Some misconceptions about marketing cattle

Every year there are some misconceptions about marketing cattle that lead us to believe that not everyone understands the business. Bred heifers are a good example. Every fall, we and other markets have bred heifer sales. For the most part, if these heifers are bred right, are of good quality and over a thousand pounds at sale time, they sell well and the seller is seldom disappointed.

But what happens too often is that someone will consign heifers to the sale that are less than nine hundred and fifty pounds. They may be decent enough quality. However, they are not mature enough, nor big enough to generate any interest. For the most part, the people that are prepared to pay a good dollar for these heifers want them to weigh over a thousand pounds in December. They want that weight in frame size, not fat feedlot heifers.

Every year, we and other markets, run into problems with consignors who bring in bred heifers that are not big enough for the buying public. They are usually not happy with their price. The most common complaint is. ” We didn’t even get feeder price.”

They are right, and here is the reason why. The heifers are too small for breeding stock and too many days in calf for feeder heifers. By the time they are fattened up enough for slaughter, they will either be calving or so heavy in calf that they will not yield well. They will be severely discounted by the packer buyers as fats.

I would suggest that if you are planning to sell bred heifers in the fall, that you take a good look at them in September. If there any among them that are not at least eight hundred and fifty pounds then, you should think about selling them as feeders at that time so that they can be finished and slaughtered before they get too heavy in calf.

Another suggestion that would help you make money is this: If heifers are not weighing at least seven hundred pounds at breeding time don’t bother wasting a bull on them. They will sell for more as open feeder heifers in the fall than bred heifers if they are small. If you are going to keep them and calve them yourself for your own herd then none of the above will affect you. But if you want to sell them to someone else in the fall, you have to have what the buyer wants if you want to get paid well for them.

Another thing that really upsets some people is when we spot bulls, half bulls and stags among their calves. We will not sort that type into pens with other people’s steers at presorted sales. The consignors who do the job right will not stand for it. The buyers and background lots where these cattle end up will not stand for it. Bulls, half bulls and stags are not of the same value as steers. I am sure that everyone knows that.

We have had more people downright irate over this problem than any other situation in the livestock business. I have never been able to figure out why they get so upset and P.O’d at me. I didn’t cut their calves. I didn’t make the mess or botch the job up. I wasn’t there at cutting time. Why not scold the person who missed these calves in the spring? That would probably be themselves.

I have done everything I can think of to make these people aware that the bull calves have to be steered properly in order to get steer price. This is one more attempt to help people make more money. Steer your calves properly in the spring and you will have steers in the fall.

We can spot their thick bull heads as they walk up the alley. We can spot their big bull tassels as they walk by. We can spot their pink penis’ hanging down three inches, from across the pens. If you do not want them sold as bulls, sort them out before you load. Keep them. Change them. Decide what to do then, before they get on the truck. If they arrive at the market here, or any other market or buying station, they will be sorted out from the steers and sold as bulls or stags. Which as a rule of thumb is usually about the same price as heifers. We might miss the odd one if it has a steer head and steer tassel and small scrotum. But we do not miss many.

If they have been recently burdizoed and the swelling has not disappeared they will be sorted into the stag pens, because they are not really steers until they have healed.

Another common mistake that we see people make is that they wean their calves in the fall for a short time then bring them in for sale. If the calves have been weaned for only two or three weeks, they will have lost weight, lost their bloom and be at their lowest ebb health wise. It is not a good time to sell them. When they look their poorest the price will be poor too. They will look stale. No one pays up for stale cattle.

If you are going to wean and still sell in the fall, the calves should be weaned at least six weeks and preferably longer. They should have received all their vaccinations prior to weaning. They should be on the best of growing rations, because you will have to have weight gain, and have the cattle looking thrifty to get market value out of them.

You would be far better off to sell them right off of the cow, than to put them in a pen with a bale of hay, a salt block and water for a couple of weeks then sell them. The calves would be far better off too.

We have been through the horn thing for years. If the horns are still on you will not get paid as much as if they are off. It is a fact of life. It is not something that I dreamed up. People tell me that other markets still sort the horned calves in with the dehorned calves. We can’t. Our consignors that dehorn will not stand for it on the good calves. They know that we would be marketing the horned calves at their expense. Their calves would bring less because of it. We keep the horned cattle separate regardless of what other places do. You can be good at something and not be doing like everyone else does.

If you want your good calves sorted in with everyone else dehorned calves all you have to do is dehorn them.

One of the backgrounders in our local Feeder Association made it clear that he will not buy cattle with the horns still on, unless he can get them for a dime less than the dehorned calves.

Most backgrounders figure at least a nickel less. Even at a nickel on a six hundred-pound calf, adds up to a thirty-dollar discount per head. If you leave the horns on that is your choice. It is none of our business until you start to complain about why your cattle didn’t bring as much as the dehorned cattle.

My goal as a market operator is to see that everyone gets paid top dollar for their cattle. Hopefully the above information will help those who read it, understand the business a little better. Hopefully, they will be able to avoid some of the pit falls that cause the bidders to back off of their cattle when selling.

Roy Rutledge Owner/ Manager/ Auctioneer

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