One Leola-area producer bucks slow sales trend

Farm Forum

LEOLA — A depressed cattle market has not deterred producers from across the nation from paying top dollar to add a Bieber Red Angus bull or heifer to their herd.

About 250 cattle ranchers attended the Red Angus fall sale at Craig Bieber’s ranch west of Leola Thursday, where the mood remained positive despite slightly lower than average turnout.

“It went really well, probably not as good as years past, but that’s reflective of the cattle market. We sold almost all the cattle, we had three or four that we didn’t sell. There was steady demand,” Bieber said.

Bieber raises breeding stock and sells cattle to other producers for breeding purposes. Of the two sales at his ranch each year, he said more cattle are sold during the spring sale.

One of Bieber’s bulls sold for $30,000 Thursday, he said.

“Those would be the second-highest prices we’ve ever sold a bull for. But ultimately, from the bull standpoint, we probably sold bulls to less customers at bigger volumes this time,” Bieber said.

While Bieber is enjoying strong sales, many cattle producers have felt the pinch of low prices. As of Thursday, cattle was $104.475 per 100 pounds, significantly down from January 2015, when market prices were at $170.05 for a time.

The demand for beef in 2014 created a booming market in the cattle industry.

“The American farmer is the best in the world to responding to market signals. When we had high prices, we had avian flu and (porcine epidemic diarrhea) virus. That helped us because we were kind of the premium product. Right now, we have a mountain of cheap poultry around us. (Beef) is probably a preferred product, but it’s higher (priced),” Bieber said.

The cattle industry has a cyclical nature, and those who made decisions in 2014 in preparation of the inevitable decline in the market are able to maintain a profit, Bieber said.

“The reality is we’ve benefited just as much as we’ve been hurt in these markets. The market is only as smart as the lowest IQ of the people in the market,” he said.

Jack Burt owns a ranch near Duluth, Minn., where he raises Red Angus cattle. He and his son-in-law were at Bieber’s sale to look at female cattle.

Over the years, Burt said he has bought and sold cattle with the Biebers.

“Northeast Minnesota, for us, it’s been pretty good,” Burt said of cattle prices. “(Prices are) not as good as here. If we’re selling females, we can at least be above the average,” he added.

Bieber Red Angus cattle are considered high-quality within the cattle industry, thanks to decades of careful breeding and use of genetic programs, said Steve Hellwig, co-owner of Hub City Livestock in Aberdeen.

“Biebers have very good cattle. They’re probably nationally known,” Hellwig said.

The price of the cattle raised by the Biebers can fetch a pretty penny.

During the 2015 spring sale, a buyer from Gillette, Wyo., purchased two Bieber bulls — one for $70,000 and the other for $65,000.

Most of the cattle, though, sell for between $5,000 and $15,000.

“They’re investing in their future by buying seed stock from them — high-quality Red Angus. Those cattle would have a premium price,” Hellwig said.

That kind of forward thinking is what Bieber said can make a difference between having success and struggling in a tough market.

“There’s money to be made in every market. We created what we consider a premium product. We provide people with very good genetics that will give them the opportunity to have more success. So I have to keep a positive mindset and hopefully that rubs off on the people that come to buy here,” Bieber said.

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