Remember last winter? The mere phrase "polar vortex" still makes me a little twitchy. Endless days of kids home from school, calves born in sub-zero temps and colostrum thawing on the stove. It was the calving season we thought might never actually end and the one where we lost more calves in that single season than in the previous three years combined. A calf could be born inside a barn and still freeze to death in minutes. It was heartbreaking. And disheartening.
Fast forward 11 months to this past weekend and a toasty warm sale ring at the Fairview Sale Barn, for their Certified Angus Beef sale. Despite icy, raining conditions outside which certainly kept some buyers away, calves came in the ring and left for record high prices. Our own 2014 calf crop sold for prices we might never see again.
Indeed, 700- to 800-pound calves brought between $1,596 and $1,692 a head; 650- to 700-pound calves ranged from $1,537 to $1,675; and 600- to 650-pound calves brought between $1,440 and $1,675.
Not too shabby.
Our biggest group of steers brought $2.26 per pound, totaling more than $1,900 a head. They sold 1,600 head of cattle over six hours, with prices as strong at the end as they were at the beginning.
I'm not going to say it completely offset the pains of last winter, but it perhaps softened them a bit in our collective memories. The mood among the cattlemen was high. Put it this way: our 10-year-old son got to tag along with Dad and Grandpa for a sale barn lunch – "a ribeye and some Mt. Dew" – which he ate while watching a cattle sale, and he still wasn't the happiest guy there.
Bob Fidler runs the Fairview Sale Barn and observed that cattlemen are apparently increasing herd size, as steers far out-numbered heifer in the sale, and breeders were on hand buying those heifers.
That's a good sign for the beef industry, though you wonder how McDonalds can still sell a $1 cheeseburger.
Still. For people who've sold cattle for 60 and 70 cents a pound, as my husband did when he was just out of college, this was an awfully good day. Good for us and other cattle sellers, and good for the entire beef industry.
And should it be ridiculously cold when those baby calves start hitting the ground this year, we'll just have to remember this day. And warm up some more colostrum.