Full-Service Cattle Sales & Marketing serving the Fallon, Nevada and Outlying Areas.
Feeder sale August 16, 1500, head. Approximately 1000 feeders and 500 butcher cows, bred cows and pairs. Feeder were mostly yearlings weighing 550 to 900. Some really nice green cattle with enough age that they would pop when they hit hot ration. Light test on 2023 calf crop but we had some nice prevacced calves only weaned 2 weeks that sold well. This business is much more fun to be in when the market is going up. Sellers are looking at each other in the auction and asking, “Is that really what those brought or was there a clerking mistake?” Lord knows the producers that survived the last 9 years of below cost of production prices sure need it to get healed up. As I wrote about several times last year, I hope hay farmers saved money from that $300 a ton hay. It is unfortunate that we see these huge price swings in feed costs. Last year anybody with a job in town was dumping their hobby animals because way too much of their paycheck was going to buy hay for goats and sheep that had fallen in value by half. On the cattle side several producers borrowed money to buy hay and between winter of 2021/22 and 22/23 fed up the entire monetary value of their herd X 1.5. If you really put a sharp pencil to it, they would have been better off if someone stole the cows before they sunk $1500 per cow in hay. It’s something We don’t want to think about or admit but the pencil doesn’t lie. Then factor in the severity of 22/23 winter and how ranchers fed $300 a ton hay from November to May in some areas. Sadly, after dumping all that money into those cows a large percentage of the calf crop froze to death. Now the rancher owes $1500 to the bank just in hay and has a $1200 dry cow for equity not considering all the normal ranch bills. My point is just because feeders are selling higher doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses. Folks are struggling and it’s going to take several years of these prices to claw their way up out of the hole they dug themselves into buying hay. Both the hay farmer and the rancher are critical to local communities all across America. Both struggle without the other. The smart farmer and the smart rancher make a long-term deal on hay where both can stay in the black year after year. I have recently started getting some of my own pivots into production and I understand the farmers resentment of cows in their hay fields. They make trails, tromp up plants in wet areas, and rub on the pivots, electric panels etc. However, with current hay prices they might have to allow the evil cow to do some fall and winter grazing for cash money to help pay their bills. A farmer hating cows is like a guy with an oil well hating cars. With hay export markets being in the tank, low milk prices and double the wild hay production this summer the hay farmer might need to consider selling some pasture to his rancher neighbor in order to survive. The farmer could interseed some sudan or grain and let those cows put down some free fertilizer. I’ve been told planting sudan helps kill gophers as a bonus. Fencing the cattle onto the pivot itself is important because cattle would rather hang out in the pivot corners and only go into the pivot to graze. Without fencing 2/3 or more of the fertilizer and uria are wasted on fallow ground.
Back to cattle markets I’m disappointed to see weigh cow prices are not much higher. In comparison to 2014 a smooth hard cow would bring 1.30 a pound. Fats were at 1.70 and 8 weights fetched around 2.20. Here we are in 23 and 8 weights are 2.50 fats bring 1.85 to 2.00 and best cows won’t bring over 1.20 despite higher demand for hamburger. During Covid consumers got in the habit of eating at drive- thru’s and cooking hamburger dishes at home. Why aren’t hamburger cows higher? There are probably several factors but in my opinion it’s once again lack of competition and monopolies. We hear lots of discussion about negotiated trade, lack of transparency, packer control and price manipulation in the fat cattle arena but never do we hear about these same tactics in the hamburger cow and bull processing plants and procurement. It’s my opinion that the Cow plants wrote the “Packer Playbook” and the fat cattle buyers copied. In the State of Nevada, I’m estimating between 60% and 70% of cull cows and bulls go directly to a processing plant. Ranchers order a truck which he or she pays for, pay the brand inspector and deliver the cows directly to the plant. There are no negotiations or haggling over the rail prices. Now the plant has most of their supply needs filled so they call their packer buyer at the local sale barn and tell them “Hey we only need one load of cows for tomorrow’s kill so just pick around the edges and don’t push the market higher “. Now when the next rancher calls to get a rail price the procurement man says “oh shoot we bought cows at the sale for 1.90 hanging today but I’ll give you $2.00 for the perfect cow on the rail. Of course, when the rancher gets his check most the cows were deducted for being too fat, to small etc. Another factor to consider is these young open and short bred cows are going to get really valuable over the next few years. As a rancher do you want to take old, stifled junk cow prices for a beautiful 4-year-old wet bag cow? Ranchers say, “well I send them directly to slaughter because I don’t want someone using a salebarn brand inspection to steal my cows”. The old timers had a couple different solutions for that. Number one they hung cow thieves and number 2 they “vented” the cows they sold. A good percentage of today’s Ranchers don’t know what venting a cow even means. Also, sellers are free to mark their cows “slaughter only” at the auction. I’ve been in Nevada long enough now to know who most the skunks are and if one shows up in Fallon trying to buy the neighbors cow, I’m damn sure going to put a stop to it. At our sale this week we had fleshy 3- year-old dry’s bring up to 1.50. They wouldn’t have brought 1.20 hanging at the plant. So, if the rancher wants to leave $390 dollars a head on the table by going directly with a 1300-pound heiferette that’s their business but the thief might be living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed and staring back in the mirror. Take the control away from the packer and make them compete for these hamburger cows. In comparison to 2014, and today’s feeder cattle prices these cows should be $1.50+ live. The premiums you pick up on your low yielding feeder cows going to feedlots and your rebreeds will more than cover auction house costs and most likely your local salebarn is a lot closer in freight than your nearest packing plant and don’t forget you’re paying the packers freight for him. Next feeder sale Friday, September 15th. Several loads of 2023 calves consigned as well as leftover yearlings from 22 calf crop. Corbitt Wall will be back to help auctioneer and entertain so please join us for another good feeder sale where We work to make the market not just take the market. See you soon!
|Mr. Jack Payne currently serves as the regional director for California and Nevada at the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. He owns and operates Nevada Livestock Marketing in Fallon, Nevada.|