Tips for marketing calves

Here are some considerations on marketing your calves from Naomi Paley, regional livestock specialist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture:
•Advertising/promotion
Typically, local auction markets are the predominant market avenue for smaller producers, with larger producers using alternative strategies.
However, with a little co-operation and planning, smaller producers can take advantage of alternative marketing, as well.
Even though load-sized lots of calves are desirable, accommodations can be made for part loads by changing the delivery point from the farm to an auction market or facility, where the buyer can put together a full load or share shipping on another truck.
This also may be an opportunity for you to work with a neighbour who has similar calves to put together and market a load-sized lot.
As well, there are numerous options available to producers, including on-line video and Internet actions, marketing alliances, and, believe it or not, even Kijiji.
Most of these options will allow you to market animals directly from your farm.
Each one has both advantages and disadvantages, however, and these can change with market conditions and with each animal marketed.
Therefore, it is important to do your homework and talk to other producers who have used these services before.
Even the best set of calves can’t sell themselves if buyers don’t know about them. Buyers need to know not only that calves are available for sale, but also the description and background of them.
Buyers want accurate descriptions, including breed, vet work (i.e., vaccinations, implants, and castration method), feed program, flesh the animals are carrying, horns, and base weight.
If you don’t have a scale to weigh a few representative animals, any information you can provide to estimate the weight as accurately as possible will be helpful.
An investment in a squeeze chute scale likely will pay for itself in short order if you plan to market calves directly off of the farm.
As the use of technology in marketing cattle is becoming more common, it is important to ensure it is working to your advantage. Many people have smartphones and digital cameras with built-in video cameras that will do a nice job of capturing images of cattle.
Pictures and video taken on farm for advertising or broadcasting on an Internet sale should accurately represent the entire lot.
Video footage also is becoming standard practice and often will complement still images, allowing buyers to see how cattle move and determine exactly what they are.
The importance of honesty in describing and showing videos and photos of the cattle should be a high priority.
A buyer who is surprised by the delivery of cattle, which are not what they were advertised to be, will not be a return one.
•Evaluate your plan
After a marketing plan has been executed, you need to evaluate that plan. Did it work? Was it able to produce the desired price objective? Were you satisfied with your marketing plan?
This will help to identify if and where changes need to be made in your plan.
A sound marketing strategy will allow a producer to decrease risk and take advantage of added value when marketing a group of calves.
It is important that the plan is well-researched, reasonable, and well-planned to ensure its success.
Dates to mark
•Oct. 26–Cattle sale, Stratton sales barn, 9 a.m.

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