You may be wondering if your investment of preconditioning before sale will be rewarded.
Danny Isaacs owner of Sitlwell Livestock Auction in Stilwell Okla., said, “It depends on if the market is high, when it is high, there’s not enough difference to the cattle, but if the market is low people get real picky. The buyers are looking for that added value, or something special.”
Some spectators may think that there is not as much value to preconditioning as there once was. Eldon Cole, livestock specialist in Mt. Vernon, Mo., for the University of Missouri Extension said, “I believe there is just as much value-added if not more than in the past.” He explained that in order to add value with preconditioning you should go through the proper steps to add value over time.
Cole and Isaacs’ approach to the process of preconditioning was regular vaccinations. Producers should promote immunity through a good vaccination program for both the cow and calf.
Isaacs believes there is a nickel to dime difference between preconditioned cattle and ones straight from the pasture but he would need at least a dime to see a difference.
Cole said, “One thing buyers like to see when purchasing cattle is a cow that has been weaned and is used to eating something besides pasture and milk from its mother. Good immunization is key.” This is where he urges producers to work with their vet and make sure that the cattle’s immunization records can be found. A post 45-day weaning standard also allows the calves to get over the stress of weaning. During these 45 days the calf learns to live independently and also gets the added age needed. “A little extra age is always a benefit,” he added.
When it comes to a price difference between cattle that have been preconditioned and ones that haven’t. Cole said, “$3/cwt. was a very average price that you could expect from the sale barn for cattle straight off the momma with no preconditioning at all. The producers that were preconditioning needed to see at least $5/cwt. to cover expenses to the cattle, and to make a profit.”
Cole recently found a nationwide study that showed the results of cattle that had every aspect of preconditioning that could be done of one million head of cattle over a 20-year period which showed that these cattle generally brought $7-$8 per hundred weight premium over cattle that had no preconditioning.
Isaacs suggested that since the cows have to be gotten up anyway, you can keep the herd healthier just by seeing and monitoring the cattle. “That’s an easy way to kill two birds with one stone,” said Isaacs. He thought there could also be an advertisement benefit. “If they go out and perform well for the buyer, the buyer will remember that producer, and establish a relationship with the name.”
Cole concluded, “Lots of people quit preconditioning their cattle if there is no price difference or genetic improvement over time.” Cole explained that commercial cattle producers are “mild marketers.” He said, producers need to be proud of their cattle and share facts with the auctioneers to get buyers attention.


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