Steamboat Springs The North Western Colorado Bull Sale was a different story in its 11th year. After the 2012 event netted its highest sales with $112,000 in bulls sold, this year’s event only grossed $50,700.
Of the 43 bulls that were brought to sell, 20 of them are returning home with the breeders who bought them.
Uncertainty was the word that floated across the Routt County Fairgrounds at Saturday’s annual event, both spoken and unspoken.
“It’s the drought,” Community Agriculture Alliance Executive Director Marsha Daughenbaugh said. “A lot of people have had to cull their herd. It’s probably indicative of what’s happening around the region.”
CJ Mucklow, regional director for Colorado State University Extension, echoed her thoughts.
“It’s the uncertainty of the drought more than anything else,” he said, adding that ranchers are waiting for the drought to abate before expanding their herds. So while bulls aren’t selling, the low stock of cattle around the country means “the cattle market is doing relatively well.”
The uncertainty was in the numbers.
The average price for a bull that sold this year was $2,204, while last year’s average was $3,200. The most expensive bull this year sold for $3,300.
Stacy Gray, of Craig, brought two bulls to sell from 5 Bar Angus Ranch in Craig, and both of them sold for $2,000 or more in the ring.
“It’s close, and we just try to support the local sale,” Gray said about attending the sale each year.
But it’s tough times for those in the bull business right now.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” she said, referring to the drought. “I think it’s just kind of a wait-and-see thing. The cattle numbers are down.”
Bulls sold at the North Western Colorado Bull sale are bred in the high country, meaning they have a special quality for which high-altitude ranchers are looking.
A bull’s PAP score indicates how likely it is the bull could succumb to an altitude-related disease. The lower the score, the lower the risk. Ranchers at the bull sale are concerned about that number, Mucklow said, and it was evident when the two bulls with the highest PAP scores didn’t sell.
But demand in general was down. There were fewer buyers, and those who were there weren’t apt to pay as much as last year, when there was optimism abound before the drought kicked into full force.
Daughenbaugh said those low numbers of cattle and diminishing herds might mean the bull market could take a few years — and some rain — to bounce back. But the low numbers mean the rest of the market is still in business.
“If you’re selling heifers or babies right now, you’re OK,” she said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com