Establishing fair market value of swine facilities

April 07, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF


Establishing fair market value of swine facilities

Author: Allan E. Lines, The Ohio State University

Reviewers: Doug Frodl, Riverland College; Glenn Conatser, University of Tennessee; Jay Harmon, Iowa State University


We will address the question from the “buyer’s perspective”, the only reasonable viewpoint to take. It is important to recognize at the outset, that the value of the facilities under consideration is a function of many variables, some under the control of the prospective buyer and others not. The methodology used in this discussion to determine a fair value for facilities may be viewed by some as slightly unorthodox, but it closely parallels what happens in the “real world”. The name of the game is “Returns Minus all Costs Except for the Cost of Facilities”. The equation is straightforward, but is not as simple as it appears.


  • Review economic concepts critical to a profitable enterprise
  • Analyze and explain factors which influence the purchase of new or existing facilities
  • Provide a worksheet to estimate fair value of swine facilities

The Value Equation

Numerous common and easily understood methods for determining a “value” for facilities exist, but they should only be viewed as “collaborative alternative values” that have little or no bearing on what the “production” or “fair market value” is. Most of these methods rely upon recent sales and/or some measure of cost minus depreciation. Included in this group are methods alternatively known as: 1) Recent comparable sales, 2) Original cost minus depreciation (used for buildings recently constructed) and 3) Replacement minus depreciation (used for older buildings that would not be rebuilt “as is”, but would include more modern production technology). These methods focus on a “remaining value” as a function of cost and deterioration rather than on the net return or profit the facility can be expected to generate. Other more sophisticated computerized “financial investment models” that do focus on “expected profit” are available, but are less easily understood, include Net Present Value (NPV) and Return on Investment (ROI). For most situations, the simplified “What is left to pay for facilities?” approach should provide sufficient information to help make the decision.

The basic “use value” equation is derived from the Economics 101 formula that is easy to understand, but more often than not overlooked because emotions commonly override economics when someone is “overly committed” to his/her desire to produce hogs or “caught up” in the excitement of an auction.

Profit = Receipts – Costs

The derived value equation essentially determines what is left after “ALL” costs, except buildings/facilities, are paid. It takes different forms and names, but the concept is the same. It is alternatively referred to as “value in use”, “residual value” or “contributory value.

Value = Receipts – Costs (excluding buildings)

This is where understanding the “It depends” answer becomes crucial. A host of factors must be examined, estimated and calculated to arrive at a “use value” for swine facilities. A set of facilities in a particular location will have different values for each potential new owner/tenant. The same facilities in different locations will have different values because the elements of the equation are likely different. Only the buyer/lessee can fill in the missing data. A clear understanding of the economic concepts and decision-making principles that are central to determining the value is crucial in the process of determining a “fair market value”.

Critical concepts

Risk. Before launching into the determination of receipts and costs, the decision-maker must recognize and plan to incorporate the element of risk in the calculation of value. As any swine producer knows from experience, the risks inherent in the swine production enterprise are not small and should not be overlooked or minimized. Risk is a fact of life and is connected with virtually every aspect of production. The big risks that are easy to focus on are prices (products and inputs) and animal performance (feed efficiency, disease and death, and reproduction). Again there are very sophisticated methodologies that can be used to incorporate risk in the determination of value. Estimating and incorporating the probabilities of events (prices, disease and etc) can be a valuable management exercise. However, to do this correctly from a mathematical, statistical and scientific perspective is not an easy task and usually requires data that are not available.

The age-old, farmer-proven method of underestimating receipts and overestimating expenses (at least 5 percent for each), is referred to as risk-based budgeting and is a useable and useful mechanism for accounting for risk. Estimating the value of buildings under different “downside” receipt and expense scenarios provides the potential buyer with information that will help answer the question, “What happens if something goes wrong?” It is the downside scenarios that have the potential to create financial problems that need to be avoided if at all possible. Upside surprises (higher receipts and lower expenses) are usually looked upon favorably and generally don’t create problems.

Receipts. For the most part, receipts are a function of price. However, the manager’s ability to utilize the facilities under consideration to breed, feed and grow the animals for sale will dramatically affect the quantity of product for sale. The only production numbers that are relevant are those estimated by the “buyer”, as demonstrated by his/her experience and records. There is of course the opportunity and temptation to adjust the production numbers “up” if the facilities under consideration can really be expected to improve animal performance because they allow the use of a more efficient production system or they permit the same management system to result in better animal performance.

