Determining Fair Prices for your Buffalo – December 2019 Buffalo Market Analysis

In the editorial below, ITBC Technical Services Provider Eric Selchert digs into current buffalo market prices for the Winter 2019 season. Please let us know what prices are looking like in your area!

Buffalo market prices had been on a steady rise for years, but as was predicted, 2018 brought a drop in prices. The latest auction results are showing that the prices are continuing to decrease. We will have to wait and see if it steadies out. It seemed like there were a lot of producers trying to offload their calf crop and the high supply may have affected the market price. With the increasing number of buffalo operations out there, it is becoming a more competitive market, so underweight or poor looking buffalo may not fare well at market.

With each auction results varying so drastically, it can be hard to predict fair prices for your animals. Earlier this year, a 2-year-old bull with an average weight of 795 pound from the Nature Conservancy’s Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma averaged $1725. Three months later, a 2-year-old bull averaging 948 pounds from the Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Grassland in Illinois averaged $1225. That is $2.17 per pound in Oklahoma and $1.29 per pound in Illinois. Was this a matter of genetics, the buyers present, timing, or marketing? In reality, it could be a combination of all these factors.

Custer State Park’s 2019 auction was hit hard by the price drop and the average was about $800 less per buffalo, as compared to last year’s auction. Heavy bull calves went for only $2.80/lb. and heavy heifer calves went for $2.24/lb. In 2018, heavy bull calves averaged $4.27/lb. and heifer calves averaged $4.39/lb. Two-year-old grade bulls averaged $1928, down from $3,025 in 2018.

It would be best to compare auctions in your area to get a handle of the current going prices. Our estimation is that, in general, an average bull should be bringing $1500-$2000, heifers $1000-$1500, and bull calves around $1000.

Wholesale meat prices have also been declining. The USDA monthly bison report summary shows that wholesale prices have been on the decline since 2017. According to that report you can expect to receive about $425 for young bulls, $390 for young heifers, $343 for aged bulls and $346 for aged heifers.

Processors now have more options and can afford to offer lower prices, which in turn means they can sell to consumers at a lower price. This is making buffalo meat more approachable to consumers and if the market steadies out it may still allow for both producers and processors to make money. One thing to take from the price drop is that producers may want to consistently be bringing high quality animals to market to grow your reputation as a quality herd.

Below are links to the auction results as well as the wholesale averages over the last 5 years. I hope these help in determining a fair price for your buffalo.

https://bisoncentral.com/board-listing/bison-auction-results/

https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/nw_ls526.txt

https://bisoncentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Meat10.19.pdf

Authored by:

Eric Selchert

ITBC Technical Services Provider

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One thought on “Determining Fair Prices for your Buffalo – December 2019 Buffalo Market Analysis

  1. Excellent article and guidance. Thank you. You might consider doing the same for guided hunts in a tribal or non-tribal context. Cheers.

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