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It’s Exciting Times in Ag

Written by Dennis Sun
Well, we have had our first big spring thaw, and in some places around the state this past week there has been water everywhere, all headed downhill. One wonders what the weather person has in store for us the next 90 days – I’ll bet the cattle that came up from Texas this past fall are asking themselves that question, too.
     In the last week or so, cattle futures and some prices have dropped just a little bit, but there are still great prices for calves and yearlings. We heard about the bull sale in Lander last week, where 300 Angus bulls sold for an average of around $5,800 per bull. That tells the story of the cattle markets, doesn’t it?
    Even though there are many cotton and manmade fibers available, wool supplies are still said to be tight. China likes our wool, and so does everyone else, and why wouldn’t they? No manmade fiber comes even close to the feel and durability of wool cloth, so that means wool prices are good, and should stay high for some time, at least through the shearing season.
    Lamb is a little bit different. Lamb prices too high for packers to pay have some backed up in feedlots, and now there are some big lambs waiting to go to the packers. Cull ewes are still high, as are prices for breeding ewes, and we remember the great ram prices we saw last fall. So, keep the sheep – they have a place in Wyoming.
    Good horses are still moneymakers, but I think we’re still working through all the numbers, and we still have a ways to go. At the end of February at the Billings Horse Sale, the top 20 horses ranged from $3,000 to $7,750 per horse. That’s not bad, is it? The trouble is that I always seem to buy a good horse and sell a poor horse.  
    In crops, hay is the big story, mainly because Wyoming raises so much of it – just ask Texas and its neighboring states. Not only do we raise hay in every county, we raise a good, high-quality, high-protein hay that keeps the dairies and others from other states coming back to Wyoming.
    Other crops raised in Wyoming, including oats, barley, corn, wheat and other special crops, like seed, and others are doing well, due to our irrigation and plenty of water the last couple years. So far we’re down in snowpack levels in most of the state, but we do have above average water storage in the storage reservoirs on our major rivers.
    The shining star in crops has to be sugarbeets. Ten years ago it was a failing industry, with some sugarbeet factories in the state in dire trouble. Some local sugar factories were taken over by local farmers and investors, and now they’re proud to hang out the “10 years old” sign.
    Supply and demand dictate the prices of commodities, and commodity prices, without volatility, keep a strong ag community going. Let’s join with our Governor in his wise words praising agriculture.
    Dennis