Farm Horizons, May 2010

Dairy calf prices up significantly

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

One trend in the dairy industry is that the price of dairy calves is up this year – way up – according to Big J’s Transport in Lester Prairie.

The company, owned by Jeff and Lisa Bayerl, hauls cattle to and from auctions across the region, as well as to fairs, and anyplace else people need them moved.

“It’s a huge change from last year,” Lisa commented, regarding the calf prices.

Jason Gochnauer of Central Livestock Sales in Zumbrota confirmed this.

Last year, wet calves (two weeks old or less) were selling for about 80 cents per pound, Gochnauer said. The price fluctuates from week to week, but prices are roughly double that amount now.

Recently, dairy calves were selling for about $1.80 per pound. A week later, they were at $1.60 per pound.

Every Monday, Central Livestock gets 40 to 100 baby calves, Gochnauer said. Most are holsteins, although there are occasionally a few jerseys, as well.

The price depends on a variety of factors, including the number of sellers and the number of buyers on any given day.

Some buyers are at the sale every week, but most change from week to week. Gochnauer said he sees buyers from as far away as Wisconsin, but most of the buyers come from dairies within 40 or 50 miles of the auction site.

For buyers who prefer not to drive to the auction in person, Central Livestock offers an order-buy service. Buyers can call (507) 732-7305 and arrange to have the company buy calves for them and have them shipped to the buyer’s location.

Spring and fall are the busiest times of year for calf sales, according to Gochnauer.

Another factor that is contributing to the higher prices is that there are fewer dairies today than there were in the past, and therefore, there are fewer calves, Gochnauer said.

A few big dairies bring 10 to 12 baby calves to Central Livestock every week, but overall, there are fewer dairies because some people are getting out of the business due to low milk prices.

One final factor that may be contributing to the current higher calf prices is that the price of fat cows is up, so people may be willing to pay more for the calves because they are likely to get more for them later on.

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