What is involved with buying and selling your cattle?

Answer: When buying cattle, I look for cattle that are similar in size, are healthy and well-cared for. When I sell my cattle, it is important to provide animals with the proper finish to meet buyer and consumer needs.

As a cattle farmer I talk about the kind, quality, and connection of my cattle. In other words, proper breeding and handling from a well-known source all have value to me and to other cattle buyers. This pertains to breeding stock – calves, yearlings and market-ready animals.

Building breeding stock

Long-term plans are laid to build a solid herd of breeding stock. Therefore, the cross-breeding of genetics is often used to create desirable traits. Since cattle have a nine month gestation, it takes many years to develop and track the trends of genetic traits.

The use of artificial insemination in cattle has allowed for more diverse genetic material to be included into herds. And, the use of egg flushing from females and transplanting into surrogate mothers has increased the speed of getting more similar offspring from a few “chosen” parents.

Larger cow-calf operations tend to experiment more with these systems. The costs increase for handling, checking, and sorting while the safety of not having any or as many bulls to feed is a cost savings.

Buying quality & well-cared for calves

Cattle buyers appreciate the consistency of animal growth, stage of maturity, and quality of properly grown and cared for calves. When a pen of a couple hundred cows can all be cycled and then inseminated in one day, the odds of them calving in a 10-20 day window greatly increases.

The dilemma comes when the weather is not friendly and they all calve in muddy, snowy, or just unfavorable conditions. Then, one might think that a longer calving window is better.

Many cattle are bought and sold through sale barns, cattle buyers, or video sales. I prefer the barns that provide the owner’s name, the weaning date or days since weaning, the vaccination and deworming programs, whether they are fed from a feed bunk or still on open pasture, and what they are getting fed. Sale barns vary in whether they provide a program sheet with all of this information or not.

Bidding on cattle and selling them at sale barns or feedlots

When cattle are ready for market, the bidding is based on the look, kind, quality, grade and experience of your previous cattle purchased. This can happen on the farm or at a sale barn. Cattle can be contracted for future delivery based on cash price or carcass grades with specifications on weight, delivery location, trucking fees, date and time of arrival, and a premium/discount schedule.

At sale barns, large volume feeder sales are scheduled seasonally or monthly as cattle are available for sale in that area. Market-ready cattle are often sold once a week in conjunction with smaller groups of cattle. A smaller percentage of these fat cattle are sold through sale barns due to an increase in the use of contracts. It is more efficient to ship larger semi-loads of cattle directly to the packing house.

Roy Plote – Sixth generation cattle and grain farmer, Leland