Ranchers take hit on cattle prices

Prices at the auction floor for calves declined by as much as one-third compared to last year

By Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

After several years of enjoying steeply rising prices, ranchers who brought cattle to market this spring took an unexpected cut in early-season profit.

Kevin Boon, general manager of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, said prices received by ranchers at the auction floor for calves declined by as much as one-third compared to last year.

“They’ve dropped off significantly,” he said.

The spring market pales in comparison to the key season for ranchers selling calves. Animals brought to auction this spring were overwintered — typically underweight animals ranchers fed over the winter season in hopes of increasing weight for spring. The vast majority of calves in the Kamloops region go to market beginning in August and peaking in October, when they are brought off the range.

Boon attributed the falling prices in part to shock in the oil and gas market, while an uncertain global economic outlook has also contributed to the drop.

“With the drop in oil and gas, the disposable income isn’t there — they’re not buying our product,” he said.

The sharp drop comes after a multi-year run of higher prices resulting in record highs each year.

Boon said well-managed ranches will remain profitable with cattle prices at these levels, while a Canadian dollar trading in the 76-cent range also helps ranchers in this country as about half of Canadian cattle is exported to other markets.