Ranchers see best prices in more than a decade

Last Monday area ranchers sent in more than 500 head to the Meadow Lake Stockyards that were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Above, Boyd Stewart opens the gate for another set of yearlings while below, auctioneer Frederick Bodnarus keeps track of the bids from buyers Aug. 25.

Last Monday area ranchers sent in more than 500 head to the Meadow Lake Stockyards that were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Here, Boyd Stewart opens the gate for another set of yearlings while auctioneer Frederick Bodnarus keeps track of the bids from buyers Aug. 25.

by Phil Ambroziak

Now is the prime time to be in the cattle business.

According to Brent Brooks of the Meadow Lake Stockyards, cattle prices are the highest they’ve been in more than 10 years, and area ranchers are taking full advantage of the upturn.

“Feed grain markets are dropping off somewhat,” Brooks said. “Take that, along with lower cattle numbers in North America, and it becomes a supply and demand issue.”

Brooks’ words were echoed by Meadow Lake area rancher George Millar, who said the overall number of cows in recent years has decreased because of droughts throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada, as well as the recent BSE crisis.

“It also appears feed yards have made a little more money this year,” Millar reiterated. “Whenever they do that, ranchers come back to the marketplace with more money to buy cattle.”

Meanwhile, Brooks said around early September of last year, a 900-pound steer would trade for $1.12 to $1.15 per pound. Now, those numbers have increased to $1.30 to $1.40 per pound.

“How long any market stays is totally unforeseen,” he added. “It’s a tough call, but it appears the market for cattle will remain optimistic for some time. This upturn has created more of a consistent market for ranchers – I don’t recall numbers like this since the 1990s.”

The stockyards held its annual Customer Appreciation Day Aug. 19 during which more than 500 head were on the market. The event was well attended and Brooks expects more of the same when the stockyards holds its next yearling sale scheduled for Sept. 9.

Millar – whose been ranching for more than 40 years – agreed, however, with the impossibility of predicting how successful one season will be compared to the next.

“If I was able to see ahead, I’d be rich and retired by now,” he noted.

This year, Millar has close to 270 head of cattle at his ranch west of Meadow Lake. This number is a little lower than usual because he decided to scale back his operation this year because of a hay shortage experienced last year. He believes things will continue to improve for all ranchers throughout the province, however, if the economy remains as strong as it has.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I believe a good number of people will still be working in the next few years, which means there will be more consumer dollars out there,” he said. “Things should remain good for everyone , as long as the unrest going on in Europe doesn’t spill over here. We’re happy with the way things are shaping up. The economy has been quite good in Saskatchewan, mainly because of oil and mining. It’s probably the best it’s been in my lifetime.”

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