Drop In Cattle Prices Hurting South Dakota Ranchers

Sep 21, 2016

Photo: Cherry Denke - Quinn

South Dakota ranchers and cattle feeders are feeling the pinch as sale prices are falling.

Some in the industry blame country of origin labeling and foreign beef imports, but others say a number of factors can contribute to a drop in prices.

Recent drops in the market mean some ranchers are losing as much as 400 dollars per-head.

Energy and spirits are low that the Mitchell Livestock Auction house.

Officials in sale barns like this say cattle prices are hitting lows not experienced since 2009. This drop comes after a spike in late 2014.

Brian Hanson runs the Fort Pierre Livestock Auction house. He attributes low prices to an increase in imported beef from Brazil, and the removal of country of origin labeling.

Hanson says low cattle prices affect South Dakota communities, and those prices have dropped steadily over the last two years.

“When a rancher’s got some in his pocket, he’s going to spend some of it," Hanson says. "You take two years ago, $1,500 was a pretty common average. Now, last year, the market headed down. A thousand dollars would be a lot more common for an average last fall. And, I guess we haven’t gotten there yet, so I don’t know where it’s going to be this fall, but it darn sure looks like it going to be a little bit lower again.”

Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry, and farmers are also seeing a drop in some commodity prices with a larger than anticipated fall harvest. Silvia Christen is with the Stock Growers Association. She says there’s also a lot of beef on the market right now.

“We really are not 100 percent sure what’s causing the low prices," Christen says. "Certainly, we’ve seen the U.S. cattle herd expand a small amount, which is allowing more beef onto the market. But we really do feel that there’s a lot of concern happening with beef coming in from other countries and specifically beef coming in from Brazil is probably having some impact on that market.”

Christen says the drop in prices makes it hard for ranchers to grow their operations for next year.   Others in the industry question why beef prices in the supermarket remain steady when ranchers get less at sale barns.