The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 17, 2013

S.D. cattle deaths unlikely to hike prices

Minnesota cattle producers expanding rapidly

The unexpected blizzard that hit South Dakota and killed cattle was devastating to ranchers there but is unlikely to affect consumer prices for beef. And those ranchers’ misfortune will likely benefit many Minnesota producers who raise calves and breeding stock that will be in demand by South Dakota ranchers.

The number of cattle lost in the Oct. 4 blizzard is unknown, with estimates ranging from 20,000 to more than 150,000. With 3-5 feet of snow that began to melt, followed by more snow last weekend, ranchers are just beginning to get to the remote ravines and hills where cows perished. The state has about 6 million head of cattle.

Whatever the final number, the chair of the Minnesota Beef Council board of directors said it’s unlikely to raise prices.

“If you put it in perspective, during the drought in the summer of 2012 in Texas, they sold off 600,000 head,” Mark Malecek said. “I’m not underestimating how it affected those ranchers — the younger producers are going to be hurt the worst — but it’s not going have much effect.”

Dennis Wick, owner of Hilltop Meat Market in Mankato, hasn’t seen any price increases so far for cattle he buys. “The price hasn’t changed recently at all.”

And while beef, pork and other prices did spike in the summer of 2012 because of drought and high feed prices, Wick said the increases weren’t as big as many predicted.

“Beef has stood at the same price from last summer to this summer — $2 a pound hanging or $1.10 to $1.20 for live weight.”

Wick made a call to his buffalo supplier in Rapid City this week to see how bison fared in the storm. The more hardy animals apparently did well.

“He said some people lost a few, but he didn’t hear of many.”

Malecek, who raises cattle near Redwood Falls, said the cattle business in southwest and western Minnesota and the Dakotas is in a revival, with packers expanding plants, new herds being started and existing producers expanding.

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