With beef prices down so dramatically Venture West Ranches decided to attend several Montana bull sales to gauge the financial health of Montana Ranches and what that might do to Montana cattle ranches for sale prices. Below is a summation of three top Montana bull sale auctions attended and thoughts from talking to people and the general vibe of the crowd.
The Sitz Angus Ranch of Dillon, Montana is a Black Angus outfit. Sitz Angus is known for being one of the best Black Angus breeders in the country. They provide bulls for both commercial cow herds and seed stock. Black Angus makes up about 60% of the commercial cowherd in the US. Montana and the US has a number of Black Angus breeders and with the mixed crowd looked to drive prices down. This year’s average price per head was $6,140 vs $8,194 last year. The high-end bulls still went for $50,000 with a 1/3 interest retained. However, there were over 30 bulls being sold for $3,000 or less. An excellent value for a Sitz bull. This auction displayed lower prices due to an over abundance of Black Angus breeders. This was the largest crowd of the three Montana Bull Sales I attended.
The next auction was a Hereford Bull sale at Holden Herefords in Valier, MT. Holden Herefords is one of the top breeders of Line 1 Hereford stock in the country. People came from all over the country to participate in the sale. Jack Holden sells his bull’s semen on a global scale as well as throughout Montana. Holden Herefords is predominantly a seed stock provider instead of selling for commercial cowherds.
On average, prices were higher than Black Angus sales this year. Again that seems to be a testament to Jack Holden as a breeder as well as the fact that there are fewer Hereford breeders than there are Black Angus breeders. Clear evidence of the laws of supply and demand. The average bull price was $10,610 which was down from last year’s average of $11,850 but still a price that Jack Holden felt was good. The highest sale was $85,000 with a 1/2 interest retained. On the other end, there was just a handful of bulls that sold for less than $4,000.
Cooper Hereford Ranch
The next day Cooper Herefords held an auction at their ranch in Willow Creek, Montana. They are another quality outfit that has Line 1 Herefords. They had a smaller quantity of bulls at auction. The crowd consisted of out-of-state bidders as well as a lot of Montanans. In fact, a number of the same faces showed up for this auction that were at the Holden Herefords auction. The high-end sale was $155,000 but that doesn’t include any working interest retained or not. At the lower end, there were approximately 30 bulls that sold for $5,000 or less. Of those 3o bulls, a few bulls sold for less than $4,000. The average sale price of a bull at the Cooper Hereford auction was $10,966, which was down from 2016’s average of $13,317.
I enjoyed my time at these auctions and look forward to attending more of them in the future. One of the impressions from these auctions was that the bidders and sellers are some of the better-capitalized ranchers in the business. Yes, prices were down due to low beef prices but it appeared to me that there is a long-term outlook by the outfits. They are using this slight downturn in prices to improve genetics at reasonable prices.
I was impressed by how the outfits prepared for the auctions. At each auction, I was given a magazine that had statistics and profiles for all of the animals up for auction. They also included pictures of select bulls. Some of the notable outfits that participated were ABS Global and Accelerated Genetics out of Wisconsin, Flying S Herefords Ranch out of Texas and the L Bar W out of Absarokee, Montana. L Bar W made this list due to the high-end technology they are using to do embryo implants. They very well may be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
Buzz Tatom is a Partner at Venture West Ranches. He moved to Montana 6 years ago and owns the 5T ranch in Texas. With a BBA from Texas Tech and an MBA from SMU, Buzz is well equipped for any situation. He and his wife, Kathy are involved in a number of business ventures. Buzz also enjoys being a part-time professor at MSU in the business school and mentoring students.