Superior Livestock held its midsummer classic auction this week, perhaps the cattle year's single most important event in the valuation of breeding stock and calves. For decades, this video extravaganza has been closely monitored by ranchers, feedlot managers, and bankers as a kind of gold standard measuring the general health of the beef industry.
Unfortunately, the test weight in this year's precious ore mined by Superior suggests serious molecular decay.
Given receipts close to 200,000 head through the first four days of the event convened at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, prices plunged from the record heights of last summer. Steer calves weighing 500-540 pounds and located in Region 2 (including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska) sold in a range between $134 and $175.25 (averaging $154.62 or roughly $807 per head, 46% below last year's average of $288 or more than $1,500).
At the same time, their heifer mates sold from $131 to $185.50 (averaging $158.25 or $825 per head, 42% short of 2015's average of $273 or approximately $1,420 per head).
Logically, breeding stock was also hit by a ball-peen hammer. On one hand, bred cows were marked at an average price of $1,455 (ranging from $1,110 to $1,800), 49% less than last year's average of $2.837.50 (ranging from $2,400 to $3,275). On the other hand, bred heifers averaged $1,612 (ranging from $1,400 to $1,825), 28% below last summer's average of $2,600 (ranging $2,250 to $2,950).
With a pot-load of steer calves representing a bank deposit more than $50,000 smaller than the last hurrah of 2015, many ranchers understandably found the mountain air to be painfully thin.
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