What is your marketing plan?

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What is your marketing plan? How do you market your calf crop? This question can apply to beef cow-calf operations as well as those who grow Holstein steers for various lengths of time. How much planning and thought do you put into determining a marketing plan for your calves?  Doing the same thing every year may result in less cash in your pocket.  What do you do in order to capture as much profit as possible for your calves?

A marketing plan should answer the questions of what, when, how and where you plan to market your cattle. I like the first habit from Steven Covey’s book, The7 Habits of Highly Effective People: begin with the end in mind. What is the end product you plan on producing? Is it a calf weaned on the way to market when some cash is needed? Is it a weaned, preconditioned calf to be sold in a special sale? Is it a backgrounded short or long yearling? Is it one or more registered animals to be sold to other registered breeders or commercial producers?

The”what” part is obviously  bovine animals, it may be feeder calves, stocker calves, breeding stock, or perhaps you finish them out and sell them as fed cattle.

So the “when” question is to consider what the end product will be, the cost of producing that product, sale or marketing opportunities and expected prices relative to other time periods.

The “when” question for some is determined by when the calves are born, and/or when they need some cash,  run out of pasture, or a similar tough spot.  Obviously this is not a good situation and should not be standard procedure.  For others “when” is determined by evaluating their costs and opportunities for retaining ownership for a longer period of time.  Some producers do this annually to determine the best option for maximizing return on their resources under the prices and feed availability for that given year.

Your resource base is a key for determining whether you are going to wean the calves and grow them for some extended period of time. Is sufficient forage available? Are supplemental feeds available and at what cost?  Are the livestock facilities and labor available sufficient to own the animals longer? The key is to pencil out the details for your farm to determine the best option.

“How”and “Where” will the cattle be marketed? There are a number of options out there including regular weekly auctions, special feeder sales, alliance sales, video sales and direct-from-the-farm sales.  These different options offer different benefits and opportunities.  Evaluate them to determine which works best for you.

Another part of “How” is how do you present, promote and or advertise you cattle? Are you producing cattle with added value? This refers to a good solid pre-conditioning program which includes a planned vaccination program and boostered as labels require at least 4 weeks before sale and weaned at least 45 days. If you are, document this and work with your marketing partner to make sure potential buyers know that your calves have been pre-conditioned.  Good marketing partners want to help you present your cattle as best as possible.  This type of documented information is valuable and often commands higher prices, even in times of high cattle prices.  You have to make sure you share that information in a well documented form to make it work to your advantage.

If you can answer some of the questions addressed here,  you should have a marketing plan that will help you capture the value of what you have produced.

Prepared by Bill Halfman, UW Extension Ag Agent, adapted from a similar article by Emmit Rawls, University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension Livestock Economist


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MWD    
Ames, IA  |  October, 18, 2013 at 09:12 AM

Great article! I work with livestock farmers of all shapes, sizes, and varieties. I see plenty who get through a few of these steps - for instance, they want to market "grassfed beef" - but lose track of the "how" and struggle to find buyers who can pay them what they need. Or the "when" is shaky and they can't get regular customers because their product isn't consistently available. Two of the more successful farms I've been priveleged to work with have these all figured out, even if they didn't sit down and think about it this way. One farm knows "what" and "how" and "why" - grass- fed beef, limited grain, because they had customers asking for it - and recognized the "when" issues, and their marketing program involves waiting till mid-spring to process cattle so they can get back on grass for a bit after a winter of hay. The "why" there being the increased quality they observe. The other farm figured out first "when" they needed money, and built their production system to have calves fed out at that time.


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