Emporia Cattle producers say they are having a banner year, thanks to increased demand and a shortage of market-ready cattle.
At the Emporia Livestock Sales Co. on Friday, Ralph Redeker, a cattleman from Olpe, sold 24 steers for $1.03 per pound and 10 heifers for 99 cents per pound, prices he has never seen before. The average weight of his calves was 600 pounds.
Redeker has been in the business since 1970. He said the buyer of his calves is gambling prices will go even higher.
"It's either going to run some people out of the business or make them some money," he said. "But I don't know how much money they can make at that price."
Farmers said their grain crops were nearly worthless this year because of the drought, so they will have to buy feed to carry their cattle through the winter.
Ronnie Pringle, 59, a cattleman and a sorter at the livestock market, said the market was the best he had seen in the cattle business.
"It brings money to town for everybody," Pringle said. "The last several years has been tough on the farmer. We've had such dry weather. This year we will have no crops. The cattle market will help out."
Prices surged to more than $1 per pound during the day's sale Friday. There were many years that cattlemen didn't receive more than 75 cents per pound.
Todd Domer, vice president of communications for the Kansas Livestock Assn., said Americans are responding to cattlemen's marketing efforts.
Eighty-five percent can identify the cattlemen's slogan, "Beef, it's what's for dinner," and diets like the Atkins diet have encouraged a high-protein diet that includes beef.
"This is the strongest market the beef industry has ever seen," Domer said.
The price increases can be attributed to a shortage of market-ready cattle, increasing demand for U.S. beef and a ban on imports of live Canadian cattle after a spring outbreak of mad cow disease, according to James Mintert, professor of agriculture economics at Kansas State University.
He expects to see a rebound in farm income in Kansas. Last year, Kansas, the No. 2 cattle state in the country, had $4.8 billion in cash receipts from cattle.
Mintert said the increase in cattle prices hasn't been reflected in grocery stores. However, he expected retail prices to increase because box beef prices from the meat packers are at record levels.
"We will see retailers ratcheting up the prices of steaks," he said. "Secondly, we're going to see retailers featuring more poultry and pork, which are both bargains now."
Harlan Davies, of Lebo, sold 28 head Friday.
"I'm tickled to death," he said.