Livestock auctions busy as producers downsize herds due to drought

Local News

Many ranchers across the state have culled their herds due to one of the driest years on record.

It’s been a busy summer for livestock auctions across the state, but going forward, numbers might be down.

Napoleon Livestock normally has one sale every two weeks, but this year, that doubled to one auction per week as a result of ranchers parting with more livestock.

Jim Bitz, co-owner Napoleon Livestock, said, “Typically even summers that we go every other week, we probably get 500 head a week. Where, we went every week throughout the summer, taking the Fourth of July week off. And we probably [sold] a thousand to 1,500 head a week, and the bulk of them would be cows.”

Other livestock included in the sales are horses, steers, bulls, and heifers.

“I’ve owned the barn 27 years, I can’t remember a time where we went every week over the summer in that period,” said Bitz.

The beginning of fall is typically when business picks up for the livestock auctions, as calves are weened from their mothers, but this could have impacts going in to next year.

“If you had 200 cows, and you sold off 40 of your oldest cows, well next year you only have 160 calves to sell. You know, my dad used to say if you sell the goose, you don’t get to sell the eggs,” said Bitz.

As of June, there have been over 765,000 head sold in auctions throughout the state, compared to just over 673,000 over the same time period last year.

Brand inspections have also increased by 18%.

Rugby has seen the largest increase increase in brand inspections, with over a 60% increase.
Bitz says the drought can affect you, the consumer, with price increases, but that cattle producers may not get more money for their livestock.

“Unfortunately for us people in the cattle industry, we’re not gonna benefit from it because there’s too much concentration in the packing industry. So the packer is making a lot of money, but us guys in the cattle industry aren’t,” said Bitz.

As we head into the colder months, ranchers are gearing up and hoping for plenty of snow this winter.

Over one-third of the livestock sold in North Dakota from January to June were calves, with over 275,000 already sold.

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