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Livestock profitability up slightly in state

Profitability for livestock producers went up in 2013 compared to the year before, according to the annual findings of the Farm and Ranch Business Management Program at Mitchell Technical Institute.

The average cow-calf farmer had a profit of $36.63 per cow in 2013. That same category in 2012 left farmers with a $27.05 loss per cow. The difference mostly came in the drought of 2012, as many farmers and ranchers had to move their animals off dried up pastures and experienced higher feeding costs due to the need to buy more hay.

Jared Hofer, the director for the South Dakota Center for Farm and Ranch Management at MTI, said the profitability came down to being able to manage costs.

"We felt a lot of different effects in 2012, related to the drought and other factors," Hofer said. "Then you look at 2013 and that helped a lot. The prices have gone up, and if you've managed costs, there's a chance for profitability."

The cost to maintain a cow in the average herd was $764, up from $740 per head in 2012.

Similarly, the cost of pork production went up in 2013, with higher feed prices. But the market price increased and the average hog finishing operation made $15.80 per 100 pounds of pork produced in 2013. That figure was a measly $1.71 per 100 pounds in 2012.

Hofer said many of those characteristics have carried into 2014, setting up a potentially strong year for pork production.

"Hog prices have gone up and the previously high feed prices have dropped some," he said. "With some of the other aspects like disease being an issue, there's a good chance that price goes up in 2014."

The data comes from farmers and ranchers across the state who are part of the school's management program. About 80 percent of those in the program have some type of livestock.

"Crop farming has been good for so many years and it was just kind of nice to see the livestock side of things have some success last year," Hofer said.

Good marketing techniques, managing death loss and solid management of herds can also control profitability as well, said MTI instructor Lori Tonak.

There was an effect felt from the fall West River numbers on the final figures for 2013. Hofer said the end numbers for livestock profits were likely brought down by as much as 10 percent.