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On Cows and Markets

By  E. W. Lang

Block Cheddar Cheese lost nine cents this week to close at $1.82 per lb.  Barrels gained 11 cents to close at $1.58.  Butter was down three to settle at $1.83 per lb. and Non-Fat Dry Milk was down eight cents to close at $1.17. 

Class III Milk Futures run from $17 to $17.79 for the rest of this year, while Class IV Futures run from $16 to $17.61 per  cwt.  USDA this week raised their all-milk estimate for 2020 by 40 cents.  Hold it.  No, they LOWERED their all-milk estimate by 40 cents to $18.85 per cwt.  Sorry. Remain Calm.  

Top at the Dyersville, Iowa, Hay Auction this week was good quality mixed large squares at $245 per ton. Good quality large squares of Alfalfa ran from $155 to $220 and large rounds were $5 to $15 less.  Good large squares of straw were $72.50 per 3 x 4 ft. bale. 

Show typed registered dairy calves ran from $500 to $12,000 per head as the early public auctions got under way these last couple weeks.  On the good typed heifers with pleasing pedigrees, it looks like about one standard deviation sold from $2,000 to $5,000 per head, and the rest were outliers, forming a longer tail on the high end.  

Heifers with DNA tests showing extremely high genetic traits have been bringing more than the top show calves.  Often these are rather common looking heifers that make good looking cows.  DNA tested heifers that are high, but not extreme, seem to bring a modest premium to grades.     

One of the bright, young minds in the registered livestock sales business called and offered an observation that I think is worth sharing. 

"Walt," he said, "I think the tag sales have started to run their course as an anomaly.  The problem with tag sales are what to do with the remaining inventory after the expense of clipping, washing and cataloging.   At least with an auction you can zero out the low end inventory for whatever the ringside and internet buyers are willing to pay, and then re-stock for the next round.   

As I said, it seemed worth repeating, or at least it did after I cleaned up his grammar and syntax.  I might add that public auctions can also be better entertainment, depending on the excitement of competitive bidding, or whatever the sale personnel can deliver for clever amusement. 

Tag Sales offer a better way for sellers to establish minimums on the better ones.  Public auctions often have a few head on the top end that either don't sell or actually sell for a fraction of the announced price.  Sometimes there are exchanges between consignors.  Stuff goes on, and breed associations can't justify enforcing rules.

I always appreciate consignors telling me in advance what they have arranged for a minimum price when I'm interested in a high dollar cow.  I keep a list of those that forget to mention blemishes.     


West Texas Crude has lost 11% of its value in the last month.  The China Flu has contracted so much economic activity on the Mainland that their energy consumption has contracted, likewise. 


Major Indices on Wall Street remain at or near record high levels. Cannabis is trading at or below the cost of production in North America, according to trade journalists.  It may be that USDA will one day add marijuana to its government subsidized farm products, all in order to protect the family pot farmer.

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