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Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer.

Cattle can add richness to our lives

Richness is not necessarily the same thing as riches.

Every week I try to share some ideas for generating profit. This week I want to talk about some of the ways the cattle business adds richness to our lives. Sometimes people get so upset about prices, like they are currently, that they tend to overlook some of the benefits we can’t put a price on. These will be different for everybody, and all I can really do is share some of my personal experiences.

Everybody who has come into my life has been a result of the cattle business, at least until my daughter was born. The day I met my wife, and all my closest friends were all a result of being in the cattle business. I have met many people from different countries as well. The past two years I had the privilege of meeting with some Australian ranchers that were touring the US. They have invited me to travel over there. I think I’ll take them up on it. What an experience that will be, and to be able to share that with my wife and daughter will be amazing. All has been a result of my passion for cattle.

A friend of mine once said, “We are in the business of raising kids. The cattle are just here to teach the lessons.” When he told me that I had no idea how spot on he was. I have so many things at my disposal to help teach my daughter things, and they are things people in town can’t even come close to.

I have a flexible schedule. I can start when I want in the morning, and quit when I want. When my kid has an activity I can just go, even if it's in the middle of the day. People with a real job can’t do that.

I have bought cattle from many parts of the country. I sometimes travel to those areas. The culture changes in different parts of the US. I have brought my wife and daughter along on some of those trips. So my little girl has gotten to see different parts of the country and experience the culture changes.

Speaking of travel, as a result of my passion for cattle I’ve gotten to travel to China and South Korea. I’ve been to Washington, D.C. to lobby on behalf of cattle producers. Who would have ever thought you could have those kinds of experiences because you like cows?

I have had people come up to me and tell me how my business has benefited them. I once bought some calves in a sale barn, and a young man come up to me and thanked me for buying his calves. To me they were just cheap cattle to put on my load. To him it really made a difference. He told me I didn’t understand. When I walked outside to make a phone call I saw him get in his car and a young woman was sitting in it feeding a baby. Because of my bids he probably only got an extra $40, but it meant a lot to him. I’ve even had a truck driver who was struggling tell me that the loads I gave him every month is what helped him barely cover his living expenses. Folks, our businesses help people in more ways that we realize.

There was a little girl near where I live who had a brain tumor. A woman in the community wanted to put on a benefit to help cover medical expenses. She had no idea where to start. I told my wife to message her and tell her that we’d donate hamburger out of a fat heifer I had on the place at the time. That woman pulled off a great event. These cattle we raise are here to make our lives better. The life of that heifer played a small part in making things easier for that family.

I consider it a great privilege to write this blog. The knowledge I am able to share here was given to me by other people. It is very humbling to think of how this knowledge and energy flows through me onto this platform, and how it might affect people I’ve never met. I sincerely hope that you who read this blog will be inspired, and as blessed as I have been.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I hope this reminds you all how truly rich you are.

This week four-weights gained some friends. These new friends eroded the value of gain on them. The best value of gain was on cattle that weighed 500 to 800 pounds. And this value of gain is very attractive when we compare it to the cost of gain. Once again this week there was a significant roll-back from steers to heifers. I realize due to crazy weather this year that feed is tight in some places. It may be worth considering buying some feed to wean and background your calves.

Unweaned calves were $2-10 back this week, feeder bulls were $20 back. I don’t feel that any of the Southern markets had enough cattle this week to make a fair comparison.

Female sale season is now in full swing. I always expect to be surprised when watching these sales. People tend to be much more emotional when buying bred stock, and I think that is what causes the volatility of these sales. The female sales I saw this week didn’t disappoint, and they surprised me. The sales were rather flat, meaning the prices didn’t have huge swings up and down.

Most of the price fluctuation I saw was reflective of type, calving date, what they were bred to, and condition. The best sellers were the fancy black heifers that were AI bred, which is no surprise. Smaller-framed females took a discount, and females with a little bloom on them sold a little better. The discount for later calving females seemed to mirror the cost of carrying them out until they calve. This surprised me because they usually get hammered this time of year.

First-calf AI-bred heifers were a bit over-valued when compared to anything (open heifers, bred cows and pairs.) A solid-mouth bred cow has roughly the same value as a solid mouth pair. Pairs with big calves sold roughly $200 higher than pairs with smaller calves. The value of pairs was slightly above weigh-up value.

Black baldies had a premium compared to solid blacks. Here’s the funny thing about that. A black female mated to a Hereford sire sold at a steep discount. I firmly believe we should plan the mating to match what buyers want. Buyers want baldy cattle, but don’t want cattle bred to Hereford? If one of you knows how that works let me know.

As the age of the cows got older the price slid down as well, but it was a steady decline which seemed to mirror depreciation. I find this odd because usually the older cows can carry a steep discount.

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