Bred Heifer Prices 2020

As the U.S. cattle industry turns the corner of this cattle cycle producers have begun asking the question, “How much should I  pay for a bred replacement heifer this year?” This is indeed a tough question to answer because cow-calf producers and their operations are vastly different. That is, some producers have better soils, forages, cattle, resources, and management than others. These top managers can afford to pay more for bred replacement heifers.

Producers have historically referenced bred replacement heifers in terms of how many calves are needed to pay for a bred replacement heifer or cow, while ignoring production costs. Over the last 30 years, the cost of a bred replacement heifer has averaged 1.5 times the price of a 550-pound feeder steer. However, in years where U.S. cowherd expansion has taken place the ratio can move up to 1.65. By knowing the price relationship between the cost of a bred replacement heifer and a 550-pound feeder steer, cow-calf producers have some guidance on how much they can pay for bred replacement heifers this fall.


During the next decade, there will be a wide range of prices for bred replacement heifers. Price levels this fall will vary for many heifers due to producers’ focus on quality versus quantity, location, condition, value, and genetics. Producers can use the table below as a guide when purchasing bred replacement heifers. Table 1 describes the expected purchase price of bred replacement heifers for various feeder steer prices ($/cwt.), and the ratio of 550-pound feeder steers needed to pay for a bred replacement heifer. For example, if 550-pound feeder steers sell at $120/cwt. with a normal ratio of 1.50, the expected purchase price of a bred replacement would be $990. But  during expansion, when bred heifers are in higher demand, the ratio shifts to 1.65, resulting in the expected purchase price of $1,089. Thus, in this table the expected purchase prices of bred replacement heifers range from $858 to $1,496, based on the combinations of 550-pound feeder steer prices and the steer to heifer price ratios listed.

The price of bred replacement heifers is ultimately decided by a willing buyer and a willing seller. With both being fully informed about stronger consumer beef demand, a reduction in U.S. Cattle Inventory, and higher feeder calf prices on the horizon, cow-calf producers should expect to pay higher prices for bred replacement heifers over the next decade.

Features of Bred Heifer

Selecting replacement heifers differs from ranch to ranch, but four factors affect the value for both retained and purchased replacements:

  • Longevity – the replacement heifer’s ability to stay in the herd as a productive unit
  • Costs vs Value – both current and future expected difference between costs and revenues (calf price and costs differences over the heifer’s productive life)
  • Genetic and phenotypical compatibility with herd mates
  • Operator goals and management style

Specification/prices of Bred Heifer

Date/LocationTop Quality Bred CowsAvg. Quality Bred Cows
Feb 16/18-Keady Livestock Market$2200-$2600$2000-$2200
Feb 16/18-Ontario Stockyards $1700-$2100
Feb 17/18-Kawartha Lakes Community Sale Barn $1500-$1800
Mar 9/2018-Keady Livestock Market$2300-$3000 
Apr 12/18-Ontario Stockyards Inc $1300-$1700
Apr 25/18-Brussels Livestock $1600-$1800
Apr 25/18-Kawartha Lakes Community Sale Barn$1600-$1900$1200-$1500
May 25/18-Keady Livestock Market$1600-$1925$1000-$1500
Jun 14/18-Ontario Stockyards Inc $1400-$1650
Jul 7/18-Ontario Stockyards Inc $1300-$1600
Aug 4/18-Kawartha Lakes Community Sale Barn$1450$1100
Oct 17/18-Brussels Livestock$1600-$2100$900-$1400

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