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There's a Spreadsheet for That

There’s a spreadsheet that can do that.

Provincial farm management staffs have developed tools for everything from converting bushels to tonnes to planning a whole year’s cropping plan

Sharing equipment or renting from a neighbour? This guide by the Saskatchewan and Manitoba departments of agriculture helps determine a rate. Photo: Government of Saskatchewan

Smartphones and their apps may be handy for some purposes, but they’re not tools for making detailed calculations, especially the kind that you have to take to your banker.

That’s where you’re better off with an old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet, and thanks to government extension staff in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, there are many adaptations where you can plug in data to help make better short- or long-term decisions on your farm. They’re especially useful for “what if” decisions on whether purchasing equipment or inputs improves profitability. Buy more cows? Use more nitrogen? Rent more land? There’s a spreadsheet for that, and more.

Each provincial agriculture department lists all it calculators on a single page — to find these visit the home page for each and search for “calculator” or the name of the specific one listed. We’ve grouped them in four categories — crops, livestock, nutrient management and financial management, listing the provincial source for each spreadsheet.

Manitoba Agriculture’s MyFarm crop production cost calculator contains a “what if” function to estimate effects of various changes on profits.


  • Marketplan (Manitoba) Allows input of costs and estimated returns for each crop and a profitability and break-even analysis for the crop year.

  • Crop planner (Alberta) This planner allows producers to input their own values for yields, prices, fixed and variable costs.

  • MyFarm crop production cost calculator (Manitoba) Estimates the annual cash cost of producing field crops. Contains the department’s annual estimates but farmers can plug in their own numbers.

  • Crop enterprise analysis tool (Alberta) Helps evaluate crop enterprise profitability by calculating production costs, break-even selling prices, gross margins and returns to equity.

  • CropChoice$ (Alberta) Downloadable software program provides Alberta producers with information to calculate expected total margins and probabilities based on soil and moisture conditions, along with long-term yield and price expectations and crop insurance data.

  • General purpose seeding rate calculator (Alberta) Use this calculator to decide how much seed you need to plant to obtain the desired plant population and calibrate your seeder.

  • Seeding rate calculator for peas, pulses and other large seeds (Alberta) Use this calculator to decide how much seed you need to plant to obtain the desired plant population and calibrate your seeder.

  • Canola reseeding tool (Manitoba) Calculates plant stand from damaged canola and evaluates possible market returns versus Manitoba crop insurance payouts.

  • Forage seed mixture calculator (Alberta)

Grassland species are normally seeded in mixtures rather than monocultures. This calculator will calculate a mix and estimate a seed density for drills or broadcast seedings for any grouping of plant species in the list.

  • Grain shrinkage calculator (Alberta) Calculates losses from moisture evaporation and may be used with any type of grain including wheat, barley, corn, beans, sunflowers, canola and flax.


  • Bale grazing calculator (Saskatchewan) A tool to help producers estimate the cost of feeding livestock with bale grazing.

  • Beef cow-calf plan (Saskatchewan) A five-year annual projection for an existing beef cow-calf operation.

  • Cattle feeding break-even calculator (Saskatchewan) A tool to help producers make business decisions.

  • Costs and returns for grassing cattle calculator (Sask­atchewan) A tool to help producers make business decisions.

  • CowPlan — cow replacement cost calculator (Manitoba) Estimates income from replacement cows at various purchase and production costs.

  • Crop residue calculator (Saskatchewan) A tool to help producers estimate the costs of feeding livestock with crop residue.

  • Economics of commercial fertilizer for hay and pasture (Saskatchewan) Calculates the cost and return of fertilizing hay and pasture based on average fertilizer efficiency and costs.

  • Ewe planner (Saskatchewan) A five-year annual projection for an existing sheep operation.

  • Feed value calculator (Saskatchewan) Calculates the relative value of feeds based on current market prices of four reference feeds.

  • FeedlotPLAN (Saskatchewan) A tool used to make five-year annual projections for a new or existing backgrounder and/or finisher operation.

  • Grain silage greenfeed calculator (Saskatchewan) Determines the costs of producing a crop of cereal grain, cereal silage and cereal greenfeed.

