It is not unusual for our local sale to have 200 head go through a Monday night sale. It is common for this sale to have horses bring anything in between $20.00 to $3000.00.
About half will go to the kill buyers, many without any other bids at all. They range from $20.00 to $400.00. The $400.00 ones are the obese old broodmares or geldings that weigh 1300# or more without any draft blood. Many sales do not have any going for more than $200.00. One sale last fall had 10 or 12 $400.00 mares go through that an embryo transfer center was getting rid of because they did not use them or they did not accept an embryo. These mares had been purchased at a sale the year before and were headed to slaughter then, so they got a reprieve and were very well fed for a while.
The kill buyers buy many horses for slightly more than auction slaughter price. They are penned separately. The main kill buyer here is a well-known 'trader', Bill Richardson. To give you an idea of the diversity of the horse trading business, we was the last owner of Smart Chick Olena and the rest of the horses out of Jim Babcock's bankruptcy proceeding. I have seen him buy 50 or 60 horses or more out of a sale and half of them are micro chipped and go straight to Mexico while the other half go to his ranch. If they do not pan out for what he bought them for, they go to Mexico with a later truckload. He is an 'order buyer' and oftentimes will buy horses to fit an order he has for them.
Other traders buy 1 to 5 horses at every sale, paying little over slaughter price. These are usually horses ridden through the ring that rode decent but not great. They take them home, clean them up, try them out and evaluate them. If they are not totally spoiled go lame with riding, they will ride them a while and sell them for a profit. This used to be a lot better game than it is now. Many young horses (especially unregistered ones) NOW go to slaughter because the loss of value from a few years back make them too questionable of an investment to be a 'project horse'.
One of the terrible 'unintended consequences' of closing US slaughter plants is that MANY MORE YOUNG AND HEALTHY horses now have no other bidders.
Slaughter horses are bringing the same price now AT THE PROCESSING PLANT that they brought before the closure of our plants. Only difference is that now, about $500.00 or $600.00 of that price goes to the trucking of those horses to Mexico.
There is a huge horse feedlot at Morton Texas. It used to have as many as 20,000 horses there eating from feed-bunks kept full of alfalfa. Feed is too high now. I have been told that the only horses there now are waiting for trucking or are getting over snots or strangles so they can get clean health certificates to go to the plants. The animal rights nuts call them 'abandoned at the border' but they are just waiting for a different shipment. Obviously, buyers would not pay for them and then throw them away. What on earth do these nut cases think happened to the thousands of horses that they claim are abandoned? They just 'vanished'? That would be neat trick. I would guess that a few cannot cross that were severely injured in shipping.
A lot of other misinformation is spread by the animal rights nuts and terrorists. One is that double decker trucks are still used. They are not and have not been used for several years. They all ship on 'floor trucks' (50 foot cattle trucks with a flat floor. Slaughter buyers also do not buy stallions because they also cannot be shipped with other horses. [One guy used to buy all of them here, cut them, fatten them up and resell them.]
The 'set-in' price would instantly go up to around $300.00 for healthy thin horses and up to $800.00 to $1000.00 for fat ones if plants reopened within hauling distance here. The reason there is NO market for them in the SE part of the US is because they cannot be shipped from there to Texas to Mexico. Shipping would be worth more than the horses without close markets.