Sound marketing strategy crucial to selling calves

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

You can’t capitalize on what you don’t market. A sound marketing strategy allows a producer to capture added value in a group of calves.
All too often, producers leave dollars on the table by not having a marketing plan in place for a group of calves prior to the day they’re ready to be sold.
The following is Part 1 of some considerations on marketing your calves from Naomi Paley, regional livestock specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture:
In 2012, an analysis of the Mississippi Feeder Calf Board sales indicated buyers paid more for groups of cattle with a known status.
For example, buyers paid a premium for calves with known implant status (i.e., calves that were implanted and those not implanted) than for those where that information wasn’t reported.
In other words, buyers were willing to pay a premium for knowledge.
Although this information came from south of the border, it isn’t a secret that cattle buyers in Canada are willing to pay more for calves that they have good information on.
This information will help to determine how much will have to be spent on those calves once they enter a feedlot. This is an important point to remember when developing your strategy.
Regardless of whether calves are marketed at weaning or after a backgrounding period, a sound marketing strategy should be in place for each set.
A marketing plan should take into account month or season, market fluctuations, calf weight, number of calves, uniformity of calves, breed type, advertising and promotion, and reputation.
You can create your plan by following a few simple steps which can make it easier to tackle and put into motion.
•Setting a target market date
This date often is selected based on historical averages. However, it also may be calculated based on an average breeding date giving you an average weaning date.
Depending on the forage base and supplementation plan, the days to target weight can be estimated to give the anticipated marketing date.
•Calculate production costs and your break-even price
Knowing your production costs and break-even price are invaluable, and perhaps the first step in making you a price maker instead of a price taker.
Knowing your break-even price will help you to set a price objective (i.e., how much you want to sell your calves for).
This price objective can be developed using added projections for living costs, opportunity costs, and operation growth projections.
This price objective then becomes the target price for this set of calves. 
Dates to remember
•Oct. 26–Cattle sale, Stratton sales barn