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home articles Marketing |

Marketing your calves

published: February 20th 2020
by: Dr. Joe C. Paschal
source: ICA Of Texas

This past January, I was asked to moderate a session at the Bexar County Beef Cattle Short Course on “Marketing Your Calves – What Producers Need to Know”. The panel included Mike Brzozowski, Gonzales Livestock Com-mission Co.; Mitchell Hardcastle, Southern Live-stock; and Curtis Park, a cattle order buyer from Huntsville. Over my 30 plus years of Extension meetings, this topic has generated the most interest from cattle producers who sell using local livestock commission companies or auction barns.
    At these meetings, we usually have a set of stocker or feeder cattle to discuss which provides examples of physical attributes that are positive as well as negative and give us all a chance to guess at breed composition. I have also spoken at dozens of these, and listened to many commission company owners and managers describe the type of cattle for which their buyers are most often willing to pay the most. The message has generally been the same. This session was no different but bears repeating.
    All agreed that the choice of bull (but not necessarily breed) had the greatest effect on the value of a calf. The right bull can add muscling and growth to calves, even out of the most common crossbred cow. Selecting bulls that add muscling improves the value of the calf by increasing its weight and by increasing the price that buyers will pay. The panel agreed that some breed crosses are less desirable as feeder steers (Longhorn crosses and high percentage Brahman were mentioned) but recognized that the females of these breeds or crosses often had much greater value than their steer mates.
    The second greatest factor affecting buyer price was health management, including castration since feedyard performance is affected with castration. All buyers encouraged those in attendance to castrate (knife cut, not Burdizzo) calves at an early age and to have incisions healed prior to selling. Steer calves bring more than bull calves. As part of health they also suggested at least one if not two respiratory disease vaccinations in addition to a clostridial vaccination and internal and external parasite treatment - if needed. Seeing an ear notch or an ear tag may be a sign to buyers that calves have been worked and are potentially worth more.
    Although buyers would have liked for them to be weaned for a few weeks prior to selling, they know the cost of maintaining weaned calves. They emphasized that backgrounding (allowing the calves to recover from weaning stress) would help reduce marketing shrink or weight loss (which is often 8 -12%) during the period. All agreed that the next few years will be about avoiding discounts rather than receiving premiums. If you put a pencil to it, it might recoup that expense and add a little profit. It’s worth considering.

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