FT. PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – It’s been a slower than average summer for Ft. Pierre Livestock. 

In July 2021, the sale barn was unusually busy because of the drought. A year ago, nearly 1/5th of South Dakota was experiencing extreme drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In July 2022, much of South Dakota is in better shape and only southern parts of Clay and Union Counties are considered in extreme drought.   

Bryan Hanson, co-owner of Ft. Pierre Livestock, told KELOLAND News July is typically a slow time of year and that’s been the case this year. 

“It’s no doubt going to be a lot shorter numbers this year, just simply because of the amount of mama cows that were liquidated,” Hanson said. “And the replacement-quality heifers that went to feed that had been liquidated over the last 16 months.” 

Hanson said Ft. Pierre Livestock will be having its summer special sale on Friday with more than 4,000 feeder cattle to be sold but admitted that will be lower than a year ago when most of the state was dealing with dry conditions. 

Hanson said the Ft. Pierre Livestock does most trades in a 150-mile radius around the Pierre area. He said they also sell plenty of cattle coming from Montana, Wyoming or North Dakota because there’s more feeding areas east of the Missouri River. 

“People will bring them this direction to get them closer to the feed and try to get a higher price for their livestock,” Hanson said. 

On prices, Hanson said there’s been a little price gain for fat cattle and feeder cattle are starting to come up a little bit. He noted the price of meat has raised for the past two years on store shelves but it hasn’t moved for what producers are getting paid for cattle.   

“One of the big reasons for that is these major packers are able to import beef from up to 22 different countries and once they repackage it, it can go across the counters as Product of USA,” Hanson said. “That’s the battle that we’re against right now as a US producer.” 

He noted R-CALF USA will be holding its policy convention on August 18 and 19 in Deadwood to advocate for more policy changes. 

Similar cattle organization groups are discussing future prospects and changes for the beef industry as well. 

Tanner Beymer, a senior director of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said there’s been a modest increase in calf and feeder cattle prices but that’s been hampered by input costs.

“That’s really going to cut into profitability and that’s going to be top of mind for us as we look into the next Congress,” Beymer said in a media briefing from the NCBA’s summer business meetings in Reno, Nevada. 

Hanson agreed inflation and input prices have been hard on producers. His father told him when he was out of high school, it only took 10 calves to buy a brand new pickup truck. 

“Now it takes a pot load to buy a brand new pickup,” Hanson said. “A new pickup cost 10 calves and now it costs 75 to 90 of them. That kind of puts it into perspective.” 

He said when it looks like a decent price for calves, feeder cattle or fat cattle, you have to factor in comparisons to everything else.

Drought impacting cattle further south, west 

While most of South Dakota is dodging impacts from drought, many parts of the southern and western United States are facing dry conditions. 

The state of Texas is experiencing its worst drought in a decade. More than 57% of Texas was considered to be under “extreme” or “worse” drought conditions as of July 19. 

Hanson said when Texas had a bad drought in 2011, some of the cows from The Lone Star State would make their way all the way up to South Dakota which was experiencing flooding. 

“Not for long term but you know, at least for six months or a year to try to keep a hold of their mama cows,” Hanson said. “This year we aren’t really seeing that because we just went through extreme drought ourselves so we don’t have extra grass up here.”