2017 bull sale season kicks off
Success depends on seedstock/commercial cooperation
Labor Day kicks off the traditional fall bull selling season. It is an exciting time! The fall bull sale represents two years of work by the seedstock breeder from the time they made the breeding decisions that resulted in the bulls they are marketing. It is also the seedstock breeders’ biggest paycheck for the year.
The excitement is not just for seedstock breeders, however. For commercial producers, the genetics they select in the form of bulls will determine the product they have to market in the coming five years and their cowherd during the next decade. Heady times for all involved.
Before purchasing bulls, commercial cow/calf operations should audit their herd to determine what direction to go in genetically. This includes having the proper milk and growth genetics for their environment and market. Any chronic problems—such as disposition and soundness— should be addressed.
Many producers have long-term relationships with a seedstock provider and have their cattle as trouble-free as possible. Others might need a drastic course change, however. In the latter case, breed complementarity from a designed crossbreeding system is often the quickest way to make a course correction.
Commercial producers need to financially reward seedstock breeders for their efforts to raise the accuracy of the genetic predictions.
These include raising bulls in large, equal-opportunity contemporary groups; practicing total herd reporting; ultrasounding; and genomically testing their stock. All of these efforts improve the accuracies of genetic predictions, thus improving the chances that bulls will breed true to their genetic predictions. Conversely, lower-accuracy bulls need to be priced according to their increased risk.
Having a seedstock breeder who can offer “one stop shopping” is also a value to a commercial producer. The seedstock breeder needs to have adequate selection to fill a commercial producer’s needs. If the producer is taking advantage of heterosis and breed complimentarity, seedstock breeders who have multiple breeds and hybrids can further simplify commercial bull-buying decisions.
Purchasing bulls from operations with well-earned excellent reputations also adds value. Program consistency, guarantees, and recognition of the seedstock breeder’s genetics when marketing feeder cattle should all be taken into account when pricing bulls.
The adaptability of bulls from certain operations is sometimes better than others and should be an important consideration.
Most seedstock providers aim for a niche in the market in which they compete.
However, without properly educating their buyers on where their cattle excel, they will not create value for their customers.
Newsletters, field days, producer visits, social media, and a catalog that explains a breeder’s philosophy all help their commercial customers understand the merits of their bulls. Management practices discussed earlier—large contemporary groups, whole herd reporting, ultrasound, and genomics—add significant value to commercial producers. How these practices decrease the risk when purchasing bulls needs to be communicated to potential buyers.
All seedstock breeders’ bulls should have a breeding soundness exam and be under an excellent herd health program designed with their veterinarian. This includes all the appropriate vaccines and parasite control. Bulls that go through a sale then are shipped to a new owner are exposed to a certain level of stress, so keeping them healthy through a proactive health program is a must.
Offering free or low-cost delivery and a solid guarantee also can make one breeder’s bulls more attractive compared to another’s. Offering guaranteed sightunseen purchasing will also attract buyers who, due to time or distance, cannot be present at the sale.
Seedstock breeders should strive to have critical mass in their sale to attract volume buyers. Sometimes this may mean several breeders banding together to hold a single bull sale. In this case, it is wise to develop the bulls together to provide a more uniform product to potential customers. Other small producers can consider being cooperators with a larger seedstock breeder, and then let them market their bulls. Offering multiple breeds and hybrids can also make a seedstock breeder’s sale an attractive place to do one-stop shopping for those commercial producers who are taking advantage of crossbreeding.
A seedstock producer who assists in their customers’ feeder cattle marketing also adds a tremendous amount of value to their bulls. This can encompass a wide array of efforts. It can be encouraging producers to take advantage of breed association programs, or an agreement by the seedstock operation to bid on their customers’ calves. Another example would be having reputation genetics sufficient to earn recognition in the various video auctions. The “Superior’s Progressive Genetics” logo adds to the marketability of your customers’ calves, for instance, thus the value of a seedstock supplier’s bulls.
The basic premise for any breeder to be successful is: If you can market the feeder calves successfully, the breeder will be successful marketing their bulls.
Advertising and promotion are also critical to success. A breeder can have the best bulls in the country, but if no one knows about them, they will not be successful.
A marketing campaign should clearly spell out and promote the value an individual operation’s bulls offer commercial customers. Often times seedstock producers spend a large amount on marketing during good times and shrink their marketing budget considerably during leaner times. Logic would say the opposite should be true.
During leaner times, gaining market share becomes tougher, which a good promotional campaign can help build. Also during lean times, commercial producers will often consider new ideas and genetics. This can be used to a seedstock supplier’s advantage by promoting their bulls to new potential customers.
The bull sale season is an exciting time! The promise of new genetics and how they can move a commercial operation forward towards a more profitable future makes decisions made this fall very important. Seedstock breeders need to supply their customers with high-quality bulls, and commercial producers should reward sellers for the practices they have done that will add value to their product. — Dr. Bob Hough, WLJ correspondent