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ARS Home » Plains Area » Mandan, North Dakota » Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #388827

Research Project: Sustainable Agricultural Systems for the Northern Great Plains

Location: Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory

Title: Forage economics calculator web tool: A decision support system for forage management

item SUBHASHREE, SRINIVASAGAN - North Dakota State University
item IGATHINATHANE, CANNAYEN - North Dakota State University
item Hendrickson, John
item Archer, David
item Liebig, Mark
item Halvorson, Jonathan
item Kronberg, Scott
item Toledo, David
item SEDIVEC, KEVIN - North Dakota State University
item PECK, DANNELE - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)

Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/12/2023
Publication Date: 3/24/2023
Citation: Subhashree, S.N., Igathinathane, C., Hendrickson, J.R., Archer, D.W., Liebig, M.A., Halvorson, J.J., Kronberg, S.L., Toledo, D.N., Sedivec, K., Peck, D. 2023. Forage economics calculator web tool: A decision support system for forage management. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 208. Article 107775.

Interpretive Summary: Understanding the costs of hay and forage production is critical for economically sustainable hay and forage production. However, the underlying economics are often complex and require tedious and time-consuming calculations. Developing an easy to use tool to help producers make decisions on growing or buying hay, setting prices and purchasing equipment would be useful. To meet this need, a web-based tool that can work on multiple devices called the ‘forage economic calculator web tool’ (FECWT) was developed. The tool is user friendly and uses 29 input variables to generate results for 37 output variables which allows producers to develop ‘what-if’ scenarios for hay and forage production. The tool used two case studies from farmers’ field data to evaluate the FECWT effectiveness. Potential users of the FECWT include farmers, hay producers, custom hay operations, educators, extension agents and ag lenders.

Technical Abstract: Economic analysis of forage production and handling is vital for maintaining the agricultural enterprise and evaluating the associated risks. Economic analysis aids in making an educated decision related to growing or buying forage, setting forage prices, and purchasing additional equipment. Manual calculation of the economics is highly complex, tedious, and time-consuming. Therefore, a multi-device web-based tool, called the “forage economics calculator web tool” (FECWT) was developed using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The tool’s interface was designed for a user-friendly experience with easy access to commands set in an easy-to-follow layout. The FECWT uses 29 input variables to generates results “dynamically” for 37 output variables, based either on the supplied default data or with user-provided inputs (imperial or metric units). The tool emphasizes the cost of the bale collection activity, while cost of other activities (planting, fertilizer & chemical application, harvesting, and baling) are provided as direct inputs. Bale collection is performed using either a tractor; or a tractor pulling an “automatic bale picker” (ABP), which collects and transports multiple bales in a trip. The economic analysis outputs include net return, break-even ratio, payback period, and return on investment. Features of FECWT include the sensitivity of profit to changes in input values, and downloadable reports and charts for record-keeping. Two case studies using farmers’ actual field data inputs demonstrated the FECWT’s effectiveness, with its generated results corroborating well with farmers’ records. The tool allows “what-if” scenario analysis of several practical situations and the results of equipment purchase decision, effect of forage crop types on net return, and low-inputs scenarios against different field areas are presented. The scenario analysis suggests that an ABP purchase for field areas greater than =65 ha (=160 ac) could be profitable; alfalfa and corn were the most profitable forage and grain-forage crops, where the grain revenue stream of grain-forage crops easily covers the costs and makes a profit; and a low-inputs scenario (no fertilizer and chemicals) for forages (alfalfa and grass) decreased the net returns on average by 8.1 times at 50 % forage yield potential suggesting the use of all inputs and increased field areas (=65 ha) make a better profit in this low-inputs scenario. Potential users of this web tool include farmers, hay producers, custom hay operators, educators, agricultural extension and financial personnel, and others interested in the economics of handling bales.