Paying attention can make a difference

The cattle market is sending you signs, are you picking them up? Putting them to use?

Doug Ferguson

July 16, 2021

4 Min Read
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Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer and BEEF magazine.vectorbomb-ThinkstockPhotos

When my daughter was four years old, we were feeding cattle one morning when I just stopped the tractor and sat there for a moment. At that age they get impatient or curious quickly and she asked why we stopped. I told her that sometimes you need to stop and really look at what it is you are looking at. I pointed out a heifer that was standing at the bunk in one of the pens we had just fed. She had her head through the neck rail but was not eating. With a couple hundred lined in this is easy to miss.

Later that morning we pulled that heifer and gave her a probiotic. That evening when we were feeding, she was at the bunk eating. I am certain that by taking that moment to really look at what we were looking at saved me a bunch of money in Draxxin the next day.

By taking that small amount of time and focusing on the cattle we just fed we reduced the job to the ridiculous. Had I missed that heifer and needed to give her good drugs the next day things would have been more complicated. I was focused on the three things cattle need. When we take care of that, problems do not usually happen.

Dry weather and the markets

Where I live it is getting dry, nowhere near as bad as other places, but it's getting to the point decisions need to be made. Some local sale barns are adding sales to their summer schedule. If I wasn’t paying attention, I would have missed one this week. If there are enough people needing to sell cattle, they may just throw the summer schedule out the window. If you’re not paying attention you may assume they are still selling every other week.

One thing is clear that people are not paying attention to market signals. I have seen more feeder bulls this year than any other time I can recall. I guess it's because a little over a year ago there wasn’t much discount for feeder bulls. Here’s the thing, we remember the past, we can’t predict the future, and we live in the present. We must deal with today. This week feeder bulls were 10 to 25 back of steers. With that kind of discount they are leaving some good money on the table. It would not take many head to pay for the castration tools.

Another thing people are overlooking is the discount for unweaned cattle. This week it was 10-35 back. Again this is some serious money. Nobody wants to wean calves in this heat, humidity, and dust.

Another thing that I noticed is the local price paid for pairs was less than if they would’ve split them. The sellers were not there to represent their cattle. They unloaded pairs so the stockyard sold them as pairs. Had they been sitting there and paying attention they could’ve stopped the auctioneer and told them to split 'em up. Their check would’ve been a little bigger.

Observation offers rewards

I talked to another guy who wasn’t paying attention this week. He told me it was cheaper to dry lot his cows than to pay pasture rent. He thought hay was worth $60/ton. It’s worth more than double that, making the pasture rent a much cheaper option.

I hear things all the time about the market being a ruthlessly brutal dictator, or that people don’t need to go to Vegas because they gamble every day the board opens. Some say they’re up a creek without a paddle. The market tries to help us, we must be patient and wait for it to get to us. We have to go with the flow. When you sit on a tube and just float down that creek you don’t need a paddle. Just utilize the market and take what it graciously gives, when it's ready to give.

The Value Gain remained steady this week. Just like I wrote last week this is good for cow/calf and stocker operations. The market is paying to put weight on up to 900 pounds. Fats are undervalued once again. The geographical spreads are still there, but they got squeezed a bit this week.

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Note: You can get personal insight from Doug Ferguson at Husker Harvest Days, September 14-16 in Grand Island, Neb. Mr. Cattlemaster will be speaking each day at 11 a.m. in the livestock demonstration area on the northwest side of the show lot. It's your chance to meet him and get insights on his sell/buy approach in person. Make plans to attend.

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