Selling quality cattle at the right time has benefits 

Many producers in the Ozarks sell their cattle through livestock auctions. 

This can be a good marketing strategy depending on the individual operation, especially if a producer does their research, implements some pre-sale practices and practices good customer service to add value to their cattle. According to Andy McCorkill, livestock specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, “cattle, like anything else, will sell better with a story behind them.” 

Honestly sharing all applicable information can endear buyers to a producer and create repeat customers.

Vaccinations and Health Programs: While it might cost the producer a bit more up front, market research has shown calves that are vaccinated and vet checked prior to selling bring a higher price than those that have not received health treatments. If cattle are unhealthy or even appear unhealthy, potential buyers are not likely to pay what the producer wants. Proof of vaccinations (buyers typically look for a seven-way and a broad-spectrum respiratory vaccination at minimum) and health checks can go a long way toward adding value and potentially creating repeat customers. Other health practices that can add value to livestock auction cattle are dehorning and castration prior to selling, if it is appropriate for the individual operation. If these surgical procedures are done prior to hauling the animals to the sale, McCorkill advised that producers ensure those areas are well healed. A conversation with the herd veterinarian can help determine what is best for each group of calves prior to the sale. 

Program Participation: If a producer participates in different programs or marketing campaigns, this can add value to sale barn cattle as well. Knowing what their consumers want will help determine appropriate programs and advertisement of certain management practices, such as antibiotic free, grass fed, Show-Me Heifer Select, breed specific programs, genomic testing, etc. Having any relevant panels and paperwork compiled neatly makes it convenient for buyers to learn about their potential new animals. 

Pre-Conditioning:Calves will sell better if they are fully weaned and have been through a pre-conditioning program where they are fairly calm and bunk broke, etc. McCorkill explained getting calves pre-conditioned will make them healthier in the long run, since they will not be dealing with both weaning and sale barn stress at the same time. 

Uniformity:The larger and more uniform the lots of calves, the better value a producer can achieve, McCorkill explained. Utilizing DNA and genomic testing can help producers work from a consistent genetic base. Structuring a short-calving interval will also help calf lots be uniform when it comes time to head to the auction. 

Timing:The time of year a producer chooses to sell their animals can affect the price they receive. Visiting with the livestock market agent or rep can help determine when the most cattle run through the ring, and how one might structure their management programs to sell during the “off” season, which is typically spring, according to Glynn Tonsor, PhD, and professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State University. He suggests since a majority of producers spring calve, there are more cattle ready to sell in the fall, therefore the price is typically more depressed. 

With fewer fall-born calves, the supply in the spring is lower, so those calves tend to bring higher prices. 

Some thoughtful consideration and effort on the part of the producer can add value to their calves and make sale barn marketing a sustainable and profitable option for the long run.


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