Ranchers ride out tough bull market

Economic woes reach beyond Wall Street, even down country roads to bull sales.

The average price of Angus bulls at the National Western Stock Show jumped from $8,522 in 2007 to more than $15,000 in 2008, but the number of bulls that were sold dropped from 34 lots in 2007 to 16 in ’08. By the next year, when stocks, housing and confidence crumbled, too, the average price on 19 bulls dropped more than $2,000 to $13,015.

On Jan. 14, 32 bulls sold for an average of $5,703 at the stock show.

Across the West, many bull producers took no-sales, instead of selling below their cost of production.

“Last year was the first time I saw guys who needed five bulls do something different. They tested them, kept two and bought three,” says Bryan Massard of Reminisce Angus.

Bryan and his wife, Marcia, custom- background calves and raise purebred Angus cattle near Dillon, Mont.

Yet, the Massards see a silver lining in those dark economic clouds: Cattle producers are seeing bargain buys on better genetics.

Key Points

• Economic woes depress average prices for bulls.

• Cattle producers are seeing bargain buys on better genetics.

• Knowing how to get quality to your buyers plays a valuable role.

Budget bulls

“Especially on the lower end of the pricing scale — $1500 to $2,000 — customers can keep within those budgets and buy better bulls. They can really make some genetic strides. Today is opportunity day for them,” Bryan says.

Customers who want high-end bulls are not paying more either.

“Not as many bulls are selling for more than $4,000, but a lot more are selling for $2,500. The bottom is catching up,” says Bryan.

As the competition for customers heats up, successful bull producers offer more than just a bull.

“In the last two years, I’ve seen a big increase in the number of buyers who ask me to pick their bulls for them,” says Bryan, who sells about 85 bulls each year.

“My biggest customer service job is knowing my buyers, knowing what they need and finding the best value for them,” he adds.

The Massards reach beyond the bull ring for their customers, too.

Each week, Bryan and Marcia buy one-minute radio spots and talk about how agriculture benefits society. They touch on topics from health care to hunting on private land.

“I’m amazed, even in Dillon, Mont., how many people don’t understand what agriculture does for them,” says Marcia. “I’m tired of being the bad guy.”

“It’s our plug for society,” Bryan points out.

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LABOR FORCE: Bryan and Marcia Massard, along with their son and daughter, Silas and Talitha, work hard to offer efficient bulls for their customers. “The economy has forced our customers to pay attention to the numbers that we’ve been talking about for 10 years,” Bryan says.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.