The profitability of semi-extensive beef production is discussed on the basis of information collected over a 4-year period from 23 farmers from northern Natal who participated in the mail-in record system. Throughout the analysis, the performance of the group average was compared with that of the top third beef farmers. The need to optimize rather than maximize and the impact of efficiency have been demonstrated for various production and economic measurements. Economic norms that were used and discussed included nett farm income per R100 capital investment and gross margin per animal unit. The need for more emphasis on financial management by both the animal science adviser and the farmer is discussed in view of the fact that interest costs have now become the single largest item of expenditure in farming.