By Matt Hunter
While most ranchers at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo will say declining cattle prices nationwide are evidence the industry is feeling the effects of the recession, there's certainly no feeling of panic here. The hope is those prices will actually encourage prospective buyers to spend.
"We're just looking," said TJ Gabriel, a rancher from Midland. "If something catches our eye we may buy it, but we're just looking today."
At the Stock Show Angus Sale, cattle ranchers hope to turn prospective buyers into buyers.
"I think a lot of people are playing it safe," said Brandon Mitchell, a rancher from Kadoka looking to sell a heifer. "If everything kind of turned around, the prices stayed a little lower, I think that would drive more people to be interested to buy."
Early on, prices are holding steady from year. That's good news for people looking to spend.
"We paid a decent price for him," said Clay Marchant, a rancher from Aladdin, Wyoming who bought a bull on Monday. "We're pretty happy with what we got."
"This is going to be a buyers' market probably this year," Gabriel said.
Sellers on the other hand would like to bring in a higher profit. Bulls are averaging about $3,500 a head, while heifer calves are going for $2,600. Both are only slight increases.
"There's definitely been an economic impact," said Nate Frederickson, a consigner. "I think it's almost a scare that's put a downtrend on cattle prices here in the last six months."
Frederickson says a declining demand for expensive cuts of meat due to the poor economy is driving cattle prices down. The good news is high quality stock will sell regardless of the price.
"The quality is exceptional here," Gabriel said. "The bulls and heifers are probably one of the best sets we've had here."
While that quality beef may not draw the same high prices from years past, buyers say it's nice to find a deal when times are tough.
"We've got to buy the bull or the product anyway to keep our end of the business going," Marchant said. "So obviously if you lower your input cost, it helps at the end when your output costs are higher."While the official numbers indicate a slight increase in prices, many buyers at the Stock Show say they've actually gotten much better deals than expected, because the Stock Show is usually a sellers' market.