Bred cow prices, basis the Oklahoma City market, have trended lower this spring for the third year in a row. Mid-aged bred cows (1200-to 1300-pound) during April and May averaged $1082 per head. During the same months of 2017, bred cows of the same description averaged $1194. Spring quarter mid-aged bred cow prices peaked in 2015 at $1875. These prices tend to follow the trend set by feeder cattle prices, but with a bit of a time lag. This spring’s mid-age bred cow price was 6.11 times the 500- to 550-pounds steer price at Oklahoma City. Last year, the ratio was 6.74, and in 2016 the ratio peaked out at 8.06 for the 2004- 2018 interval. The peak in the ratio was one year behind the highest spring quarter feeder steer prices ($285 per cwt., 500- to 550-pound). The ratio hit a low point in the spring of 2010 at 5.66.
Young bred cow prices have been under more pressure than mid-aged cows this spring. Prices have declined by more than $200 from last spring and have averaged a discount of $40 compared to mid-aged bred cows. Over the last 15 years, discounts have occurred only about 20% of the time and $40-$45 is as big as the discounts tend to get. The year of the biggest premiums for young bred cows was 2015 (when feeder cattle prices peaked) at $165.
Young bred cow values in the Northern Plains have been at a premium to the Southern Plains for at least the last six years. Prices for young bred cows in Montana markets have held steady with a year ago this spring after declining $100 from 2016 to 2017. A $400 premium for Montana young bred cows versus the Oklahoma City market this year rivals the euphoric Montana premium of 2015, even though actual prices are $1000 lower than what they were three years ago.