On-farm experience, however, suggests that buyers need to be “extra cautious” about projecting and including improved animal performance into the value of facilities. The manager (i.e. new owner) is the critical variable here, not the building, and begins to explain why the “fair market value” of the facilities is different for each producer. The buyer’s expected sow, boar and pig performance parameters are crucial to any determination of what a set of facilities may be worth. It is important though, “not to bid the results of better than average management into the value of the facility”. The new owner should reap the rewards of excellent management not the current owner. Use of average animal performance numbers is the place to begin the “value determination” process, not those of the better mangers. Giving away the extra value created by better than average management (i.e. paying too much for facilities), doesn’t make sense, even to the casual economist.

A brief example will serve to illustrate the importance of “production management/animal performance” on receipts. The table below captures the impact of a number of production performance measures such as litters/sow/year, pigs born/sow/year, pigs weaned/sow/year, gilt replacement rate and death loss. It does not, of course, account for increased costs, but it is easy to see that management is a BIG factor in the creation of receipts.

Table 1

The difference ($800) in hog sales per sow per year between excellent performance ($1900) and poor performance ($1100) is MANAGEMENT, not facilities. Gross receipts are of course only of part the information needed to determine the effect of management and animal performance on receipts. Costs must also be considered and will be addressed in greater detail later. At this point let’s assume that each added hog sold, with a fixed sow herd, requires an added $60 in production expenses (feed, animal health, marketing, etc.), remembering that costs are also a function of management. The extra hogs sold per sow per year under the excellent performance scenario (versus average) would generate $400 in receipts, added costs of $240 and a net receipt of $160. The important message here is, “don’t bid your better than average management/animal performance (the $160) into the value of the facilities.

What product price should be used to estimate receipts? The facility buyer (bidder) is of course free to use any price he/she wants, but sound management and the market will require a “reasonable” price be used. Remember the price used in the economic projections will need to cover the period of use for the facilities – 3, 5, 7 ... years. It is important not to get caught in the excitement of a “high market” or the negative thinking of a “low market”. Neither will result in a fair value for facilities. The best advice is to use an average price for the most current hog price cycle. The most recent 5-year average is as good as any, so long as there are no “unusual” market situations reflected in the prices.

Table 2

This table presents average U.S. prices for the period 1999 to 2003. Although we tend to remember “highs and the lows” and would like to believe that the “highs” should represent the future, the averages are more valuable for planning purposes. During the five-year period the barrow and gilt price averaged as low as $26 per cwt. in January of 1999 to a high of $53 in June of 2001. The five-year average was about $38, just about the mid-point of the extremes.

It is important to be realistic when projecting product prices. One of the most common mistakes made in swine enterprise budgeting is “overestimating product prices”. Judgment is often weighted heavily by thoughts reflecting “this is what prices ought to be”. The effect of projected market hog prices on net receipts is easily seen in the table below.

Table 3

The difference ($375) in hog sales per sow per year between the high price ($45) and the low price ($35) scenarios is mostly the market, something the individual producer has little if anything to do with. However, the producer is in control of estimating product price (hog price in this instance) when determining the value of facilities. Overestimating the price of product sold will have a devastating effect on the financial success of the enterprise, largely because too much was paid for facilities based upon an “unreasonable” product price. If we apply a 300-sow farrow-to-finish set of facilities to the above example, overestimating the price per cwt. by $5 can result in annual cash receipts being $56,250 less than expected, regardless of the production efficiency. Do not use unreasonably high product prices when estimating the value of facilities.

Likewise, it is important to not bid your marketing ability into the value of the facilities. If the average market price is reasonably expected to be $40 per cwt. and you have demonstrated, through good marketing management, that you can consistently achieve $3 more than average, don’t bid the extra earnings into the value of the facilities. The extra $3 is not return to facilities; it is return to your better than average marketing management ability. The extra $3 on an average 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation can be worth as much as $34,000 annually, more if pigs sold per sow per year are also more than the average of 15. At 19 pigs sold the reward to management increases to about $43,000 annually. Don’t give it away to owners of facilities that have decided to stop using the facility in hopes of finding someone that will in turn “pay them for their mistake”.

Receipts from the sale of other products in farrow-to-finish swine enterprise budgets (cull sows, nonbreeders and boars) don’t account for a large percentage of receipts, usually about 5 percent. Prices for these other products won’t influence profitably very much, but it is useful to approximate prices for these complementary products in line with the primary product—fat hogs. During recent years the cwt. Price relationships with barrows and gilts have averaged about 75% for sows, 80% for non-breeders and 35% for boars and are reasonable planning numbers to use.

