Cattle prices at all-time highs at sale barns

Farm Forum

Last Friday’s sale brought all time high prices to sellers at Hub City Livestock in Aberdeen. “Just when you thought it couldn’t get higher, it’s unbelievable,” Steve Hellwig said Monday. “Calves that were 500 lbs. brought $3.00 to $3.20 a pound.” He noted that last year at this time, a 550 lb. calf would have gotten $2.00 to $2.20, which means producers today can get 90 to 100 dollars more per hundredweight than last year.

Hellwig believes the cold weather is one of the driving points in getting calves to market. In a good year, calves would be on pasture or feeding on corn stalks until after Thanksgiving. With the cold and snow, cattle feeders would have to move the animals to lots and start feeding hay and corn. It’s easier to take the calves to the salebarn than having to set up for that. And with the markets as high as they are, it’s easy to sell. If winter conditions wouldn’t have moved in as quickly as it did, these calves would have sold in December.

“What’s amazing is that even with the increased supply, the prices for the producers continue to hold up, not dipping at all,” Hellwig said. This week, Hub City Livestock will see about 6,500 animals go through the ring.

For producers, the return is wonderful. Cold conditions mean added work and expense. The calf check is bigger, which compensates for a few less pounds.

As he checked in with customers Monday, Hellwig said, “The cattle market is strong, alive and well.”

Sell some, buy some

Kevin Larson of Aberdeen Livestock said sales have been great with some all-time high prices for cattle going through the sale ring. Good demand from consumers and cheap feed is a great combination.

“Cattle producers are real happy with the prices they’ve been getting,” Larson said. “As brutal weather conditions have moved in, some are selling some cows. Many like to run their cattle on corn stalks until the first of the year. With these conditions, it will take a lot of feed in the yards when the animals can’t be in the fields.”

There is a lot of feed out there, and with corn prices lower, it’s always a matter of managing costs. Cattle people are healing some from the prices they paid for corn, Larson said. The ups and downs have made for some interesting years.

“The lower corn prices haven’t slowed the grain producers down, and I don’t see cattle producers backing off any,” Larson said. “They continue to sell their calves and buy back new ones.”

“Time will tell what will happen with the market,” Larson said. “Guys who are selling are making money, and guys that are buying are making money.”

One thing is for sure, Larson said, is that when ranchers make money, it goes back into the economy so the whole area benefits.