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Southeast: Eastern challenges of low feeder prices and cheap bulls

Jason Duggin for Progressive Cattle Published on 22 November 2019

Challenges? Everyone’s got them. We certainly have them in the Southeast. Before covering the challenges, let’s mention some of the positives of cattle production in our region.

One blessing we have in the Southeast is the ability to grow grass, typically. Managing pastures correctly in our region allows for a greater stocking density and more pounds per acre weaned as compared to the more arid pasturelands of the West. “Grass grows grass” is a helpful phrase the UGA Forages Team often mentions when discussing soil fertility, grazing and forage harvesting. Also, our proximity to metropolitan areas is often considered negative, but it can be positive for those marketing local and or niche beef through farmers’ markets, freezer beef and restaurants.

Regarding challenges unique to the East, you battle them year in and year out, but for discussion’s sake, here are a few: low feeder prices, cheap bulls, shipping cost to feedlots, land values, humidity, mud and toxic fescue. Let’s discuss a couple of these.

Historically, commercial cattlemen have struggled to find premium markets for feeder calves. This isn’t to say some haven’t found them but, as a whole, most have been frustrated by the process or a lack of good marketing options. Markets for preconditioned load lots and commingled load lots are very much on the rise.

Some states have organized these sales through cattlemen’s organizations and government entities. Others have been fortunate to have sale barns that take the lead in promoting reputation-backed protocols. Getting premiums not only includes sound health and weaning protocols but also the recordkeeping and animal I.D. for export markets. With those key components in place, the calf crop needs overall stoutness and top-notch carcass merit, which brings us to the next point.

Cheap bulls – it’s tempting to purchase the low-cost bull in hopes of getting by, but quality bulls should bring significantly more. Bull buyers in the Plains states realize this and go seeking after the best bull they can buy. A $5,000 bull west of the Mississippi is very common. Cheap bulls bring cheap results. Quality bulls improve both genetics and the perception of buyers. Bull purchasing decisions based on targeted outcomes brings it all together.

For three-and-a-half years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to write this regional update for such a great publication. Many thanks and all the best to you and yours.  end mark

Jason Duggin
  • Jason Duggin

  • Beef Extension Specialist
  • University of Georgia
  • Email Jason Duggin