Calf prices, Anderson says, are at “unprecedented levels. This year, we saw prices drop through spring, bottom out in early summer, followed with a really strong market through the fall. To a large extent, that’s a reflection of the market’s reaction to tight numbers and a decline in corn prices. As corn prices have come down, it has provided support for calf prices.”

In 2012, he says, “We were looking at large plantings of corn, a fantastic early season situation, and crop progress numbers that were eye-popping. We were bidding up calves, thinking corn was going to be cheap. Then the drought came along, and corn prices really took off, which dropped the cattle market to a lower level, where it mostly hung for the rest of the year.

“This year has been almost a mirror image of last year’s feeder cattle picture. We started out with a terrible situation; planting progress was slow, prevented planting acres were expected to be in the millions, and we were going to be in real trouble — a multi-year bad weather pattern, basically gloom and doom, that kept corn prices up and put a lot of pressure on calf prices.

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“Now, we’re looking at a pretty strong market. We’ve kinda topped out — mainly a reflection of what’s going on with wholesale beef prices. We’re having a hard time moving up to a much higher level, so everyone’s kinda holding what they’ve got and waiting to see what moves next.”

Last January, Anderson says, “We had about 2 percent more heifers than had been held back as replacements,  but the numbers suggest to me that very few of those heifers actually made it into a herd.  They ended up going into feedlots and coming out in the middle of the year.

“We had an interesting expansion last fall, but there didn’t seem to be much follow-through on it. If we look at feedlot places, beef production, and heifer slaughter, most of these eventually ended up on somebody’s plate.”