Costs. In most similar discussions related to “determining the value of buildings” there is usually a long discussion about identifying, differentiating and calculating “fixed” and “variable” costs. In some publications they are defined a little differently and referred to as “cash and non-cash” or “direct and indirect”. This discussion takes a different approach because of an economic principle that must be clearly understood, especially when a person is trying to determine “what to pay for existing swine facilities”. That principle or concept is, “BEFORE THE FACILITIES ARE PURCHASED ALL COSTS ARE VARIABLE”. The potential buyer must plan to cover all costs and generate a profit or the decision to purchase is not sound.

There is no question. An owner of facilities has fixed and variable costs. But remember the “fixity” of some costs only occurs when the facility is “owned”. The fixed costs of the current owner are immaterial to the prospective buyer. It is only after the facilities are purchased that the usual division of costs into fixed and variable comes into play for record keeping, tax purposes and some management decisions. When determining the value of a swine facility “a priori” (before ownership) there are no fixed costs; all costs are variable. We will treat costs as such in this discussion. Buildings have not been purchased, all costs are variable.

The BIG cost of production in any swine production enterprise is of course feed, accounting for about 35% of the total cost of production in a farrow-to-finish enterprise, about 65 percent of non-facility related costs and about 80% of the traditional “variable” cost of production (not including labor, management or facilities). The two big variables in feed cost are price and feed efficiency. The producer has limited control over the prices of feed ingredients, but exercises significant control over feed efficiency. As with hog prices, the latest five-year average price for the primary ingredients, corn and supplement or soybean meal, provides a reasonable basis for estimating feed prices. The following table provides a 5-year perspective on the primary ingredients in swine feed—corn, hog supplement and soybean meal.

Table 4

In retrospect, as with any price, the past 5-year average may not be a very good predictor of future prices. This is probably more the case with feed ingredient prices than is the case with hog prices. It is always best to adjust the 5-year feed prices with some reasonable expectations of the future, based on current and near-future supply-demand conditions, but the foundation price for the economic analysis should be the past five-year average.

Table 5

Since feed cost is such a large proportion of the total cost of producing pork, feed efficiency becomes a critical element in determining cost of production that will be used to determine the value of buildings. Again, average efficiencies should be used in the analysis. This table illustrates the importance of feed efficiency in process of estimating costs.

With above average management (3.4 pounds of feed per pound of pork produced) relative to average feed efficiency (3.7 pounds), the cost of production declines by 1.6 cents per pound. This may not seem like much to the casual observer, but is significant when applied to the large numbers associated with a modern farrow-to-finish enterprise. A 300 sow enterprise, under average management, could be expected to generate at least one million pounds of pork. Simple multiplication results in a $16,000 reduced cost. Reduced costs are as good as increased receipts when it comes to the bottom line. Use average feed efficiency when calculating cost for establishing the value of buildings. Don’t bid returns to better than average management into the value of facilities.

Labor is another big single cost incurred in the production of pork. An average farrow-to-finish operation might be expected to use about 16 hours per sow per year. If the total cost of labor (wages, taxes, benefits, etc.) is $10 per hour the cost per sow per year is $160. An average 300-sow operation would likely use about 4800 hours of labor, about two people, and the labor bill might be expected to amount to $48,000. Better than average management can result in lower labor costs. Don’t bid these lower labor costs into the value of the facilities.

Management is a necessary input in any business. It has a cost and should be included in the total cost of production. It is not difficult to recognize this cost when “management is hired”. However, management is often overlooked in the cost structure of family-operated businesses because labor and management are viewed as “one and the same person”, the owner-operator. When determining the value of facilities it is imperative that management be included in the calculation of “all costs other than buildings”.

The commercial world of farm managers suggests that management can be hired for about 5% of the gross receipts, with some firms charging as much as 6 or 7 percent for livestock operations. Two things are more important than the actual percentage. First, be sure to include a charge for management and second, don’t double charge if the labor cost includes a management fee. Using 5% of gross receipts is a reasonable mechanism for charging for management when valuing facilities.

Other non-facility costs incurred in the production of pork, when taken individually, don’t account for a large percentage of total non-facility costs, but when taken together they can be expected to be about 25 percent of feed costs, making them a significant set of costs. Items to be included in this group of expenses include veterinary and medicines, boar purchase, livestock insurance, marketing costs, power and fuel, miscellaneous, and interest on operating costs and the breeding herd. Farm records and experience are the best sources of information to estimate these costs. It is important to recognize that in the attached enterprise worksheet the cost for replacement gilts (sow replacement) is included in the budget, so there is not a sow replacement or sow depreciation cost item in the budget.

