Sort & Cull

Fall, Feeders and Planning for the Future

ShayLe Stewart
By  ShayLe Stewart , DTN Livestock Analyst
The fall season acts as an ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. (DTN file photo)

The fall run is a captivating time for cattlemen. Producers get paid for their hard-earned calf crop, but the season also represents an ending of one chapter and beginning of another. As the last calf is loaded into the truck, producers have a mere second to soak up the crisp fall air before they start wondering about next year.

Next year should we try to wean our calves a little sooner? Should we try to carry some of the steers into the new year? What will the cost of hay be like, and will there be any winter grazing? If there's been any positive take-aways from this year's market, it's been a humbling reminder that no matter what our plans may be, having an alternative plan is always a good idea to protect our business.

The hours put into raising calves to their market date is exponential and too often producers get caught in the trap of doing things "as we always have" and lose potential profits of new opportunities or marketing avenues.

It may be time for our operations to consider using a veterinarian-approved vaccination program. It may be worth trucking our calves beyond the local sale barn to reach higher prices that could offset and potentially surpass the cost of added trucking fees. And weaning our calves at a different weight bracket can sometimes change our bottom line more than we realize.

In regard to the upcoming fall run, as the market enters into the first full week of October, sales are already seeing large receipts as limited fall grazing is pushing producers to ship earlier than they hoped. With yearlings becoming more difficult to come by, the spectrum of prices seen throughout the market is stretched as yearlings sell with high demand, but freshly weaned bawling calves continue to sell with a sharp discount. One of the biggest take-aways from this year's feeder cattle market has been that as the feeding sector gets pinched for profits like cow-calf producers have felt in recent years, their eagerness to buy high-risk calves is slim.

Tune into this week's Cattle Market News update on the DTN/Progressive Farmer Facebook back (or click the link here) to hear the latest feeder cattle trends:…

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at


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