Editor''s Notebook

12:00AM Aug 31, 2009
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Kim Watson
Fall typically signals the time to wean and market calves. And this season's calf crop looks promising. Given lower cattle inventory and tight supplies, some market analysts are predicting that average calf prices this fall will be higher than last year's. But as with any outlook, there are uncertainties that may limit price improvement.

That doesn't mean you have to settle for just the average price. To get top dollar for your calves, work out a strategy to boost value.

For some producers, cattle have already been forward contracted and will be delivered after weaning. Other producers use day-to-day market management to see what calves will bring at the local auction. The risk associated with either marketing philosophy can be mitigated with just a little homework.

Know your market. First, know the current calf prices in your area. Prices can vary from one livestock market to another. Also find out if there are any special sales that your market is hosting, such as preconditioning sales, select feeder calf sales, etc. If you have calves that meet the criteria, you have an opportunity to reach buyers who might be willing to pay more for the "right” kind of calves.

Basic management. Beyond these market factors, you can increase the value of calves by following simple management procedures at the farm or ranch. For instance, castrating and dehorning prior to sale day can help keep your calves from getting docked by buyers at the sale barn. Having a verified vaccination program provides additional information to potential cattle buyers.

Pool resources. Group and market your cattle with other like-managed calves in your area. Sometimes this is done at the sale barn, but it can also be done to direct market calves or sell via satellite or Internet auction. Grouping cattle to fill a 50,000-lb. load can be more appealing to cattle buyers. Investigate marketing programs from animal health companies, industry organizations and breed associations to help market feeder calves.

What works? These are just a few ideas for boosting value to your calves this fall. Read Sara Brown's story on page 4 that looks at "What Cattle Buyers Want.” Also, go to page 12 for veterinarian Dan Goehl's take on the benefits of preconditioning prior to sale.

How do you increase calf value? Do you have a marketing strategy that works consistently? Let us know at [email protected].

Kim Watson-Potts, Editor writes from San Antonio, Texas
[email protected]