Kate Painter, Farm & Ranch Management Specialist
Department of Ag Economics & Rural Sociology

My Vita

Office: Agricultural Science Building, Room 38
: (208) 885-6041
E-Mail: kpainter (at) uidaho.edu

Project List


Direct Seed Mentoring Project

An Economic Comparison of Direct Seed and Conventional Growers in the Washington/Idaho Palouse

Nine growers and eight mentors were interviewed over the 2009/2010 period. These growers and mentors farm throughout the Palouse River Basin, from Reardan and Rockford in the north to Genesee and Uniontown to the south, and from Lamont and Endicott to the west to Deary and Kendrick in the east.

Results of this study show that cost savings rather than yield differences under direct seeding will drive the economics of direct seeding. Access to machinery remains the main barrier to further adoption. Variable production costs such as fuel, labor, and machinery repairs are reduced under direct seeding but fixed costs of machinery ownership are typically higher.

UI Livestock Enterprise Budgets

2010 Livestock Budget Update

Updated budgets for cattle production, including cow-calf, stocker, and feedlot, plus sheep budgets, including range and farm flocks, are available in several formats, including pdf's, Excel spreadsheets, and as files imbedded in University of Idaho's Livestock Enterprise Budget Worksheet (LEBW) program. A series of dairy budgets also received an update:

2010 Dairy Update

With over 500,000 cows, Idaho ranked fourth in the nation for milk production in 2009. Two new budgets were created in 2010: a 2,500-head free stall budget and a 5,000-head open lot budget. These budgets are available as pdfs and also as spreadsheets.


Crop Enterprise Budgets

Crop prices have risen to record highs and plunged back down to long-term average levels over the past year. Input prices have experienced unprecedented volatility as well. Farmers need analytical tools to keep abreast of these changes in these challenging economic times. The spreadsheet versions of the following enterprise budgets allow for quick yet thorough comparisons across crops and rotations. Crop prices, yields, input prices, land rent arrangements, and operating interest loan rates can be easily changed to reflect different situations.

Alfalfa Production


This new extension bulletin is an excellent resource for growers interested in producing organic alfalfa, both irrigated and dryland. Alfalfa provides an excellent transitional crop for those interested in organic production of other crops as well. This guide includes a great deal of information on managing weeds, pests and diseases, and includes a small section on economics. For more information on the economics of organic alfalfa production, please download the cost calculators for irrigated and dryland organic production.


Irrigated Alfalfa Production This bulletin provides costs of production for irrigated alfalfa production in the Columbia Basin of Washington State. It compares owner-operator versus custom harvesting costs and large bale versus small bale production. In the spreadsheet version, users can specify their own yields, crop prices, and input costs.

Bluegrass Enterprise Budgets, Northern Idaho

These detailed budgets include establishment and production for various residue management scenarios, including burning, bale then burn, no burning, and a combination of these. Spreadsheet versions allow changes in prices as well as years of stand life. Returns over time are estimated using net present value.

PDF version
Spreadsheet version

Direct Seed Budgets, Lewis County, Idaho

Lewis County, ID, May 2009 (pdf)
Crops budgeted include soft white & hard red winter & spring wheat, bluegrass, spring canola, & chem fallow.
Macro-enabled Office 2007 Excel format
Office 2007 Excel format
Office 2003 Excel format


Irrigated Switchgrass Production
Excel spreadsheet cost calculator

Dryland Crops, Northwest Wheat & Range Region, Updated July 09

High Rainfall Zone (more than 18" rainfall)

Includes wheat (winter and spring), barley, peas, lentils, garbanzos, and canola

2009 Conventional Tillage Budgets (PDF)
Excel format

2009 Reduced Tillage Budgets (PDF)
Excel format

2009 Direct Seeding (No-Till) Budgets (PDF)
Excel format

Intermediate Rainfall Zone (15" to 18" rainfall)

Includes wheat winter, spring wheat, spring barley, and fallow

2009 Conventional Tillage Budgets (PDF)
Excel format, Office 2007 software version
Excel format, Office 2003 software version


2009 Reduced Tillage Budgets (PDF)
Excel format, Office 2007 software version
Excel format, Office 2003 software version

Low Rainfall Zone (less than 15" rainfall)

Includes winter wheat and fallow, both conventional tillage and direct seeded preceded by chem fallow

2009 Conventional and Reduced Tillage Crop Rotation (PDF)
Excel format Office 2007 format
Excel format Office 2003 format


Cook Agronomy Farm

Map on left illustrates relative yields across the landscape at the Cook Agronomy Farm


The Cook Agronomy Farm (CAF), established in 1999, is a long-term direct-seed and precision farming cropping system study that serves as a field laboratory to evaluate and further understand critical issues associated with transition to direct-seeding and uses of precision agriculture technologies.  

Economics of No-Till Cropping Systems Across the Landscape: Cook Agronomy Farm, Pullman, WA, 2001-2006 (poster)

Machinery Cost Calculators

The University of Idaho has a very flexible machinery cost calculator that can be used to calculate operating and ownership costs for any type of farm equipment or vehicle.

Iowa State University has a written a machinery cost program that incorporates the most up-to-date machinery cost equations developed by the American Society of Ag & Biological Engineers. We worked with them to refine it and then added some additional features so that we can save the output into a table that summarizes costs for each machine.

This Farm Machinery Cost Calculator from the Canadian Ag & Rural Development Department allows you to calculate ownership and operating costs of common farm equipment. This excellent tool also gives you acres per hour for different widths and running speeds. They also have a vehicle cost calculater that allows you to estimate and compare the ownership and operating costs for both business and non-business vehicles.


Price Sources

Current crop prices (USDA)

Input costs

This report series from the University of Idaho goes back to 1996 and is typically updated on an annual basis. See Crop Input Cost Summary by year.

Herbicide information

The North Dakota Weed Control guide is a very thorough guide to herbicide usage, and includes approximate retail prices based on statewide dealer survey for small quantities.

Feasibility Studies

Mobile Slaughter Unit

This cost calculator calculates revenue and costs for a mobile slaugher unit based on meat selling price,  carcass yields, and animal purchase prices by species. This particular study is based on Joel Huesby's Thundering Hooves mobile slaughter unit.

Mobile Slaughter Unit Feasibility Tool Description

Mobile Slaughter Unit Feasibility Tool Spreadsheet

Mobile Slaughter Unit Feasibility Tool (pdf version)


University of Idaho