Cow cash

On Oct. 21 Canfax (cattle/market/publication) reported that cattle prices have recovered.

On Oct, 21 Canfax (cattle/market/publication) reported that cattle prices have recovered to the point where this week’s prices for the average Alberta stocker/feeder cattle were the highest since October 2001. Doesn’t that just warm the cockles of your heart, Cariboo cattlemen/women?

Province-wide, cattle producers are scurrying into financial institutions to deposit fall-sales receipts — just in case the high number was an error, subject to pay-back!

whoo-hoo, (yes, lower case letters) —  cause for a slightly subdued hurrah!

Will it last? If I knew the correct answer to that query I could tear up my Lotto-Max ticket (prior to the draw date) without a qualm!

So, while regaining lost ground and hitting the 2001-benchmark has been helpful, it doesn’t grant the industry a clean bill of health because our costs of production have not receded reciprocally by decreasing to 2001 levels.

In ranch-vernacular, inflation is sometimes calculated in cows. For example, many years ago when I purchased my first (long wished for) high-end camera, my husband dutifully admired it as I pushed all the buttons and chortled over its wondrous features.

Then my cowboy-rancher husband observed that the camera actually cost “five cows” (in the mid/late 1980s). After we married in 1978, we purchased a new fridge, kitchen range and large freezer — the cost was three cows. During the worst of the BSE years, the market was so depressed that the camera price would have risen to 10 cows, the appliance cost to about six cows while the new digital camera I purchased this past July would have cost only four cows.

So, with just a glance around her home, any ranch woman whose husband counts cash in cows, can quickly give you the approximate value of a beef-cow in any given year, which will provide an accurate picture of the historic fluctuations in the cattle market.

Liz Twan is a local rancher and freelance columnist for the Tribune.

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