Higher costs equal smaller cattle herds
High costs are one reason many South Dakota cattle raisers are managing smaller herds, an ag official and a rancher say.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the 225,000 cattle on feed in April was unchanged from a year ago in South Dakota.
But Marshall County Extension educator Tyler Melroe said USDA numbers from earlier in the year show the number of beef cattle cows and heifers for replacement were down 2 percent both in South Dakota and nationwide. Melroe said it's a considerable figure when the number are crunched.
And the USDA says the number of cattle on feed nationwide at the start of the year was down 7 percent from 2008.
Melroe says lower overall numbers are due to higher feed costs, higher pasture rental rates and higher input costs.
Bruce Durheim, who raises red Angus north of Frederick, said the pasture rates and feed costs are especially noticeable. He said it's part of the reason his herd is 130 head this year, compared to 170 a year ago.
Durheim said other cattle raisers have smaller herds these days as well.
"Inputs are going up, and the money we get for them is going down," Durheim said.
Aberdeen grocer Brad Scoular says he has not noticed any less beef being sold. He credits geography for the constant consumption, saying Midwesterners are beef-eaters.
Beef prices are starting to rise as they do each spring when the demand increases with the grilling season, Scoular said.
Melroe said market prices for cattle are increasing a bit as well.
Durheim agrees market prices are up but that the price he is offered for his cattle, which are sold directly to packers, is significantly lower than two or three years ago.