Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Signs of life at the auction

I've been looking at auctions in my area, and to tell you the truth the information they provide isn't very useful.  What I'm after is what a fair price for an animal is -- what the market price is.  Some of the local auctions list "auction results", but what they're reporting on their website isn't really accurate. 

This particular auction claimed that weaner pigs (10-20lbs) were selling for $15-30.  In the auction I attended, there were only two weaner pigs sold, and they sold for $60 each.  The next week the auction site listed weaner pigs going for $45-75.   

When an animal (or group of animals) is auctioned, they are weighed prior to entering the show area.  The picture above shows a couple of calves in the show area.  While they're there their weight is displayed above.  In the case of a group of animals, the total weight is displayed, and the average.  So if they're going to auction 10 lambs, you'll see on the display something like "10 74 740" indicating that there are 10 animals in this lot, they weigh 740lbs total, and the average per animal is 74lbs. 

They're sold either by the head or by the CWT, which is a fancy way of saying by the hundred pounds.  Every now and then they'll just do a straight bid for a group of animals just to mix things up. 

The signs of life that I'm referring to were what people were buying.   All sorts of animals show up at these auctions; animals from farms that are shutting down, surplus animals, animals that are culls for one reason or another and so on.   One class of animals are those that you'd use to build  your farm.  these are sometimes referred to as "feeder" stock, as "feeder pig" or "feeder lamb".  They're too small for immediate consumption, but with a few months of feed you could either keep them and breed them, or take them to market. 

Farmers raising animals for consumption have to think about what people are going to eat a year or two in advance.  It takes that long to come up with a cow for beef.  It takes most of a year to come up with a good pig.  chickens are faster -- don't have to plan much in advance since you bring them to market in 2 months, but you do have to do some planning. 

The prices of (and the interest in) feeder stock is high right now.  farmers are betting that a year or two from now the market will be good for meat animals.  I noticed this particularly with dairy goats, dairy cattle and feeder stock of various species. 

So animal farmers, at least in Washington state, are betting that the market for animals will be better in a year or so.  You heard it here, first!

Prices at the auction: 
  Black faced lambs, 75lb average, $1.18/lb = $88.5 each
  Black faced lambs, 40lb average, $1.18/lb = $47.2 each
  Cull ewes, 100lb average, $30 each in quantity 20
  Meat goats, 120lb average, $150
  Pygmy goat kids, $27.5 each
  Feeder pigs, 70lb average, $130
  Weaner pigs, $60 each
  Started holstein bull calves (castrated, 250-300lb) $150
  Beef calves (300lb) $200-300
  Feeder steers (600lb) $500-700



Anonymous said...

Prices are also dependent on what markets are opening up. For instance, news might come out that Japan is going to open it's market to buy more American beef or China for American pork.

Dean Smith said...

I remember my dad listening every morning at 6 am for the stock market reports from WLS radio in Chicago. Very important information for a farmer. They gave both the previous day's stock yard prices but also the futures, of which there is an active trade in the mid-west.

Out here, the market is too small to have much statistical significance. Witness the variation on feeder pig prices. Here we just play at farming.