This past weekend our family went to the Missouri Dexter Cattle Association Sale in Marshfield Missouri. The purpose of our trip was to judge this sale as a future market for our registered Dexter cattle. While this post will be mostly about Dexter cattle I will give my thoughts as we prepare to start marketing our first cattle after five years of raising them. Be prepared for a lot of conjecture and just plain out guessing.
In order to take advantage of the MDCA sale some conditions must be met. This isn’t a normal cattle sale, all cattle sold in this sale must be halter broke. If you are like me and accustomed to regular cattle sales there is a lot going on differently here. The Dexters are not sold by weight, weight isn’t even stated for most cattle going through the sale. The animals are walked out on a halter in front of the auction attendees and bidding begins. All Dexters sold in the sale must be ADCA registered. Bulls are limited at a ratio of 1 to 3 and are required to have a trich test or virgin bull certification. The commission for the sale is 5%, sellers are also allowed to decide not to sell if the price isn’t to their satisfaction. The No Sale fee is $25 or 5% of the bid whichever is lowest if you decide not to sell to the highest bid.
There were 35 head in the sale. Three bulls, one steer, one cow, one cow calf pair and 29 heifers. The average sale price for the heifers was $1585. If you go with the system of throwing out the top ten percent and bottom ten percent (3 each) you would come out with an average sale price of $1493 which I feel is a better representation of what to expect. The sale price varied by a wide margin, the lowest heifer went for $900 and the highest went for $3000. I couldn’t tell a good reason for that great of a difference in price.
The steer went for $900 and the bulls went for $850, $1150 and $1500. There were not very many bulls for sale and they did not sell as well as I would have imagined. At the bottom of this post will be a picture and price for every Dexter at the sale that was taken from the flyer at the sale. I think this will give a good idea on what to expect at the sale. I wrote on each Dexter the sale price and if the seller decided not to sell I marked No Sale but I still wrote the last bid amount.
Since acquiring my Dexter herd in 2012 I have been building the herd. This will be the first year I have some cattle for sale and this will also be the first year I will have Dexter Beef for sale. I will only be offering Bulls and Steers for sale until 2020 when I hope to reach 50 cows and can then start selling an occasional heifer.
In order to come up with a sale price I had to come up with a value for my cattle. That is why I attended the MDCA sale. The majority of my herd is not registered however. These unregistered Dexter’s cannot be sold through this sale. I have gleaned the internet trying to come up with what a Dexter steers value in beef is in order to figure a value for the whole animal. Heifers of course are usually more valuable as breeding stock than burger, so my focus has been on finding a value for my steers.
In addition to Dexters I also have other breeds of cattle, and they are the first ones in line for the butcher. I will have several steers ready for butcher this year, but don’t have much first hand information so I did the best I could. We have only butchered one Dexter so far and didn’t get proper weights on him and he was also butchered early due to attitude.
Figuring the value of an Angus or other commercial breed is pretty easy. Currently the market price for a live feeder steer is $1.20-$1.58 a pound at the local livestock market (New Cambria Livestock Market, acquired from their market report). If you placed the same value on a Dexter steer a young weaned steer at 300lbs would run around $400. Problem is you will never get that at a regular livestock auction as the buyers are not looking for Dexter’s and you will take a big hit on the average sale price usually. Also you must consider future potential as that steer is hopefully only going to get bigger.
From averaging the rough figures I have gleaned from the internet I am guessing my Dexter steers will have a 400lb hanging weight. The hanging weight is not the finished product however. To get that figure I even had less samples and who knows how accurate any of my samples are anyway. Many people include bones and organ meats in their finished product and I want just the easier to sell meat cuts, steak and burger. The best I could figure is 65% of the hanging weight so for my example 260lbs of meat from the 400lb hanging weight. Figuring a value on this meat was again a shot in the dark but I figured a safe value would be $4 a pound or $1040.
The value of the meat however is not the profit potential. You still have to take the price to get that meat to market. The butcher I am going to use charges a flat $50 kill fee and $.50 a pound based on the hanging weight for a total of $250. So that drops my profit potential to $790.
The $790 dollars isn’t yet profit however as I had to house that steer for two years and feed him two winters. On average my Dexter’s eat half a square bale a day or 45 bales a year. I produce all my own hay and last time I calculated my cost it ran $.15 a square bale. There is however a lot of labor involved in that bale as well as intangible wear and tear, parts etc. There is also the market potential of that bale which would sell for $3.50 if I didn’t use it myself. I usually feed my stock the lower quality hay that I wouldn’t want to sell so I decided to value this hay at $2 a bale. So two years of feed will have to come off this sale price. $180 to feed this steer drops my best guess steer profit potential to $610.
There is a lot of intangibles or hard to quantify costs and benefits with raising cattle. In this example I didn’t include the cost of acquiring my land, taxes, fuel, trailer & truck expenses, infrastructure like fences and corrals. I could add many more items to this list. I also left out the value of having home grown beef, the experience, the added value to my property by being grazed properly, and the sale of some incidentals from the butcher process to the profit side. I figure these are very hard to figure and probably even out.
You can see why a lot of people will claim there is no profit to be had in cattle. If you are buying newer equipment, expensive land and importing your hay it would be very hard indeed to make a profit. Since providing my hay makes enough excess to pay for the whole operation I have been running in the black or maybe a tad in the red even though I have not sold a single head of cattle. I look forward to cattle becoming a fourth leg of income for me in the future. You have to play for the long run as it has been years in the making and I am only half way there.
Running this thought experiment clearly shows the best profit can be gleaned from selling registered breeding stock. Prices will likely be very different in areas outside my rural area. Markets in urban areas are much more expensive, but of course land close to those areas will also be more expensive not to mention all those city slickers you would have to tolerate. In the end lots of things even out, my lower prices are part of the territory in a rural area with cheaper land price, lower taxes and less people. I wouldn’t trade, money isn’t everything.
With a better idea on the value of my cattle I decided to price young steers at $650. Registered bulls will run about double that. After I keep the steer overwinter the price will of course increase or I will keep him all the way to the end and try my hand at selling beef. Checkout the for sale page for the current cattle I have for sale. If nothing is listed on the For Sale Page then I am sold out, but you can feel free to contact me if you would like to be on a waiting list for a steer or registered bull.
Here are the Dexter’s sold at the MDCA Sale in 2016: