August is upon us! It doesn’t seem like its possible for it to be here this soon but the summer has gone by rapidly. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to enjoy some summer activities with friends and family. As always, the year has brought a variety of weather events to deal with. I hope you have been spared the damaging storms that have affected some in the region the past few weeks.
This week I’m going to focus my column on calf marketing. Too often we have the mindset that we are price takers in this business, and to some extent we are. However, there are a number of actions you can take now to more effectively market your calf crop. Here are some tips that will help you bring home a bigger check this fall. Overall, the calf market continues to look strong and the market fundamentals point to very good prices again this year.
• Evaluate your current production and marketing situation carefully. Determine if your previous marketing plans worked effectively or if there are some aspects which should be changed. Now is a good opportunity to evaluate what worked in the past and what didn’t work so well.
• Inform potential buyers about specific programs for which your cattle qualify for (e.g. breed specific programs, vaccination programs, etc.). Work with breed association representatives and other allied industry personnel who represent these programs to effectively use these resources and programs to their fullest potential.
• If you know the previous buyers of your calves, contact them and discuss your marketing plans and options. If you haven’t kept records of who purchased your calves in the past, begin to keep those records. If you are marketing with an auction market, contact them and begin to discuss your calf marketing plans.
• Engage your veterinarian in your marketing program. Work with them to develop a sound pre-weaning vaccination program for your calves. It will pay for itself in return customers who want to purchase your cattle.
• Determine whether or not you will sell calves directly off the cow or if you will background or precondition them on the ranch. Inventory your feedstuffs to help you evaluate the decision from an economic standpoint.
• Work with your lender to be sure your marketing plan fits the cash flow needs. Determine if your current operating note will be sufficient to cash flow the plan you have developed.
• If you plan on selling source- and age-verified calves, go through your records and determine if you have the data in place to qualify. If you have the data, take advantage of the price premiums for those cattle and market them effectively. These programs pay dividends to those who are able to keep the records. It will pay to have those documents in place.
• When marketing through an auction market, work with the manager and staff ahead of time. Be sure to give the auction market enough time to adequately advertise your cattle to potential buyers. Explore any potential special sales that your cattle may qualify for. Many auction markets have specials for specific breeds, vaccination programs. Buyers look for opportunities to purchase larger groups of similar cattle. There is power in volume marketing efforts so it makes sense to explore these opportunities.
• Focus on producing uniformity in your marketing groups. This includes weight, breed type, hide color, and conformation. It will make marketing your calves much easier no matter which marketing outlet you utilize. Selling calves in uniform load lots is a proven way to bring home more dollars.
• If you have good quality heifer calves and you have the feed resources, consider marketing them as part of a replacement female sale later in the winter. In many cases, this will return extra dollars and reduce the effect of the typical heifer discount.
• There is value in information. Notice I said information and not data. For data to be valuable, it must be turned into information. Potential buyers don’t want to see photocopies of all of last year’s individual carcass data. They are interested in a summary of the carcass characteristics of your herd and any closeouts or performance records you have. Remember, information, not data.
• When you get calves ready to ship this fall, try to minimize handling stress. This will reduce shrink and result in a calf that is better ready to meet the challenges of life in a feedlot.
I hope these simple pointers will help you put some additional dollars in the bank this fall.
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