You are here

Marketing Feeder Calves

Filed Under:
June 13, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about marketing feeder calves. Hello. I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Cobie Rutherford, Mississippi State University Extension Associate. So, Cobie, how can producers benefit from feeder calf marketing?

Cobie Rutherford: Amy, a lot of producers are getting ready to sell their feeder calves at market right now. However, these calves are mostly born in the fall of the year, and it's getting time to get those calves weaned and marketed.

There are a lot of ways that a producer can benefit from this, whether it's looking at how the calves sell this year and comparing their actual sell prices to the market reports, and then using that data to go back and make selection decisions for next year's calf crop. But they can also benefit from trying to hit the market at the right time and get these calves marketable and to prospective buyers.

Amy Myers: So, with that said, what exactly are buyers looking for in feeder calves?

Cobie Rutherford: When the calf comes through the stockyard ring, the buyer has to make a quick, split-second decision on what he or she is looking for, and they do that by first assessing the calf's feeder calf grade. So they're going to look at the calf's frame score and muscling score. So basically when they look at frame, they're looking at cattle that are either small, medium, or large-framed. And what we know from years and years of scientific research, that a small-frame calf will finish out at a smaller weight than perhaps a medium and large-frame calf. So they're going to make an assessment of price and value, first of all based on that frame score.

Then, they'll in turn look at muscling score. And of course a heavier muscled calf will bring more money and be worth more money than a lighter muscled calf. Basically the buyer is looking for something that he can turn around and make money on and be profitable, and provide a safe and wholesome, nutritious beef product with, and get the most bang for his buck. So he's also looking at things that will lessen his risk on each calf he buys.

Amy Myers: And as far as risks are concerned, what can a producer do to reduce risk in the feeder calves that he's selling?

Cobie Rutherford: So risk can cover a whole spectrum of different things. The first thing I think about in feeder calf marketing is castration of bull calves. So we know that every bull calf that goes through the stockyard, at some point in its life, it will be castrated. And we know that if we castrate those bull calves at a younger age, they'll wind up doing better. It'll be less stressful on the animal, especially if it's castrated while it's still nursing its dam. We also know that dehorning will lessen the risk. If a calf has been dehorned prior to being marketed, that's one less thing that the buyer has to do for that calf.

Another thing is vaccinations. And, you know, sometimes we don't think about vaccinations as helping with risk, but any prior immunity that calves can have before getting to the stocker phase or feedyard, the better it'll be on them.

Amy Myers: Okay, now what are some things that producers can do to add more value to their feeder calves?

Cobie Rutherford: When we think about adding value to feeder calves, the very first thing that comes to my mind is selling calves in a group. So if you can get your cattle to calving in a short, concise calving season and have cattle that... a cow herd that is consistent in type and uniformity, you're in turn going to have calves that are more uniform. So if you as a producer, can work with your stockyard operator to get your calves marketed in groups, 10 or more if possible, that are the same age, sex, weight, feeder calf score, that'll really help you out with marketing.

Amy Myers: So with all this information, how can they apply this when they're selecting feeder calves?

Cobie Rutherford: On thing that you can think about when you look at marketing as a whole, when it comes time to marketing, the last thing you want to do is to drop the ball on the goal line. So when you think about what you need to do as far as getting your calves marketed, a lot of producers will just pull up to the stockyard, drop off their calves off and then leave and not think anything else about it.

One thing I always recommend producers to do, is to actually watch their calves' sale and compare their calves, prices and values to calves that are alike in type and kind, and then try to figure out the differences of those calves and your calves. Maybe you have calves that top the market every time and you really don't need to improve a lot on your feeder calves. But if you've got calves who are consistently at the bottom of their market value range for their weights, maybe you can figure out why they're there and make selection decisions based on what you're observing.

Amy Myers: For more information where can we go?

Cobie Rutherford: Our new Extension website is up and running so if you go to you can find all our information on Beef Cattle Extension.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Cobie Rutherford, the Extension Associate. I'm Amy Taylor Myers and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Select Your County Office