Facility-related costs, but not the facilities themselves, are the last group of costs to be examined and must be paid before the “use value” of facilities can be estimated. These include the costs usually referred to as the DIRTI 5, except for the big cost, depreciation (D), and interest (I) on the investment (charge for using the capital). Depreciation is simply the tax mechanism for recovering the capital cost of the facilities. In this analysis that is what we are attempting to estimate – the fair, use-value or capital cost of the facilities. Interest on the capital invested (fair value) will be accounted for in the capitalization process used to convert annual net-earnings into a capital (fair) value. The remaining facility-related costs include repairs (R), taxes (T) and insurance (I).

Of these, taxes and insurance are directly related to the price paid for the facilities (the value we are attempting to estimate) and therefore can only be “guesstimates” in the process. A reasonable place to start for estimating taxes and insurance is to assume some reasonable value for the property and estimate taxes and insurance (or go to the local real estate assessor and insurance agents for estimated taxes and insurance premiums). In this analysis, we will assume an annual charge for taxes and insurance equal to 1% of new cost, a number akin to that used in many university swine enterprise budgets. The remaining cost item, repairs, has two components that must be considered. First, are the necessary “upfront remodeling and/or reconditioning” costs to bring the facility into use, and second, are the on-going repairs and maintenance. The on-going repairs can be estimated as a function of new cost to construct the facility. A reasonable annual maintenance repair cost is 2% of estimated new or replacement cost of the facility. The remaining “upfront” costs will be subtracted from the capitalized value of the net receipts.

Capitalization. Financial experts and business owners use the “capitalization” technique or method to convert expected average annual net revenue into a capital value that represents the economic worth of an asset. Farmers use it implicitly when they ask and answer the question, “How many years to recover my investment (often referred to as the payback period)?” The result or estimated value of the asset (fair market value) is of course a function of the accuracy with which receipts and costs were estimated. It is also a function of the rate of return (interest) that one wishes to earn on the investment, another way of asking the above question referring to the payback period. The method is easy to use and understand. The equation is not complicated.

Capital Value (fair market value) = Annual Net Revenues / Capitalization Rate

Keeping in mind that the “annual net revenues” are those generated by the facility, we do not include the price of the facility in the estimated costs of using it. We are trying to estimate the price or value of the asset. It is fair to ask, “But won’t the fact that the net revenues are not expected to be the same each year invalidate the capitalization method?” No. It doesn’t invalidate the method, but it is less accurate than if the more complicated NPV or ROI methods were used. The use of average numbers over the life the asset, as suggested, allows the use of the capitalization methodology to estimate a reasonable value.

The capitalization rate used in the analysis should reflect and include the buyer’s desired period of capital recovery (capital recovery rate) and the desired rate of interest to be earned for using the capital invested in the facility. The capital recovery rate is closely akin to the concept of depreciation (with zero salvage value) and is a function of the number of years to “use up the asset”. The rate of interest included in the capitalization rate should reflect the cost of using the money for the investment. Adding these two important rates together results in a capitalization rate, that when used correctly will generate a facility value (price) and cost of capital (interest) that can be recovered by purchasing and using the facility.

If the asset is to be used up in one year the business must recover the full-cost in one year and the annual capital recovery rate would be 100% (1/1) (1.0). If the asset is used up in 2 years the annual capital recovery rate would be 50 percent (1/2) (.5). If the facility is to be used up in 5 years the annual capital recovery rate would be 20% (1/5) (.2). As a minimum, the cost of using the capital should reflect the local cost of borrowing money to buy the facility (say six percent). Since the initial amount of investment will gradually be recouped over the life of the investment, only the average capital invested (or half value since there is zero salvage value) is used. This adjustment is accounted for in the analysis by using one-half the desired annual rate of interest (in this case three percent).The formula for calculating the capitalization rate is below and was used to create the values in the following table.

