A lot of Oklahoma cattlemen are suffering "sticker shock" when they think about buying heifers to expand their herds. Recent rains and improved forage opportunities in the Southern Plains put a premium on replacements.
"When all expenses are considered, the average-sized ranch in the Southern Plains will have approximately $1,937 tied up in each productive replacement heifer produced on the ranch in the coming year," Job Springer, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation agricultural economist, writes in their latest newsletter.
If you are enjoying reading this article, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily  and receive the latest news right to your inbox.
"Many ranchers have experienced sticker shock when they priced replacement heifers from other ranches," he said. "However, if a rancher is able to locate replacement heifers elsewhere at a lower price, it would be worth considering the outside purchase."
Replacement heifers should be approximately 65 percent of their mature weight when bred, he said. This means heifers chosen to be bred should weigh around 750 pounds. If sold as a feeder heifer, $151 per hundredweight or $1,132.50 per head would be a typical price, he said.
Operating costs to take care of the heifer during the nine months prior to calving, including, forage costs at $162; supplemental feed at $79.20 per head; free-choice mineral at $39.15 per head; vaccinations, fly control and de-wormers at $8 per head; 1 percent death loss at $14.24 per head; sickness at $1.25 per head; pregnancy testing at $6 per head; labor at $207.92 per head; and annual depreciation for a breeding bull at $36.79 per heifer, bring the annual cash expenses associated with the bull at $42.86 per heifer.
"Accumulated expenses equal $1,729.91 for each bred replacement heifer," Springer said.
When replacement heifers are raised on the ranch, instead of bought, the additional costs could be $48.34 per head for heifers not breeding or that aborted, a cost of $112.50 for the year each heifer is grown before breeding and $46.30 for each heifer chosen to be sold as a feeder heifer instead of being bred and given an implant.
"When all expenses are added, approximately $1,937 will be tied up in each productive replacement heifer produced on the ranch in the coming year," Springer said. Springer urges cattlemen to make a similar evaluation on their operation to determine the best options for a specific ranch.