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Selling Cattle With Video and Satellite

When our steers are about 800lbs. they’re ready to hit the road. We winter our late spring born calves and let them graze right through spring and summer so they are ready for market in August and September. We raise cattle with a little “ear” and have many people advising us that the market will dock us for this trait. But come the 100 degree days of August we find the buyers are always interested in bidding on well grown, green [no grain feeding] yearlings that won’t faint on the truck trip to the feedlot.

Here's an example of a group of calves ready for auction.
Here’s an example of a group of calves ready for auction.

We have been using video sales to market our steers for the last ten years or so. If you have a potload [50,000 lbs.] of cattle close enough in weight and of one sex, video sales are a good way to receive bids and sell your cattle without taking your cattle off the farm until after you have a deal and are assured of payment.

Here’s how it works with us. We weigh and then sort out a potload of steers ready for market. We sort the biggest and the best, removing outliers and cattle with defects that would be unfair to the buyer, such as real bad eyes or bad feet etc. We call the representative from the stockyard who comes to the farm, looks over the cattle, takes all the pertinent information such as date of birth, breeding, vaccinations and feeding program, and then video tapes the cattle. Back at the office the tape is matched with the information on the cattle and the day of the sale the video plays while the buyers bid. The film is usually available for previewing so the buyers have a chance to see what they will be bidding on later in the day.  All of this takes place without the steers going anywhere. Until the cattle are actually sold and loaded they continue to graze and grow.

It is the best way we’ve found to market our cattle. Having scales makes it really simple as we don’t have to guess the weight of the cattle and can accurately list the weights on the video. If we don’t receive the price we have set we can “no-sale” them and the cattle are still out grazing on our farm. Though we’ve never “no-saled” the cattle, it’s nice to have this option. If we haul the steers to the auction barn it’s doubtful we would ever “no-sale” the cattle as they would have been hauled, exposed to disease and stressed. When we take cattle to the stockyards we feel we’ve lost control of the cattle once we load the cattle on the trailer and while our rep from the stockyards takes good care of our cattle, the truth is no one cares about our cattle as much as we do.

This method of selling allows us to be more in control of the whole selling process. We set the day for the cattle to be loaded, and we are the people who load the cattle on to the buyers truck allowing us to do it as quietly and humanely as possible.   Not only is this the way it should be done, it’s financially prudent for it keeps the shrink on the cattle small which can really add up as a bonus on the sale.

We weigh our cattle a week before selling, which allows us to accurately tell the buyers the sale weight and also measure the shrink on loading day. Last year our actual shrink [not counting the 2% pencil shrink] was 1.3%, which is very low. Our calculations on shrink of the cattle sold conventionally through the sale barn has been from 5-8%. So even with the 2% pencil shrink added on to the 1.3% actual shrink, we received a bonus of $2,000-3,000 in reduced shrink by selling a potload and weighing on the truck.

We have used Superior Livestock and Joplin Stockyards to market our cattle using video sales. Superior offers many more buyers, but Joplin has done well for us and we’ve used them the last three years. Remember when you sell this way, you have to be more involved with the conditions at loading, shrink, delivery dates etc. than when you just load on the trailer and send them to the sale barn. Like most things, the more you’re willing to put into it, the better you do.

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