Crop prices rebounding

The Colorado Agricultural Statistics Service reported some good news for most farmers: Compared with November of 1999, most crop prices and all livestock items averaged higher in November 2000.

Alfalfa hay, at $86.00 per ton, increased $2.00 since October and is $20.00 higher then November 1999. Other hay, priced at $89.00 per ton, decreased $4.00 since October, but averaged $29.00 higher than in November of1999.

Ann Franklin, Moffat County Extension agent, said the rebound in prices is good for most producers, but can hinder some, such as ranches that must purchase hay to feed cattle.

"It's a tough year for people who have to buy hay," Franklin said. "Right now it's tough to even find hay to buy. Ranchers are going to Vernal (Utah) and other areas to find hay."

Hay production in Northwest Colorado has been inconsistent at best, Franklin said. With drought conditions hindering production, the ranchers who produced enough hay to sell or stored enough to run their own operations are the only ones coming out even or a bit ahead, Franklin said.

A snow-filled November is putting extra pressure on local ranchers. High hay prices and being forced to feed cattle early due to snow covering the natural feed on range land is putting financial strain on local ranchers, Franklin said.

The mid-November steer and heifer prices increased $8.40 since last month to $80.30 per cwt (per 100 pounds) and averaged $6.50 higher than the $73.80 per cwt price a year ago.

Cow prices increased $1.20 since October to $38.10 per cwt and averaged $3.50 per cwt higher than November 1999. The mid-November calf price has increased $4.00 since last month, to $104.00 per cwt, and was $11.20 higher than the $92.80 per cwt received a year ago.

The increase in the price of wheat wasn't as dramatic as the other commodities, but after a long stretch of wheat prices falling, farmers are optimistic. Mid-November 2000 wheat, at $2.72 per bushel, increased one cent from the previous month and was 50 cents higher than November 1999.

According to Franklin, wheat prices have been so low recently that any jump in price is a good sign.

Ranches that are producing cattle are enjoying a strong rebound in prices, but this doesn't mean ranchers are gearing up to increase production for next year.

"It's tough because we are still in a drought situation," Franklin said. "There are still a lot of variables. Demand for beef is up, and that is a good thing for the market."

The Colorado Beef Council is attributing the recent jump in beef prices to a marketing campaign that boasts about the nutritional value of beef and the development of new beef products.

"Developing 'easy beef' products became the rallying cry of the beef industry," the Colorado Beef Council stated in a recent newsletter article. "Since 1997, the beef industry has focused extensive dollars on the development and promotion of microwavable beef entrees that meet the needs of today's consumer."

Whether the efforts of the Colorado Beef Council mean a consistent increase in beef prices remains to be seen.

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