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Grouping Calves For Sale – Good Idea or Bad?

By   /  October 15, 2018  /  No Comments

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A couple of years ago the idea was brought up by some of the members of what was left of the Heifer Project groups in our area that it would be beneficial to all involved to put their calves together for marketing. The idea was that this would enhance their position by selling in groups rather than selling the calves individually. I was asked what I thought of this idea. Now up front I will admit that my answers to their questions were not received with any enthusiasm. But I thought that this was a place for the truth not B.S.

I am accused sometimes by some of my friends and kin of being a pessimist. I don’t know how anyone who is in the business of raising livestock can be a pessimist after all we begin each year believing that it will be better than last year. It would be hard to get up in the morning if we believed that today would not be better than yesterday. I would rather believe that I am a realist.

Being realistic I believe it is safe to say that we all have been guilty at one time or another of over estimating the value and quality of our calves. Our son Donnie ran a sale barn for 17 years and I cannot count the times he told of folks bringing calves to sell and being disappointed by the fact that none of the buyers thought as much of their calves as they did. This is the problem with the idea of putting groups together. In most cases there will be a lot of differences in quality and size.

There is, without question, a real benefit in the grouping of calves. This allows the best calves to not be diminished in value by the calves of lower quality. The fact is in this business the bottom of a group will set the price, the good will never bring the poor ones up. The poor will bring the good ones down. In other words when figuring an average price in a group the greater the difference between the top and bottom the lower the average.  With this in mind it becomes possible to understand that the calves must be grouped so there is little difference between them. The guy at the sale barn is working for you but never forget the more you make the more he will make so the grouping will work for both parties.

Now as far as grouping calves from multiple producers this can create problems beyond what most of us want or need to deal with. To accept calves into a group there must be standards set and to be sure not all of the calves will make the cut. And if the standards do not allow the uncles and brother-in laws to put calves in the group this will cause problems at home. And then there is the question of identification and insuring that all of the calves have been managed the same: are the bull calves cut, and have all of the necessary shots been given?

This is not being a pessimist this is being a realist. On the positive side this may encourage the folks whose calves that did not make the cut to do what is necessary to make it next year.

I believe that each calf should stand on its own merit or lack of. I also believe that if we as producers concentrate on producing the best calf possible with what we have to work with the market will take care of itself. So in the end I believe that the idea of grouping calves from multiple producers in most cases will create more problems than it will solve.

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About the author

My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.

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