Capitalization rate = Capital Recovery Rate + Cost of Using Capital

Final notes

Table 6

After all receipts and costs (except the capital cost of facilities) are accounted for, and are thought to be reasonable, the analyst should adjust the numbers for risk. A suggested way of incorporating risk is to reduce receipts and increase expenses by some percentage, say 5%. After the risk-adjusted annual net revenue (return to facility) is determined, the potential buyer can use a reasonable capitalization rate to convert the annual net return into a capital value (fair market value). The rate used will be a function of many things but should represent the rate of return the buyer wants to earn on the investment made. Increasing (decreasing) the desired rate of return on the investment decreases (increases) the value of the facility. The following worksheet can be used as guide to help determine the value of the facility. A similar worksheet can be developed for separate phases of the production process – farrowing and selling feeder pigs or buying pigs and selling slaughter hogs.

In the example worksheet the value of the farrow-to-finish facility is $483 per sow, when a 5-year capital recovery and six percent annual cost of using capital (3 percent on average) is used to capitalize the annual net return of $111 per sow, but only if there are no necessary “front-end” fix up costs. After subtracting an estimated $50 for expected “front-end” costs the estimated value is $433 per sow. Multiplying this by the number of sows in the herd, under average management, say 300, the estimated value of the facility (farrow-to-finish) is $129,999. For the sake of comparison, the new cost of such facilities might approach $1,000,000. Increasing the capital recovery period to 7 years would increase the building value to $177,600. The buyer’s judgment with respect to “useful life” or “capital recovery period” is critical to the value of the facility.

Table 7

The above discussion has (more than once) cautioned against “bidding returns to better than average management into the value of the facilities”. The worksheet should be used to do two things. First, determine the value of the facility using average management. Second, determine the value using performance levels that represent your better than average management (but only if your farm records support the changed assumption). The “average management value” will provide you with a price or value that your competitor might be willing to pay. If you really want the facility, the “better than average management value” will provide your top “breakeven price” and provide some guidance in “outbidding” the competition without giving away all your management returns.

The same worksheet with a few modifications can be used to determine a “fair rental or lease value” for facilities. To do this, do not include in the cost section those costs that will be paid by the owner, probably insurance and taxes and maybe some repairs, add interest on an estimated rent payment to the variable cost structure and do not “capitalize” the net return. The net return minus any “upfront costs you (the renter) will pay will be a good estimate of the “fair rental value”. Use the same procedure for estimating the value under “average” and “better than average” management to provide guidance for beating the competition and not giving away your returns to management.

The cost for land (that necessary for buildings, roads, waste systems, etc) was not included in the calculation of net return because it is not an “annual recoverable expense”. Recall, land is a non-depreciable asset for income tax purposes. The value of the land should be added to any “fair market value of facilities” that is calculated. The cost off land will be recovered when it is sold (hopefully at an appreciated price).

This same methodology can be used determine fair-market values for stand-alone feeder pig, growing and/or finishing production facilities.


Recall that the question being asked, “What is the fair market value of swine facilities?” The value of the facilities is “what they can earn” after all costs, except for the cost of the facility, are paid. Receipts and expenses must be estimated. All costs for the potential buyer/renter are variable. Since we are trying to estimate the value of the facilities, all costs except the capital cost of the facilities are included in the valuation process. The fixed and/or variable costs of the current owner are not part of the equation. The expectant owner or renter must use his/her own numbers to determine what the facilities contribute (are worth). Each prospective buyer will have a different set of costs and receipts and therefore a different “value for the facilities. The costs and receipts used should represent average management (buying, selling and production). Prices for products and inputs used in the analysis should be averages prices for the past five years, although input prices may be adjusted to reflect the expectations of the market. It is a mistake to “bid” better than average management ability into the value of the facility.

(Table 1 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 1, 3-4-08.jpg) Effect of Management/Animal Performance on Receipts: Farrow-to-Finish

(Table 2 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 2, 3-4-08.jpg) Gilt and Barrow Prices: U.S. Average, 1999-2003

(Table 3 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 3, 3-4-08.jpg) Effect of Product Price on Receipts: Farrow-to-Finish

(Table 4 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 4, 3-4-08.jpg) Feed Ingredient Prices: U.S. Average, 1998 – 2002

(Table 5 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 5, 3-4-08.jpg) Effect of Feed Efficiency on Cost of Production, Farrow-to-Finish

(Table 6 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 6, 3-4-08.jpg)

(Table 7 saved as Establishing a fair market value of swine facilities table 7, 3-4-08.jpg) WORKSHEET TO ESTIMATE FAIR VALUE OF SWINE FACILITIES Farrow-to Finish/High Investment Facilities, Farrow 8 Times Per Year/Sow and 2 litters (a modified university budget) * 1⁄4 of feed, vet, boar, power, and misc. costs ** Estimated cost of new facilities per sow estimated at $3150

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.