About a year ago, I sent out a letter to 25 seedstock producers asking if any of their customers might have some steers out of their bulls that my associates and I might feed out. We needed these steers to hold a small feeding pen at Diamond-O Feedyard, Butler, Mo., which we use for our own steers as part of a carcass information project. No responses were received to this letter.

I had this experience in mind in my preparations for my January and February columns on value-based female marketing. The unanswered question is, would the results have been any different if I had asked about breeding females instead of feeder steers? I doubt it.

I have tried to show in my last two columns that the foundation for value-based female trading already has been laid by pioneering seedstock producers, and that this trade can be a profitable matter for both buyers and sellers. I would now like to make the point that this area of trade needs many more participants, and that there is an opportunity here for you and you and you.

It is easiest to enter the value-based female trade if you hold an annual auction. Convince one or more of your customers to consign a group of females, be they open heifers, bred heifers or cows. Set a lot size. I like five-head lots with a "roll privilege" allowing buyers to buy succeeding lots from the same consignor at the same price. Five head are not too many for operators with limited resources, and 20 head or more may not be too many for larger operators.

But it is not difficult to enter this trade if you sell seedstock only by private treaty. The first entry-step is to assemble an availability list. Assembling this list will take customer contact, which is something that you should have anyway. Contact everyone who has purchased a bull from you over the past several years (five years, at least). Explain your service and offer to help in making selections. You and your customers may be surprised at how many valuable heifers are left after herd replacements have been selected.

You also can involve yourself in organizing and staging value-based female sales in which the qualified females of your customers and those of other seedstock producers are grouped. Such sales can be held in cooperation with operators or auction markets or at an independent site of your choosing.

The old rule, first things first, is highly important in preparing for involvement in this trade, and your first priority should be given to cattle specifications. Here are some things I would want to learn from you before contacting your producers: Breed, frame size, age, exposure dates, pelvic size, maternal sire's EPDs and frame size, conception sire's EPDs and frame size, and pregnancy status.

Is the value-based female trade an income opportunity? It costs commercial producers $10 to $15 per head to sell heifers through an auction market. Many commercial producers would be willing to pay such an amount, if they were grossing $50 or more per head. But there is a promotional opportunity here. Providing a listing service could easily make it possible to command higher prices for bulls. The choice between income and service ultimately becomes a matter of goal; there is an opportunity either way.

This column is not only for the eyes of seedstock producers, as it may appear from what has been said. Value-based female marketing is all about commercial production-selling females and buying females. Working with your seedstock producer or an involved auction operator is a way to escape the grab bag concept that has trapped the female trade for too long. High-value females are worth more money whether you're selling or buying. That's why value-based female trading provides an opportunity for you and you and you.

To contact Fred Knop, write Drovers or send e-mail to: fredlyn@aol.com