For the past year almost every single sale catalogue or write up in the farming industry has talked about what a great time it is to be in the cattle industry. I’m not saying that isn’t true, but this has been coming for some time and we have reached a crucial juncture in the industry.
Older cattlemen are looking to retire and the number of newcomers is not offsetting that reduction so the producers are on a decline. The supply of cattle is falling into a twofold downward spiral in Canada: (1) the price remains high, and so the calf crop gets shipped, older cows come up open in the fall and fewer calves are born the following year; (2) the price remains high and these older cattlemen take advantage to either reduce their herd or disperse it entirely and fewer calves are born the following year.
If this continues the price of cattle will remain high for a fairly long period of time. This is giving cattlemen a false sense of security and, in my mind, could adversely affect quality due to culling practices. At Bradley Farms we cull heavily for structure (feet, legs, udders) and temperament. Luckily we have a really nice niche market for freezer beef which enabled us to cull every year regardless what the price of cattle was.
We historically did not sell a lot of bulls. There are a lot of elements that influenced that number, with none more important than we castrated everything we wouldn’t want to use ourselves. In recent years we have been castrating less because the quality of our cow herd has increased such that we are producing more good bulls on a consistent basis. This is very apparent in that in the past year we have sold more bulls than the prior three years combined.
This is where that crucial juncture comes in. For years Hereford breeders have been fighting tooth and nail to get back into commercial cattlemen’s yards due to the breeding decisions made in the 1990s. WE CAN NEVER GO BACK THERE!!!
With the price for stockers so high, now is not the time to keep mediocre animals because down the road, the supply of cattle will surely increase but we do not want the quality to decrease.
So to all the cattlemen reading this all I can say is even though the supply of animals, especially seedstock, is low we need to continue producing good ones only. If you wouldn’t use the animal in your own herd, nobody else should use it either so continue aggressively culling while the market is hot!
At Bradley Farms we are excited about our next generation being more and more involved in the farming activities, ALL activities and not just the showing. Everything from helping cut plastic on the silage pile to counting round bales need to be included in the farming activities.
As far as activities in 2015, the Bradleys are all very excited about attending Bonanza in Fredericton NB this July. We would love to have you stop by on your way through Eastern Ontario.