WACO, Texas – From traditional livestock auctions to online sources, cattle producers have a variety of options to choose from when marketing cattle, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
Dr. Jason Banta, beef cattle specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, gave a broad overview of marketing options at the recent Blackland Income Growth Conference in Waco.
Banta said the biggest impact on income in a cattle operation is percentage of calves weaned. Other pieces of the equation include how many pounds the calves weigh and price received per pound.
“Condition of cows at calving time has the biggest impact on pregnancy rates,” Banta said. “You want those cows to be at a body condition score of five or better.”
Genetics also play an important role as well as input costs. Cull cows and cull bulls account for 10 to 15 percent of producers’ income.
“There’s value in these animals, and we need to market these animals to maximize the value,” Banta said.
There are several marketing channels, such as traditional livestock auction markets and online sources where a producer can post a classified ad.
For feeder calves and stocker cattle, Banta said producers can use livestock auction markets or sell through special preconditioning sale venues.
“You’d be surprised how far you can haul some cattle and get them into a preconditioning sale. The key is to go with one that has a good reputation to capture that premium.”
There are also video auction services as well as having someone come to your ranch and buy direct.
“Out of all of these options, it has to fit your operation and knowledge base,” he said.
When using auction markets, producers who have 15 to 30 better quality calves can call the barn ahead of time so the barn can advertise and help better market the calves.
“Some will let you pull tags early,” Banta said. “This is a good way to get a group of calves you have and sell them together before buyers who might be looking for a good group. They like this instead of having to pick them out one by one throughout a sale day or at multiple sales.”
Factors affecting the selling price of calves include color. Banta advised against producing calves with spots or paint colors. However, replacement females with stripes, such as a Braford cross, will bring a premium.
“We sell cattle on perceived breed type,” he said. “There are significant discounts if you have more influence of a breed that is not wanted by order buyers.”
Recommendations include no more than one-quarter Bos Indicus, at least one-quarter British and no more than one-half Continental.
“The industry wants medium to large frame cattle,” he said.
Banta said time of year can also affect prices paid. Spring typically brings some of the higher prices for weaned calves and cull cows, while fall will bring the lowest since many cattle operations are selling at this time.