KOTA Territory ranchers struggling with low cattle prices - KOTA Territory News

KOTA Territory ranchers struggling with low cattle prices

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Cattle prices are in free fall and KOTA Territory ranchers are feeling the effects.

The St. Onge Livestock Sale usually brings plenty of smiles to rancher Robert Rusley, but due to dropping feeder cattle prices, Rusley's herd sold for much less than usual Friday.

"They only bring in $1.32 today, which is about $10 off of what they should have brought," said Rusley.

"There's no sign it's going to stop.  And primarily the cost of feed has increased dramatically in recent years," said South Dakota State University Extension Specialist Ken Olson.

In addition to dealing with higher insurance and feed prices, Rusley expects revenues from his cattle sales to drop by 20 percent this year.

"If we don't get some moisture by April 1 or even May 30, we're going to have to cut out herd in half," said Rusley.

Unfortunately for Rusley, buyers can tell when cattle are unable to get their normal nutrition.

"There's a reason they're paying less.  It's because the finished product, the fat steer, the fat heifer they sell is worth less," said cattle buyer Clint Ridley.

But buyers also aren't bidding top dollar because the supermarket is selling less beef.

"Beef demand is just kind of stagnant right at the moment," said Ridley.

"The big driver simply is that the economy is not very strong and people are choosing not to buy beef," said Olson.

Rusley and other ranchers would get a nice boost if people simply started buying more beef.

"If beef demand were to go up, fat cattle prices go up.  If fat cattle prices go up, then feeder cattle prices go up," said Ridley.

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