Replace that pencil with an online calculator

Take your homework from page to screen. Online calculators can help you add up production costs and estimate profits

Replace that pencil with an online calculator

If you need help planning for the upcoming crop year, there are plenty of online tools on provincial government websites to help. Some of them are in downloadable, customizable Excel spreadsheet format; and others are downloadable software that can producers can save to their computer and customize.

With different soil and climate conditions, each Prairie province has developed its own unique online calculator.


Alberta Agriculture and Forestry offers a number of free, online cost of production (COP) tools designed to help Alberta producers make better production, management and marketing decisions.


CropChoice$ is a downloadable software program that was upgraded in 2016 with up-to-date cost profiles and crop insurance information. It contains regional benchmark costs of production, but allows producers to enter their own production costs to make it relevant to their own farm. The new version allows producers to enter up to 32 fields and compare eight cropping scenarios.

CropChoice$ will calculate expected total margins and probabilities based on a producer’s knowledge of soil and moisture conditions, along with long-term yield and price expectations. Users can create a “base” cropping plan, then compare it to other different scenarios, and choose a plan that works for their operation by looking at forecasted margins and probability of success.

Features include “worst-best-most likely” values for prices and yields, and contribution margin and gross margin information presented in easy to understand statements, tables and graphs. The software allows producers to evaluate the effects of different risk management strategies, such as adjusting their crop mix, purchasing crop insurance, or renegotiating land rental agreements.

Crop Returns:

Crop Returns is a crop enterprise analysis tool that is available as a downloadable Excel spreadsheet template. The template helps grain producers evaluate crop enterprise profitability by calculating production costs, breakeven selling prices, gross margins and returns to equity.

Producers incorporate their own production systems, fertilizer prices, fuel prices, expected yields and selling prices to build a base scenario from which they can then analyze different scenarios based on changes to commodity prices, production costs or expected yields. In this way, producers can estimate realistic profitability and risk using their own production systems.

Crop Returns includes a unique fertilizer cost calculator that uses a producer’s specific fertilizer requirements to calculate the least-cost blend and individual ingredient costs. For dry blend formulations it will show individual ingredients and total applied pounds per acre.

Crop Returns can also help producers compare the risks and returns from various cash rental and crop share lease arrangements, and allow for ‘what if’ analyses, for example if input prices rise or yield fall. The program allows producers to do comparative or multi-year analyses by copying older worksheets into a new worksheet tab.

Money Map:

Money Map is an economic tool for site-specific farming which takes a producer’s yield mapping data, and creates a map of areas of profit and loss within a field. Producers can use this downloadable, standalone software, in conjunction with their yield mapping software, to convert yield maps into map of profit.

According to the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry website, these yield maps will then show the economic zones where a producer covers his or her direct cash costs and the total cash plus fixed costs. These economic zones will contribute to improved decision making, by giving knowledge about where management is working and where it needs improvement.

Money Map allows producers to run “what if” scenarios with different input and crop prices, and can calculate total field revenues.

The free software includes instructions on how to use it with most equipment manufacturers’ yield mapping software. Farmers who don’t have a yield monitor or mapping software can manually enter information based on their own field experiences in a spreadsheet version to estimate economic thresholds and build comparison tables to help consider different management options.


The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture has two related online cost of production tools for producers: the Crop Planning Guide and Crop Planner.

Crop Planning Guide:

The 2017 Crop Planning Guide is downloadable in pdf format and contains updated information that can help estimate the income and cost of production for different crops in the various soil zones in the province. It includes blank planning budget sheets for producers to use to calculate their cost of production based on their own farm’s production and marketing figures.

According to the Ministry’s website, this year’s Guide differs from previous years’ because it targets the possible above-average yields, using a higher input system linked to recommended agronomic practices including the use of certified seed, soil nutrient testing and pesticide selection. The latter targets minimizing yield losses, while reducing the risk of the development of pest (insect, plant disease and weed) resistance. The Guide does not represent actual provincial average cost of production figures.

Crop Planner:

Crop Planner is a downloadable Excel spreadsheet for use with the Crop Planning Guide Users can customize the spreadsheet with their own data for yields, prices, input and other production costs.

(see also: Saskatchewan Organic Crop Planning Guide)


Manitoba Agriculture has two offerings available.

2017 Guidelines for Estimating Crop Production Costs:

Manitoba just released its 2017 Guidelines for Estimating Crop production Costs in Manitoba. Available in pdf or customizable, Excel format it provides budgets for estimating COP for canola, wheat, winter wheat, soybeans, barley, oats, corn, navy beans, flax, sunflowers, peas, fall rye, canary seed, lentils, buckwheat and hempseed. Chemical and fertilizer inputs follow general, Manitoba Agriculture recommendations.

The Guidelines provide an economic evaluation of the crops and estimated yields required to cover all costs. Costs include labour, investment and depreciation, but do not include management costs. Producers can enter their own costs and yield data to make the guide more relevant to their own farm operations.

New for 2017 is an AgriInsurance analysis that helps producers determine what level of crop insurance is appropriate for their farm. It includes a sensitivity analysis that allows producers to play with different scenarios — for example, if prices drop 10 per cent and yields are down by five per cent, what the impact would be upon their farm operation.


Also on Manitoba Agriculture’s website is MYFARM CROPPLAN, a production cost, marketing and management calculator. This simple to use, customizable Excel spreadsheet allows producers to estimate their gross revenue, and annual cash production costs per bushel, per acre and for the total farm. The spreadsheet is pre-loaded with figures from the latest provincial guidelines for estimating crop production costs.

CROPLAN calculates marginal returns, break even yields and break even crop prices on both total production, and remaining, unsold inventory, as well as land and machinery costs analyses and cash based financial ratios. It also offers several business management calculations.

About the author


Angela Lovell

Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @angelalovell10.



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