With the massive liquidation of cows due to the drought, projections are that bred-cow and bred-heifer prices will be high next spring when ranchers seek to rebuild.

“Some estimate that bred cows will be worth $1,800 to $2,000,” Matsler says. “This program is an alternative to selling now and replacing later at a higher price.”

For example, it costs $2 to $2.50/day to keep the animal in the “warehouse” program. It will likely be at the feedyard from 60-90 days, with an average of 75 days. “Overall costs will be about $300/cow or bred heifer,” Matsler says.

McCollum says some ranchers will likely leave cows in the feedyard up to 120 days, depending on their overall condition and the availability of pasture.

“Most feedlots have the ability to shift feeding abilities to put flesh on cows,” he says. “They can set up a nutritional program to maintain the cows as long as it takes. Ranchers can then save what grass they have and have something to take the cows home to in late winter or spring.”

Matsler says the security offered to ranchers by the feedyard is welcomed, especially from producers who have never dealt with a feedyard in the past. “They like that someone is looking after their cattle 24 hours a day,” he says. 

Larry Stalcup is an Amarillo, TX-based freelance writer.