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Beef calves seek new home

This year's calf market is about $100 a head higher than last year.

"A month ago it was about $150 a head higher, which is considerably better than last year. So it has been a pretty good year for producers," said Larry Schnell, president of Stockmen's Livestock Exchange in Dickinson.

About 4,000 calves were sold Thursday at Stockmen's Livestock Exchange in Dickinson.

Cattlemen typically sell calves in the fall just before winter, Schnell said. "The calves need to be weaned off the cow anyway and rather than feed them over the winter, producers sell them."

Calves that are sold usually go to feed lots and the buyers finish them, Schnell said. "Some females -- about 10 percent -- become replacements for ranches," Schnell said.

Scott Pippert, a cattleman from Sidney, Mont. said he sells calves to generate income.

"Our operation is not set up for feeding so we sell our calves and someone else feeds them," Pippert said.

Schnell said that most calves in Dickinson get sold to other states.

"Many go from South Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between," Schnell said.

He added that they have sold calves to eastern states like Illinois and Iowa as well.

"There are getting to be cattle fed in North Dakota, so we have seen more stick around here and Canada as well," Schnell said.

Peter Mesling, of Dickinson and NDSA feeder councilman said it takes experience to know what to look for in calves when buying.

"There are a lot of differences in breeds and cross breeds. Producers learn what to look for just by interacting with the cattle," Mesling said.

Each cattleman has a different view of what to look for because each feedlot does things differently.

One suggestion Mesling had for the sellers is to feed your calves out in the pasture while you are weaning them.

"That way they know how to eat. Which gives the next owner a lot less trouble. And when the buyers look for calves next year if they had a good experience with a certain cattleman's calves they are more likely to buy from that cattleman again," Mesling said.

Schnell says the fall calf sales will continue for a few more weeks in North Dakota.