The cattle business continues to change. However, what change is appropriate and what is not?
Right now in the beef business, the calves are being moved and most are happy. Words such as premiums and discounts seem to be taking a backseat to good prices. The extra few dollars for giving calves some unique or extra care are being muffled by gross weight and total dollars.
However, perhaps some momentary thought should be given to managerial practices that have proven through the years to be sound practices. The problem is, when the obvious payment for calf processing disappears, then the logical conclusion is why even do it.
The first reason, although somewhat subtle, is because it just makes sense. The care and well-being of cattle always is the highest priority for cattle producers, so calves are prepared for market through traditional weaning procedures, backgrounding and vaccinations.
As calves acclimate to new environments, they settle in and are less stressed. Cattle buyers are savvy and, contrary to common thought, very data intense. Even today, as calves are sorted and sold, the buyers are checking previous histories and performance.
Feedlots need sets of cattle that contribute to a predefined, marketable package. By identifying with a marketable package, bidding can get intense because feed yards need to fill pens. However, as cow-calf producers, don’t ever take for granted the need to make sure buyers know your cattle very well.
Well-presented cattle show and sell well. One cannot help but remind producers that market preparation starts with breeding decisions because the type of calf one is going to sell really depends on the genetics. However, that is another discussion.
Today, the point is the market preparation of the calf crop. Market preparations start when an ear tag is placed in the calf at birth. All calves compete with each other, so a unique market identification is critical, just like the fancy jersey of your favorite sports team or beverage label. If they are your calves, mark them, tag them and put caps on them if needed, but let no calf go unnoticed. It is called marketing.
The ear tag, in combination with the calving book, is the starting point for unique marketing opportunities. Being able to sell calves with data and age and source verification still is critical. Granted, today many producers are not age and sourcing calves because the market is not calling for it. However, don’t get lackadaisical because the market remains competitive and those calves with data remain noticed.