It’s not every day someone from the Corn Belt gets to talk serious farmer/rancher talk with a real, live Oklahoma rancher. Indiana Prairie Farmer got that chance recently. The rancher farms near El Reno in central Oklahoma. He had brought a trailer load of about 15 head of cattle to auction at the OKC West stockyards near Oklahoma City.
IPF: Do you always bring your cattle in this way?
Rancher: No, these are my last ones. We usually try to sell them in a "pot load." That means we bring in enough to fill a double-decker trailer load of cattle.
IPF: How did you overwinter your cattle?
Rancher: Our winters are milder here than near Indianapolis, where you guys live. We’re about 300 miles south of Indianapolis, so the weather tends to be milder most of the time. We plant wheat and then graze stocker cattle on wheat into March or so.
IPF: Doesn’t that hurt the wheat?
Rancher: People say it doesn’t. We typically pull them off of it in March. Our wheat makes about 45 to 60 bushels per acre.
IPF: So is this a good year for people who buy cattle small in the fall and raise them on wheat primarily?
Rancher: No, they dropped the cattle market on us. Prices are much lower than in the recent past. I heard of one rancher who stands to lose $300 per head, just because he paid a big price for them when they were smaller, and they are now, in some cases, selling for less than the rancher has at his disposal.
IPF: Is it good yet for cow-calf producers?
Rancher: It has been for several years, but not now. Prices for their calves are also lower, so they may not have a great year either.
IPF: Do you do other things besides cattle for income?
Rancher: Yes. My brother and I have a hay business. We have about 1,000 acres of alfalfa each year. We bale it in 3-by-4-foot bales, because they’re easier to handle and to ship. We get five to six cuttings a year down here.
IPF: Do you have a market for it?
Rancher: Yes. My family has had a relationship with a dairy farther south for decades. We’ve sold hay to the same people for over 20 years. It’s all about relationships.
IPF: So you have wheat, cattle and hay to sell?
Rancher: Yes, but the bottom has fallen out of the cattle market on feeders and such. At the same time, wheat prices are lower than they were. But we will make it. We just need to get through it.