Financial Statements Across Farming Operations

Different types of farming operations, whether focused on crops, livestock, or a combination, have specific considerations in financial statement analysis. Understanding the intricacies is important for farmers and financial experts alike, as it forms the foundation for a nuanced and effective approach to agricultural financial statement analysis.

As an ag lender dealing with a wide variety of farm operations in a large geographic territory, I like to sit down with both new and existing customers to discuss the importance of key financial ratios and metrics to assist in managing expectations and insight into any issues there may be,” states Matt Manuel, Conterra VP Relationship Manager.

Here are some key Financial Statement distinctions:

Crop Farming:

Crop farmers face significant input costs related to agriculture, such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. Analyzing cost efficiency in these inputs is crucial for profitability. Crop yields and revenues are often seasonal. Financial statements need to reflect this cyclicality, and farmers may need to manage cash flow accordingly.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor ratios such as the operating profit margin, return on assets (ROA), and debt-to-equity ratio.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for fluctuations in input costs, weather-related risks impacting crop yields, and market price volatility affecting revenue.


Livestock operations involve breeding, herd management, and healthcare costs. Financial statements should capture these expenses, and ratios may include metrics related to herd growth and health. Analyzing the costs of animal feed and forage is vital for livestock farmers. Efficiency in feed conversion and managing feed costs impact overall profitability.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor ratios such as the gross margin per head, feed conversion ratio, and debt service coverage ratio.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for fluctuations in feed costs, disease outbreaks impacting herd health, and changes in market demand affecting livestock prices.

Diversified Farming:

Farms that combine crop and livestock operations need to integrate financial statements to provide a holistic view. This includes assessing how each component contributes to overall financial health. Diversified farms may have built-in risk diversification. Financial analysis should consider how the different components balance risks and contribute to stability.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor ratios for each component of the operation, such as crop profit margins and livestock gross margins.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for complexities in managing multiple enterprises, integration challenges between crop and livestock operations, and risk management across diverse activities.

Specialized Farming (e.g., Organic or Specialty Crops):

For specialized farming, such as organic or specialty crops, certification and compliance costs need to be factored into financial statements. Understanding the impact of market premiums for specialty products is crucial. Financial analysis should assess the profitability of these premium products.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor ratios such as certification and compliance costs as a percentage of revenue and premium pricing margins.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for regulatory changes impacting certification requirements, market volatility affecting premium pricing, and supply chain disruptions.

Size and Scale of Operations:

Large farms might benefit from economies of scale, impacting cost structures and profitability. Financial statements should reflect how scale influences efficiency. Smaller, niche-focused farms may target local or specialized markets. Financial analysis should consider the dynamics of these markets and the associated revenue streams.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor economies of scale indicators such as the cost per unit of production and revenue per acre/hectare.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for scalability issues impacting cost efficiency, access to capital for expansion, and market access for larger or smaller operations.

Sustainability and Conversation Practices:

Farms emphasizing sustainability may make investments in conservation practices. Financial statements should reflect these investments and assess their long-term impact on the operation.

  • Key Financial Ratios: Monitor metrics related to investments in sustainability practices and their impact on long-term profitability.
  • Common Challenges: Watch out for balancing short-term financial considerations with long-term sustainability goals, regulatory compliance costs, and potential market premiums for sustainable products.

Understanding specific considerations allows farmers and financial experts to tailor financial statement analysis to the dynamics of each operation. Focusing on key financial ratios and being aware of common challenges enable informed decisions-making and strategic planning aligned with specific challenges and opportunities of each type of farming.

Next Steps: Consult Your Ag Lender

Collaborating with agricultural experts, consultants, and ag lenders is helpful for farmers seeking to decipher financial statements and make strategic decisions. These professionals offer specialized insights tailored to the challenges of farming, aiding farmers in comprehending complex financial data and identifying potential risks. Their support extends to strategic planning, assisting in setting realistic goals and aligning financial strategies with long-term objectives.

I have learned through the years of my experience that educating ag producers of all types and sizes the importance financial statements play in providing borrowing power and understanding how to manage metrics throughout the year. It allows for better planning moving forward from both a growth perspective but also to mitigate tough years in the field,” summarized Manuel.

Additionally, farmers benefit from being informed about market trends, regulatory compliance, and best practices. This enables them to make decisions in dynamic agricultural environments. The collaboration with ag lenders ensures not only a comprehensive financial health check but also builds a supportive network to enhance financial management.

Conterra Ag Capital is a private lender, focused exclusively on agriculture. A native to the region, Matt Manuel works directly with farmers, ranchers, and lending partners throughout the Great Plains Region. Conterra lending experts are strategically positioned nationwide, providing flexible farm and ranch loans, crop operating loans, development and alternative lending to America’s farmers, ranchers and agribusiness. 

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or investment advice. While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented, Conterra Ag Capital and its affiliates make no representation or warranty as to the completeness, correctness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information contained in this article. You should always consult a qualified financial advisor, tax professional, or other qualified professional for advice on your specific financial situation.

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