Tim Hearden/For the Capital Press
RED BLUFF, Calif. — Consigners will look for an end to a drought-induced decline in prices when as many as 423 bulls are marched through the Don Smith Pavilion here on Jan. 27.
Winning bids for the Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale’s marquee event have topped the $1 million mark for seven straight years, but last year’s $1.1 million paid for 288 bulls — for an average price of $3,819 — continued a slide blamed largely on California’s prolonged drought.
The number fell short of the nearly $1.49 million that bidders shelled out for 305 bulls in 2016 for an average of $4,885 and the record $1.56 million paid for 238 bulls in 2015 for an average of $6,554.
“We saw in the past few years some all-time highs in cattle prices, and things have moderated a bit,” sale manager Adam Owens said. “Things are looking pretty good with California getting some decent rain finally.”
The U.S. cattle inventory has been growing in recent months as ranchers replenish their herds, buoyed in part by rising per capita beef consumption in the U.S. and in some export destinations such as Japan, industry insiders say.
The 77th annual bull sale is the last of four auctions to be held next week in Red Bluff. The bidding will begin with the ninth annual online feeder and replacement heifer sale on Jan. 25.
Last year about 75 lots were sold in the Western Video Market-hosted sale, with lot prices topping out at $143 per hundredweight for weaned heifers and $173 per hundredweight for weaned steers. That was down significantly from the previous year’s $234 and $252, respectively. The 2015 sale topped out at $287 and $299, respectively.
In all, 85 horses and 20 stock dogs are entered in their respective sales on Jan. 26.
In 2017, 69 geldings generated $682,760, down from the $755,250 received in 2016 for 104 horses.
Last year’s sale of 14 cattle dogs fetched a total of $85,750, with the top dog selling for $20,000 to El Rancho de Casey in Jarrell, Texas.
For the first time this year, all of the auctions will include online bidding and will be streamed live at www.DVAuction.com.
“Actually we’re way behind the curve on that, for several reasons,” Owens said, referring to online bidding. “We’re an event and not just an auction, so we really want people to come. But some just can’t.”
The auctions will be held amid a packed week that will also include a trade show with 175 vendors, a Western art contest, a kickoff breakfast, beef forums and seminars and a bull riding competition.
This year, a popular raffle of donated items to benefit youth agricultural programs has been moved from Wednesday to Friday night, Jan. 26, just before the gelding sale, so it can draw more people, Owens said. As many as 500 tickets will be sold, and top prizes will include a pickup truck.
In the raffle’s place on Jan. 24 will be a night of casino games as part of the buyers’ and consigners’ dinner, which is open to the public. Tickets are $20.
For information on all of the week’s activities, visit www.redbluffbullsale.com .