  • Swath grazing calculator (Alberta) Provides a cost comparison between conventional wintering feeding systems and swath grazing.

  • Barley silage calculator (Alberta) Calculates the value of a barley crop as standing greenfeed and provides a value for the silage.

  • Hay share calculator (Saskatchewan) Calculates the cost of producing baled hay and the value of standing hay.

  • Beef feed value calculator (Alberta) Helps price livestock feeds based on both energy and protein content. Depending on feed ingredient proportions of digestible energy and crude protein, feeds can be priced based on the contributions they make to the ration.

  • Feeding systems cost evaluator (Alberta) Compares the costs, on a dry-matter basis, of pit silage, bagged silage, bale silage, and dry hay. Calculates the costs from a standing crop to animal-ready product in the yard, factoring in standing crop value, equipment costs as well as field and storage losses.

  • Creep feeding calculator (Alberta) Helps determine whether creep feeding will be economically beneficial. Often, the decision is based solely on “the weight gain” expected. This calculator will show the economic gain expected.

  • Beef breed investment calculator (Alberta) Computes the NPV value for a breeding beef female.

Nutrient management

  • Nitrogen rate calculator for wheat, barley and canola (Manitoba) Evaluates different net return-per acre scenarios involving N source and cost, the expected crop price and soil nitrogen (nitrate-N in lbs./ac. to 24″).

  • Phosphorus balance calculator (Manitoba) Allows farmers and their crop advisers to input actual yields and applied P fertilizer rates used in the crop rotation. The P balance is automatically calculated using P removal book values from the Manitoba Soil Fertility Guide to show if soils are being depleted, maintained or built up with P.

  • Grains, forage and straw nutrient use calculator (Alberta) This calculator will help you understand how much nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, and calcium your crop will use for a given yield.

  • Forage and crop nutrient calculator (Saskatchewan) Calculates the relative value of nitrogen, phosphorus (as phosphate) and sulphur based on the market price and nutrient content of reference fertilizers.

  • AFFIRM V2.0 software (Alberta) Helps make fertilizer nutrient decisions based on soil test results, crops to be grown, soil moisture conditions, agroclimatic regions and economic factors of crop prices and fertilizer nutrient costs.

  • MMP V0.310 software (Alberta) Helps make manure nutrient decisions based on livestock operation, storage capacity, application equipment, land base, soil test results and crop selection

  • Manure transportation calculator (Alberta) Can be used to determine the net impact of using (transporting and applying) manure or chemical fertilizer as a nutrient source in selected fields under different rotational systems.

  • Ammonia emissions estimator (Alberta) A simple tool for a quick ammonia loss calculation. Accurate ammonia loss estimates from manure are needed to improve nutrient management recommendations and to test the value of ammonia abatement techniques.

  • Ammonia losses from liquid manure applications (Alberta) Estimates ammonia emissions due to liquid manure application and the economic value of the ammonia volatilization loss based on fertilizer nitrogen cost.

  • Manure composting calculator (Alberta) Determines the amount of carbon source material and water needed to create a good compost mix.

Financial management

  • Crop share lease calculator (Manitoba) Allows calculation of owner/lessee costs and returns basis four split methods.

  • Land rent calculator (Alberta) Calculates the cost of land rent using four methods: income approach, cost approach, crop share approach and contribution approach.

  • Alberta farm input prices (Alberta) Monthly survey of prices of farm inputs including presentation in graphical and tabular formats for the past five years.

  • Grain bin and farm building rental cost planner (Manitoba) Calculates the annual costs of bins and buildings.

  • Farm machinery custom rental rate guide calculator (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) Provides approximate costs for renting equipment or obtaining custom farming operations from another farmer, or to establish the value of the machinery and/or farming operation that is being contributed to each farm.

  • LoanPlan — loan calculator (Manitoba) Calculates principal and interest payments for different rates and repayment periods, and shows savings from accelerated principal payments.

  • Dollars/bushel/tonne converter (Alberta) Converts between dollars/bushel and dollars/tonne for various grains.

  • Test weight converter (Alberta) Converts back and forth between kg/hL and lbs./bushel.

By: John Morriss

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