Beef on the auction block; sale outlook positive
All indicators from local cattle handlers are that bull sales, which were good this year, will continue into the new year.
Tony Stroh, owner of Stroh Herefords Ranch in Killdeer, said that last year the average 2-year-old bull sold for about $3,800, and he is crossing his fingers that the trend continues.
"That was the best we had done for quite a while," he said. "And this year's prices seem to be pretty close to last year's prices for bulls. But I would have thought that the prices might be lower because of the drought conditions we had over the summer, but I haven't really seen the process go down."
Having been in the cattle business for more than six decades, Stroh raises 100 cattle on his farm, which is a few miles outside of Killdeer.
He said his son, Mike, who lives in Manning, also has a herd of about 100 cattle and has farmed with Stroh since he graduated from college.
"I did cattle sales in the '70s, then I quit for a while," he said. "About 10 years ago, my son came back from college and I got back into bull sales, and we've been having them for the last 10 years been having them again."
Stroh and his son have run cattle sales themselves for about the last 15 years, selling to producers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
Stroh said he sells mostly bulls and a few bred heifers these days, but his interest in the animals first peaked when he was a member of 4-H growing up and started raising purebred heifers.
Taking cues from lessons learned during his time as a 4-H'er and from the real world experiences he has had over the last 62 years in the cattle business, Stroh said when he attends sales, he looks for bulls that have particular qualities that indicate the animal is both the proper weight and soundness.
"I don't want them to be overly fat, but I need them to still be in good condition," Stroh said about the processes he takes in examining a bull to determine if would make a good fit for his herd. "I guess you could say eye appeal matters to me when I am purchasing bulls."
Bowman Auction Market will start bull sales after the first of the year, and Harry Kerr, who has owned the Auction Market for eight years, expects sales to be positive in the coming year.
"The sales should be good because there are always people who need good bulls for their farms," he said. "And the calf market looks good, so that should lead to a good bull market too."
Kerr said bull sales will vary by year, but he expects 2013 to be similar to 2012 bull sales, which he said were excellent.
"Even with the drought we experienced over the summer, there are people who are still going to need bulls, so people will be out when sales start," he said.
Even with a booming market, North Dakota Angus Association President Pete Best, Watford City, said buyers of bulls are still selective in their choices.
"Buyers really vary by person and by ranch," he said. "If a seller is one that people want to buy bulls from, then the sales are likely to be strong. But no matter what the price is, if the bulls are not the right quality or match for a particular buyer, then the price simply won't be good enough."