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Kurt Kangas Ginette Gottswiller

The Source

How do I sell my calves for what they are worth?

Think about how you make buying decisions. Let’s use your pickup as an example. Do you study Consumer Reports, obtain a CarFax information report or read the Kelly Blue Book? There is as much or as little information as you want to obtain on your potential purchase.

Tight margins make us better managers because we study the numbers more closely. During the past few months, profit margins at the feedlot seem to be in the headlines often.

You sell your calves one time a year; marketing strategies are year-round.

How do you sell your calves for what they are worth?

What they are worth to you may be different than what the buyer thinks they are worth to him. What do buyers want? They want to make a profit. They want cattle that have a high average daily gain (ADG) and a low feed-to-gain ratio for starters. Many buyers look for calves that are at least 50% Angus genetics to grade Choice and have a Yield Grade (YG) of 3 or less.

Your marketing plan starts when you purchase your registered-Angus bull. At what weight do you plan to sell your calves? Is this bull going to improve your weaning weights, rate of gain or your carcass traits? Look at the bull’s expected progeny differences (EPDs) and talk with your seedstock producer to determine if this bull will help improve your program.

Continue to add value to your calf crop with added management.

Buyers look for load lots of even, uniform calves to fill their feedlot pens. While it is more work to pull the bull and pasture him separately from the cow herd, it will produce a calf crop born in a narrower calving window.

Buyer interest in preconditioned calves continues to grow so they can decrease their risk in the feedyard. This will become more evident as the veterinary feed directive (VFD) is implemented in the coming year. Data support that weaned, castrated and vaccinated calves have increased value. During the summer video sales in 2015, reports showed calves that had been weaned for 45 days, castrated and were on a VAC 45 vaccination program earned between $7-$8 per hundredweight (cwt.) more. Calves weaned for at least 45 days will have less shrink (5%-7%) as compared to non-weaned calves (10%-15%). Sick calves don’t gain well, and their ability to have a high-grading carcass is lowered.

Buyers look for good, quality genetics and calves that are at least 50% Angus. Performance and carcass information that was collected on 50 groups of known Angus-sired calves that were fed in Kansas and Nebraska showed the Angus-sired calves graded 79.7% Choice and Prime as compared to 56.1% for the rest of the region.

It’s time to sell your calves. How do you set your calves apart from all the other black-hided calves going through the salering? How do you let the buyer know about the quality Angus genetics you have invested in your calf crop? How do you convey the preconditioning information like vaccinations and feed rations?

AngusSource® is the answer. Calves enrolled in AngusSource must be sired by a registered-Angus bull, have a known group age and be born on the ranch of origin. Once calves are enrolled, the calves are designated by an AngusSource ear tag and Marketing Document.

The white tamper-evident Destron Fearing ear tag shows calves are enrolled. Producers have the option to purchase a visual, e.Tag or ChoiceSet. Each tag includes a 15-digit animal identification number (AIN) that meets interstate traceability requirements.

The AngusSource Marketing Document conveys valuable information to buyers.

The AngusSource Marketing Documents feature a Replacement Female Value and a Feeder Carcass Value. The Replacement Female Value is the sires’ average weaned calf value index ($W) of the enrollment group. This genetic index value is expressed in dollars per head, associated with preweaning performance in a cow-calf operation, including both revenue and cost adjustments associated with calving ease, weaning direct growth and maternal milk and mature cow size. Feeder Carcass Value uses the average of all enrolled calves sires’ beef value index ($B). Also a genetic index value expressed in dollars per head, it is associated with postweaning gain performance in the feedlot, combined with value differences in carcass merit.

You will also find a %Rank after the new values. This number is the ranking of the average American Angus Association breed genetic index value for the sires represented on a percentile basis from 1 to 100. This means the lower the number, the better the ranking.

Here is an easy example. The percent rank is 10%, this means they are in the top 10% of the breed. Now recall this is the average of the sires’ EPDs, because we do not obtain information on the dams of the calf crop. The document also lists the source and group age that has been verified by the American Angus Association.

Producers have the option to include even more information on the Marketing Document. They can list when and where the enrolled calves will be selling, vaccination products and dates, castration, implants, designate calves as natural, include past carcass information and much more.

How do you sell your calves for what they are worth?

No matter if you are buying feeder calves, replacement females or a new truck, you want the most for your investment. The data and information American Angus Association can provide your buyer is not much different than a CarFax report. It provides buyers with an insight into at least 50% of your calves’ genetic makeup. Or if you continue to enroll in the program and keep your own replacement heifers, buyers could use past Marketing Documents to determine the genetics of your cow herd.

With profit margins being much smaller than in the past, buyers will look much more closely at genetic quality before they bid. If you want what your calves are worth, you have to market and promote your product. If you don’t give the buyers all the information to make that important buying decision, then who will?

Comment on the storyEditor's Note: Ginette Gottswiller is the director of commercial programs for the American Angus Association.

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