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Beef program helps producers ‘PEP’ up their bottom line

Helping beef producers become more profitable and identifying methods to make an operation more efficient are just two goals associated with a program offered by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

The Beef Partnership in Extension Program, also known as Beef PEP, began in 1996 to conduct applied research in cow-calf production management, and it teaches producers the benefits of implementing improved management practices.

“Our goal with the Beef PEP program is to improve profitability and lower the cost of production,” says Tom Hairgrove, AgriLife Extension animal health specialist and program coordinator, College Station. “A producer gets a complete examination of their operation and comes away with several methods to help improve their bottom line.”

AgriLife Extension specialists assist program participants with a variety of expertise. Specialists in the areas of forage, economics and animal health work with different producers in Texas. Representatives from Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine also assist in the program, while Pfizer Animal Health continues to sponsor activities with products and consultation.

Key Points

PEP is aimed at helping beef producers make a profit.

The program is designed to help ranchers be more efficient.

Part of PEP is geared toward lowering the cost of production.

AgriLife Extension specialists have one-on-one meetings with producers, evaluating all aspects of an operation from finances, forage systems, and herd selection and breeding programs. From those meetings, a broad-view plan is developed for the rancher, and specialists work in consultation for several months during the year.

“The bottom line of the Beef PEP project is to benefit Texas beef cow-calf producers,” says Steve Wikse, who started the program and is now a retired professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M. “It helps them have sustainable operations. Even greater, the program helps build on the economic impact of Texas beef cattle operations.”

The first Beef PEP program had six study herds, Wikse recalls, and it successfully added more than 100 pounds of weight gain on marketed calves.

“We gave each of those ranches scores on a scale of 1 to 5,” Wiske says. “During this initial start of the program, drought conditions prevailed, but 80% of added gain came as a result of new methods implemented on the advice of our consultation.”

In 2011, of the four herds involved in the Beef PEP program, the average herd size was 200 head. One of the first evaluations was finances of the herds, says Stan Bevers, AgriLife Extension economist in Vernon.

“The main thing producers need to realize is how important records are,” Bevers says. “It can be as simple as pen and paper, or putting financial information into an Excel spreadsheet.”

Bevers runs the data collected from the herds through the Standardized Performance Analysis software system. It generates specific production data showing a producer how much each cow is generating in sales and profit.

“Once you go through the records and start looking through each category, you come away seeing that costs are always higher than what you thought they were,” he notes.

Bevers says an easy way to see how much costs are impacting a rancher’s bottom line is to take the Schedule F filed with a federal income tax return, taking expenses and divide that by the number of cows you have.

Real life

“Beef PEP allows us to come in and take a real-life situation in a county and bring in a professional with expertise related to specific areas, such as forage production,” says Mark Currie, AgriLife Extension agent in Polk County.

“The program is also advantageous to use because we can take what we learn from it, and apply it to other programs within Extension,” he says.

Glenn Rogers, Pfizer senior manager for beef veterinary operations, says the program benefits everyone involved.

“We consider Beef PEP a program that can have a big impact on livestock health and the state of Texas,” Rogers says.“Instead of focusing on just one disease, it allows us to showcase our whole portfolio of [livestock] health products.”

Pfizer has been a Beef PEP sponsor for more than 10 years, and has been an active participant in the study herds, Hairgrove notes.

For more information about the program, contact Hairgrove at 979-458-3216 or by email to

Fannin is with Texas A&M Agriculture Communications, College Station.


PEP UP: The Beef Partnership in Extension Program, also known as Beef PEP, began in 1996 to conduct applied research in cow-calf production management and teach producers the benefits of implementing improved management practices. Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Blair Fannin

This article published in the May, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.