As complicated as it can be to match up cattle from different producers into truckload lots, Clint Berry said the cattle are usually the easy part. To make this work, consider these four keys.
1. TAKE A TEAM APPROACH. "It's less about the cattle than the people," said Berry, Texas-based Superior Livestock Auction representative. "Without a team approach, it will fail. These are no longer your cattle, they are the group's cattle." He added, "You can change a vaccination or weaning program fairly quickly. You can even change the genetics in a few years, but you can't change a person's attitude if they aren't willing."
2. LASTING PARTNERSHIPS. This is not a quick-and-easy undertaking. "You have to form a long-term partnership to market cattle that are consistent and uniform in type, kind, and management," Berry explained. He added genetics fall under type and kind, while value-added programs come under management.
3. BLACK HIDES. Color, quality, and age really do count. "The higher percentage of black-hided cattle you have on the load, the better off you're going to be pricewise," said Clemson University (CU) area livestock and forages agent Brian Beer. "As far as genetic potential, it is really important on these Global Animal Partnership (GAP) cattle. They are going to a premium market, and if you have ignored the carcass characteristics in your bull selection, the buyers of your cattle are not probably going to be very happy." Mid-Atlantic Cattle Sales Fields Representative David Landreth added the age of the cattle is also part of the uniformity equation. Some of the value-added programs require the cattle be processed by the time they're 30 months old. He said, "a 14-month-old calf isn't going to marble like a 22-month-old one."
4. GO WITH THE BASICS. Start simple, said Clemson University Extension Area Livestock and Forages Agent, Travis Mitchell. "If you've historically weaned your cattle on the trailer on the way to the stockyard, start by vaccinating calves while they're still on the cow. That's for your protection, because the next step is weaning your calves, and those vaccinations will decrease your risk of a respiratory outbreak." Once you're comfortable weaning and preconditioning your cattle for at least 45 days, preferably 60, then you can start looking at value-added programs and commingling with other producers to form truckload lots. He added, "Do what you say you're going to do. You're transitioning to selling cattle based on your farm's reputation."
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