Heifer Prices

Fall Sales Point to a Solid Market

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
(DTN/Progressive Farmer image by Becky Mills)

Cow-calf producers may be expecting another seasonal rally in cull cow prices this spring. It's one reason, short of continued expansion, the bred heifer market has had such a good run through the fall.

Lee Schulz, livestock economist at Iowa State University, told DTN he believes the 2017 spring rally in the cull cow market may be influencing this fall's bred female demand. Producers are essentially preparing now to have bred replacements in the herd when they go to market with their culls come spring. While there have been some counter-seasonal peaks on the cull side, such as 2014 and 2015, normally cull cow prices are lowest in the fall and rise going into the new calendar year, often rather dramatically.

An old market maxim says, "sell your cows the first day of baseball season," noted Schulz. He added as grazing becomes available, daily costs to maintain a cow ease, which encourages producers to keep cows, tightening supplies.

"Last spring's rally on the cull side gave added income to many cow-calf enterprises. That may have opened the door for demand for females," added Schulz.

"As we look at how this year is ending, there is certainly the potential again for higher cull cow prices in the spring. Fed cattle prices are typically highest in the winter and early spring, which supports slaughter cow prices. The December to April live cattle futures spread is currently about $5."

A good indicator of pricing for bred heifers comes out of the fall Missouri Show-Me-Select sales reports. This sale brings together consignors from across the state, and reports high, average and minimum prices on bred heifers from the sales. All heifers are bred to bulls with strict calving-ease or birth weight EPDs, and have met standards for soundness and pelvic size.

The last fall sale, out of a total of six, was held December 9. Three of the fall sales met or exceeded top and average prices, when compared to 2016.

Breaking down some of the numbers, the November 17 sale, at Joplin Regional Stockyards, showed top price for a lot at $2,200 per head; average at $1,867 per head. Both of these numbers slightly exceeded the 2016 sale report, where prices were respectively $2,050 and $1,651.

There was also a November 17 SMS sale at Kirksville Livestock LLC. In this case, top price for a lot came in at $2,100 per head; average at $1,872. Both prices were below the 2016 numbers, $2,850 and $1,731.

On November 25, a sale at Kingsville Livestock Auction exceeded or met year-earlier levels. Top price for a lot was $2,600 per head this year; the same as in 2016. Average price was $1,968; slightly above the $1,910 level seen last year.

December 2nd, a sale at Fruitland Livestock Sales showed a drop in top prices when compared to year-earlier levels--$2,500 for 2017, versus $3,200 for 2016. But the average overall prices were higher this year--$2,010 per head versus $1,962 per head in 2016. This was similar to the December 8 sale at Farmington Livestock Auction Inc., where again the top price showed a drop ($2,450 this year, compared to $2,950 in 2016) but the average price improved ($1,790 compared to $1,518).

The last sale, December 9, was held at Palmyra's F&T Livestock Market. In this case prices exceeded 2016 levels across the board. Top price for a lot on a per head basis was an impressive $3,200 per head, compared to $2,800 in 2016. Average price was $2,118 per head, compared to $2,050.

The SMS program has a series of both spring and fall sales. To get dates for 2018 spring sales, or to learn more about the program, go to http://agebb.missouri.edu/…

Victoria Myers