Annual bull sale attracts northwest buyers

It was a packed house at Meadow Lake Stockyards March 21 as area ranchers waged bidding wars at a Black Angus Bull Sale. Here, worker John Adamson escorts a bull from one pen to another.

It was a packed house at Meadow Lake Stockyards March 21 as area ranchers waged bidding wars at a Black Angus Bull Sale. Here, worker John Adamson escorts a bull from one pen to another.

by Derek Cornet

With cattle prices on the upswing, ranchers flocked to the 9th annual Black Angus Bull Sale March 21 at the Meadow Lake Stockyards.

According to Brent Brooks of Meadow Lake Livestock Sales Ltd., a total of 85 bulls were up for auction with the price of two-year-old bulls coming in between $3,500 and $8,000. On average, bulls sold for $4,700 and yearlings sold for $4,100.

“Our bull sale certainly went well and it was very well attended,” Brooks said, adding the bulls came from the Bowerman Bros. and Nessett Lake Angus ranches.

Brooks said the price of cattle has been continuously rising in the past 12 months, which is due in part to a smaller cattle herd in Canada, Mexico and the United States. With a low supply and a high demand, Brooks added the stockyards are seeing cows sell for $1 to $1.10 per pound, which is in contrast to the 60 cents per pound paid this time last year.

According to Statistics Canada, the cattle herd in the country dropped 0.7 per cent when comparing 2012 and 2013. As of Jan. 1, 2014, there were 2.2 million head of cattle on ranches across the country. Brooks said he expects this number to remain steady, noting only a few ranchers he knows are expanding their operations.

“We’ve seen some ranchers do some expansion in the last couple of years, but I don’t think we’re going to see a large rise in cow numbers,” he said.

After a major drought in 2002 and the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in 2003 rocked cattle prices, Brooks said the current prosperity is more than welcome. He also contributed the higher prices to the shrinking value of the Canadian dollar. Since beef cattle production is an export-driven industry, Americans tend to purchase more feed cattle when the prices are down.

“For every cent our dollar climbs against the U.S. currency, it takes about three cents out of the Canadian feeder market and vice versa,” he said.

Unless the price of feed spikes or the value of the Canadian dollar changes soon, Brooks said the market should remain fairly consistent into the future. But, he added, other variables are involved and it’s difficult to forecast the future with certainty.

Rancher Dan Burke attended the bull sale and said he had his eyes on a couple heifers. Overall, he said there were many good quality bulls for sale, adding he was looking for bulls with a decent birth weight and ones that gained sufficient weight. He said the look of the bull and its temperament also have an impact on the cost.

“Temperament is huge, especially for the older guys who are running cattle,” Burke said. “You don’t want something chasing you through the pasture trying to kill you.”

He also said he’s currently downsizing his herd, but added before BSE he had more than 500 head of cattle. Although prices are gaining momentum, he said ranchers are still paying more to produce one pound of beef than they did 10 years ago.

“If the prices continue to rise, I might expand, but I also work full-time to maintain a steady paycheque,” he said.

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