The decline in feeder cattle prices that began last fall has picked up the pace, according to those involved in the industry.
Bill Mathias, manager of Herington Livestock Auction, reported an 800- to 850-pound steer brought $1.37 to $1.45 per pound last week, depending on its condition. That compares with $1.80 to $1.86 for the same size animal the first week of November.
Gary Suderman of Hillsboro, a salesman for the auction, said he thinks a glut of imported, low-quality meat is bringing the price down.
He acknowledged the price may have been artificially high in the past, but he also is concerned that the increase in the number of cattle is not as significant as the downswing in market prices.
Suderman, who raises cattle himself, said every cattle producer is affected, whether he has 30 or 1,000 head.
“Nobody is left out,” he said. “Every market change affects what happens in our sale barn. Sellers watch the market hour by hour and hope for an upswing when deciding to sell.”
Greg Carlson of Carlsons’ Grocery in Marion said he has seen minimal decreases in the price of beef at the wholesale level.
“My father-in-law, Bill Robinson, raises cattle,” Carlson said. “That’s all he does. He is on my tail all the time about beef prices at the store.”
He noted that grocers don’t control the price of meat. He said beef packers who process the meat dictate what the price will be for various cuts. Hamburger specials have been good the past two weeks, he said, lower than in the recent past, but on Friday the wholesale price for ground beef went up.
Wholesale round steak went down 21 cents a pound in the past two weeks, which may be an indication retail beef prices may be headed lower, Carlson said.
Mathias is concerned that some young farmers may go broke. He said they got into the business when cattle and grain prices were high, and some even received subsidies on their grass.
“It was a gravy train,” he said. “Cattle were too high, and now there is less demand, a lower economy, and an overseas market that is not nearly as good because the dollar is stronger.
“The wholesaler and middlemen are making the money, and the general public is being cheated.”