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Cows. Photo by Megan Lacelle

It was the perfect storm for cattle producers around Saskatchewan. Cattle prices have nearly doubled since last year. This means producers are leaving sales with fewer headaches and more smiles.


“Usually you walk into the sale ring, grab a seat and watch the calves go through, usually it’s all doom and gloom, hoping you get a good price,” Darrell Morvik said. He’s been around cattle all his life in the Eastend, Sask. area. “You never know, you work all year and you take all your chips to town on one day and play the big wheel; what you get is what you get.”


He sold his black and red Angus calves on Oct. 20 and said it was something he’d never seen before.


“You looked around that day and everybody had a smile on their face, they just couldn’t believe the prices.”


Prices on all classes of steers has increased anywhere from 85 cents to $1.72 per lb says Chad MacPherson, general manager of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association.


“The lowest price for the heaviest weights was $2.20/lb and the heaviest was $3.60/lb so then add, on the low end 85 cents to on the high end $1.72 up from last year,” he said.


“The prices are nearly double from one year ago.”


This year’s prices are bringing optimism back to producers around Saskatchewan and Canada MacPherson says, injecting much needed funds back into the cattle industry.


The last time prices even got close to this high was before BSE hit in 2003 said Ralph Oberle. He’s been the owner and auctioneer at Shaunavon Livestock Services since 1988.


The discovery of BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, in Canada in May 2003 caused the United States and other countries to stop importing Canadian beef. By the end of 2004, Statistics Canada reported a $5.3 billion loss to Canadian beef producers.


“This has been a long time coming,” Oberle said of the high prices. “And thank god it finally did.”


A variety of factors created this record-breaking market.


MacPherson points to the weaker Canadian dollar, the cost of feed decreasing, and the change in the number of cattle produced in the country.


Stats Canada reports that the number of cattle on Canadian farms has decreased 1.4% since July 2013, with the total cattle inventory being 21% below the 2005 peak. As well, the number of farms with cattle has decreased 2.9% since 2012 in Canada.


“Everyone’s been selling off their herds, so eventually the numbers go down and it creates a shortage, then the numbers go up, we hope,” Oberle chuckled. “The total sell-off is probably not quite done yet; older people were waiting for these high prices to come.”


MacPherson expects the price to stay strong for the next couple years, but whether it’ll stay this high is uncertain. In the meantime, producers like Morvik are “happy, happy happy.”


“Everybody is smiling and they’re optimistic. They’ve got money to spend and it’s going back into the economy and the community; it’s making the wheels go round and it’s really nice to see for a change.”


Higher prices in the sales ring also mean higher prices in the supermarket. The average cost for a kilogram of ground beef is up $1.90 from last year, costing around $11.40, a 49.8 per cent increase from the price in 2010. Meanwhile the average price of sirloin steak has risen from $17.93/kg in 2013 to $21.43 in September of this year, according to Stats Canada.