Bull, beef industry prices are up nationwide

recessionbusters-headerWhile droughts in 2011 and 2012 decreased cattle herds across the country, the beef industry is now enjoying an increase in demand and price—particularly prices for breeding bulls.

“In 2011 and 2012, cow herds were smaller, and feeder cattle prices increased in the wake of the drought. However, demand for beef did not decrease, so prices went up,” explained Robert Harper, who owns cow-calf operations in Goochland and Powhatan counties and is a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

The drought created a ripple effect across the beef industry, Harper said. “Due to the demand for beef and the smaller size of beef cattle herds in the United States, we’ve seen an uptick in the value of breeding bulls. Seed stock producers are seeing an increase in price when selling their bulls, from 20 to 40 percent depending on their location and reputation.”

Harper said the higher price of feeder cattle and good amounts of rainfall to grow pastures and hay since 2013 have encouraged cow-calf operations to add more cows, creating a need for more bulls and driving prices even higher.

“There’s an increase in value and demand. Typically a farmer will use one mature bull to breed 25 cows in a 60-day breeding season. If everyone needs one more bull per every additional 25 cattle they add to their herd, that’s a lot of bulls.”

There are 30.5 million beef cattle in the United States, an increase of 3 percent from July 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s cattle inventory report. As of Jan. 1, Virginia farms held 637,000 beef cattle.

“Virginia has ideal temperatures, rainfall and a variety of forages in pasture,” he said. “The infrastructure is really great too. There’s a lot of great support and research available through Virginia Cooperative Extension, and we have a super private industry sector of equipment dealers, nutritionists and genetic providers to help, and excellent large animal vets. Virginia also is accessible to a lot of great markets for selling cattle, and Virginia cattle are liked nationwide.”

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