AgDay Journeys to Indiana Sale Barn for Feeder Cattle Auction

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We often hear from cattle analysts and brokers about the markets and price. However, what are prices doing at the sale barn?

AgDay visited a feeder cattle auction at the Shipshewana Trading Place in Shipshewana, Indiana to find out what prices were like there.

A crowd piled in to the feeder cattle auction at the Shipshewana Trading Place in Northern Indiana.

Visitors, owners and regulars scoped out the auction.

“[Prices] are higher here than where I’m from but they are still lower,” says John Ream of Van Wert, Ohio.

We attended the feeder cattle auction on January 22, before the funds and coronavirus impacted the livestock markets. That was a week before some cattle futures traded down to 3 to 4 month lows.

"I haven't bought yet,” said Allen Stout, a cattle buyer from Indiana. “The people I buy from haven't gotten back to me. These are admittedly some of the cheapest cows I've seen this year."

Folks at the auction wondered why prices weren’t as high as they expected that day too.

“By looking at the internet sales and papers like that, cows are quite a bit higher out West,” said Tom Krull, a producer from Michigan.

We looked online ourselves and compared feeder cattle prices at auctions in Oklahoma, South Dakota and back in Shipshewana the week of January 19. We found there's a 15 to 50 cent per pound difference in price with mostly better prices out West.

Lambright said the western trade is different. He said there’s a difference between access to feedlots, transportation and condition of cattle.

“If you took these cattle from here out [West], they wouldn’t bring what those cattle bring,” said auction owner, Keith Lambright. “The condition is different. A lot of people don’t understand that. Flesh on cattle has a lot to do with it.”

Producers at the barn say there's a hay shortage in the area due to a wet 2019 and that may be a reason why.

"I was paying around $5 and I'm getting some [hay] for $6,” said Ream. “I've heard some guys selling small squares for $10 to $12 per bale.”

“We have a lot of Amish in this area who have to feed their horses,” said Lambright. “Hay is short this year and quite a bit higher [in price].”

Whether these folks are regulars or visitors, they plan to come again. As always, in hopes to make money or get a good deal.