KIMBALL, S.D. (KELO)– It was just another busy Tuesday sale at Kimball Livestock Exchange, but this year they are seeing record cattle sales compared to normal years.
Drought conditions mean not all that cattle producers have enough feed and pastureland to maintain their herds, so they are having to sell them off at an earlier date than normal.
At Tuesday’s sale, they had around 600 weigh ups and approximately 250 pairs in the sale ring.
“Usually, if there was plenty of grass around and plenty of feed, there wouldn’t be these pairs coming to town, but some guys are just liquidating some cattle just to make room for the rest of what they’ve got,” Wade Christensen, co-owner of Kimball Livestock Exchange said.
He said that producers are going to sell off what they have to. Some are selling off some of their less desirable livestock to make room for their good animals. Anything that isn’t raising a calf, is getting sold as a weigh-up.
Christensen said they have seen producers coming from a wide area to sell at Kimball. There are some buyer who are local that have extra feed, but a lot of cattle are being sold to out of state buyers. They sale barn also offers online sales so that buyers do not have to physically come to the sale.
Wayne Tupper, the former owner of Kimball Livestock Exchange, said this year a lot of the cows that they are seeing at the sale barn, during a normal year, would stay on the operation.
“We are seeing a lot of young cows come in that normally would stay and get rebred and definitely with the drought that brings more cattle to town,” Tupper said.
The biggest concern Tupper has seen with producers is trying to keep the herd. He saw the same thing happen during the 1976, with people bringing young cows to sell early, but it was worse.
“We saw a lot more drought that year, but its getting close. It’s coming,” Tupper said.
Tupper said they will start seeing more cattle coming in if conditions don’t change over the next 30 days.
If you can’t feed the cattle you have to get rid of them, said Scotty Parmely, a producer who was selling at Tuesday’s sale, selling 80 head of cattle. His pastureland started off poor, but with a couple little rain showers, he is now able to graze his livestock.
“I backed my numbers down a little and hopefully we catch a shower and it hangs on,” Parmely said.
The challenge for Randy Knippling’s operation in Gann Valley is trying to scrape together enough feed, which he produces himself, for the winter months so that he doesn’t have to disperse the herd. He said he may have to market cattle early this fall or winter.
Water has been the biggest concern for Knippling. His operation is relying on well water and rural water. The dams are either dry or have very poor quality.
The cattle prices are pretty good, Christensen said.
“It’s probably as good as it’s been for three years,” he said. “It still isn’t enough. The cost of doing business anymore is just so out of hand and if a guys got to buy feed… I don’t know that they can afford to buy very much feed to feed the cattle for what the price is now.”
The market situation changes when they are selling young cattle early, Tupper said.
“We are going to sell yearlings a lot sooner than normal, they’ll be coming to market sooner,” he said. “It just changes the whole aspect of our market situation.”
Continuing into the summer, Christensen has a positive outlook on the cattle markets with the high beef demand.
“The problem is, the packers have really taken advantage of the cattlemen, the feeders, and the consumer,” he said.
Packers are making a lot of money, the consumer has to pay high prices and those prices are not getting reflected well towards the producers, Christensen said.
“I’d say one thing to the consumer: demand that we get this meat labeled and you know where it’s coming from because we’ve got the best product in the world and the ranchers and the feeders sure need a helping hand here with the high feed costs and the dry weather,” he said. “I think we deserve it.”
Personally, Christensen said he has seen his own operation this dry before, but not in June.
“We’ve got July and August weather in the first half of June and that’s what’s really hurt the hay and the grass crop,” he said.
The area grass is very short and there is very little hay, Christensen said.
“I have a field of hay that I put up on my own ranch that last year we cut it two times and we got 350 bales off it, this year we cut about half of it that was worth cutting and got 40 bales on it,” he said. “I mean we are talking about 20-percent in a lot of cases of the feed that we normally get.”
Christensen said he doesn’t know what will come of this summer. The heat and no rain will dictate how long the grass will last.
“Most guys are fairly prepared and usually carry over a year’s worth of hay, but its going to just depend on how soon we got to start feeding these cows and how long the grass lasts,” he said.