Farmer Focus: 250,000gns heifer worth fat price in US

We are in the middle of seedstock sale season here in the US. 

Last month’s cold blast delayed most sale preparation work for two weeks. Video shooting and catalogue layouts are behind, which is stressful to say the least. 

Prices have improved this year, not because fundamentals have changed much, but agricultural producers got a little government relief for Covid and, if a farmer has cash, they will spend it.

See also: How US Angus breeder makes more beef from smaller cows

I am fascinated by purebred auction values. I bought a bull from North Dakota a few weeks ago and gave $9,000 (£6,500). I sincerely believe his value is closer to $35,000-$40,000 (£25,300-£28,900).

The seller was disappointed that he “slipped through the cracks” as well.

Meanwhile, a black bull sold for $900,000 (£650,000) in Nebraska. The buyer and I value leg structure differently, I guess.

My favourite is the English heifer, Posh Spice, which sold at Carlisle in February for 250,000gns. She even made the news over here. 

The dichotomy of the market structure of the US and UK is on full display. I want to be very clear – the markets are very different.

I don’t want to be seen as disparaging the breeder or the buyer, I’m sure they are all fine people and should be proud of their animals. 

I sent her picture to a couple of purebred breeders and cattle buyers in Kansas, and we tried to guess what she would be worth here.

The consensus was an animal like that shouldn’t be bred and would be destined for slaughter. 

From there the market value was cussed and discussed. It was thought that marbling would be poor in such an animal and high feed intake would be a problem in the face of expensive corn.

We concluded she would be sold at a discounted beef price of about 70p/kg.

This shows how different the US Department of Agriculture meat-grading system is to the Europ grid. We thought she would grade at “Choice”, which is 10p/kg below “Select” and would be £100 a head or more behind “Prime” – the most marbled.

Anyone in the UK who managed to watch us try to sell 200 bulls and 220 heifers at recently may have been able to have a good laugh at the livestock being purchased in the US in 2021. But it’s what works here. 

Daniel Mushrush is a Farmer Focus writer from Kansas. Read his biography.