses or gains. Tom Platt, former WSU Extension Educator from the Lincoln/Adams/Spokane Area, developed an Excel spreadsheet youth can use to calculate expected expenses and income. The electronic publication, Youth Market Livestock Profit Calculator, is designed to help youth livestock producers and their families evaluate the economics of 4-H and FFA market livestock projects. It should be used as a planning tool prior to beginning the project and again to evaluate the project after it is completed. Even if parents or another person purchases feed or parts of the projects, calculate those expenses against your income. In addition, calculate what your animal was “really” worth using the “true market value” (the turned or floor value)—that is the price most of our livestock producers are receiving for the animals they are producing to feed the world. This will help everyone recognize the real world value of food animals and of the “generous gift” you are receiving when you sell your animal through the 4-H/FFA program.

Click HERE for The Youth Market Livestock Profit Calculator


Working with Youth Who Market Livestock

Resource developed by WSU Extension Educator, Susan Kerr, on the very human youthful challenges and considerations when young people become involved in a livestock market project.
Check out the following new fact sheet from WSU Ext. Publications:
FS112E, Preparing Youth for the Sale of their Market Livestock Project. 

Sarah M. Smith
Extension Regional Specialist–Animal Sciences
WSU Grant-Adams Extension
PO Box 37, Courthouse
Ephrata, WA 98823
Phone: (509) 754-2011, Ext. 413
(800) 572-0119 (toll free in Washington)