It's Showtime. . . or is That Sale Time!
Summer may only be half over but it's never too early to start thinking about your big "show day" this fall. For many in the cow/calf business your sales day will be one of the only days you show off your herd and its production. Just as in the movies or theatre, no good $$ successful show happens by chance, so too with your "show day". For every theatre show there is audience research and targeting done, advertising, rehearsals, props or background work and scenery, stage presence and finally friendly client service and follow-up. So lets take a look at your show preparation…
Audience Research and Targeting - just as not everyone enjoys all plays, your calves will not be the choice of everyone who feeds cattle. Know which market your calves fit best-heifer feeders, or steers, high grain diet finish by next spring, or high forage diet with more of a backgrounding component. Then target those feeders with your information or advertising. No play ever ran without some advance advertising. They tell you who is in the show, what they are doing-ie storyline and why this is good value for your money. So…in your calves that would be how many, breed type, maybe colouring, sex , size, performance, and maybe additional features.
Rehearsals - this is the part of the equation were you practice selling your calves. You can do this by staying current on the market. Use all the market information you can lay your hands on. OCA runs a phone line and lists prices on their web site, this report is also printed in the Ontario Farmer, the Northern Network 1-888 line will be running from late August on with reports on their stocker sales, and you can also attend as many stocker sales as you get a chance to. When comparing the prices don't forget to be objective and honest about where your calves fit. (We'd all like to have all top calves but not too many of us do)
Props and scenery are what often give a play that something extra. I look on this as the additional features you add on to your calves. The list of most desirable add ons include castration- preferably with a knife-($ .05 premium or discount depending on your point of view), dehorned($.05 again premium or discount ?) vaccinated according to label directions (ie if it says 2 shots they aren't vaccinated until they have 2 shots). Some buyers also like calves weaned and bunk broke but research your market on this one(you will have less shrink if the calves are started on feed and weaned ) Calves often need three weeks between weaning and the sale to get through the stress and turned around again.
Stage Presence - In a play that would be the actor on the stage, in your case the calves in the ring. Calves used to people will not react quite as badly as true green calves. Try to make sure they aren't too crowded on the truck or in the sales barn, and some bedding can help keep them looking good. Some dry hay for a few days ahead may help firm up some manure as well. You don't want your calves gaunted out but you also don't want a big full feed or water gut on them. Sorting also comes into the picture here. A small or poor calf in with a good group just looks worse and will pull down the price on them all. Even if you are selling on the farm still split the groups and get a bid on them separately.
Friendly Client Service and Follow - This is just what you would expect. If possible go talk to the person who bought your cattle. (this means you need to be at the sale-hint, hint.) Pass on any relevant information including your phone number and try to get their's. I realize this is difficult if a order buyer got your cattle, but try none the less, sometimes you can find out where they are going. Follow up is very simple; phone later in the season to find out how your cattle faired health and performance wise. Ask for and seriously consider suggestions the feedlot may have for your health and breeding program.
Show day gets all the glamour and is often long remembered. However show day will only be as successful as the background work that makes it happen.
So Folks …on with the Show …This is it!
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