Educators Corner
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Top the Cattle Market

If your cattle look great, they will probably sell above the average price at any auction. But topping the sale takes a lot more information. Reputation cattle are no accident. Buyers today keep track of quality and performance because they lead to more profit potential.

To get your part of that profit potential, you’ll need the right cattle, the right information and the right communication:

  • The Right Cattle
  • The Right Information
  • The Right Communication

The Right Cattle

Consider genetics, lot size, sex, color, vaccination history and program eligibility if you’re looking to give your cattle an advantage at the salebarn.

Among the findings:

    • The Angus price advantage is stronger than ever, setting records for both steers and heifers at nearly $7 per hundred (cwt.) above other calves of similar size (500 pounds) and condition.
    • The premium for weaned and vaccinated was a record $10.16/cwt. above other calves, up 38% in just two years.
    • Iowa State University economist Lee Schulz said of the premium bids: “A lot has to do with producers understanding that what’s embodied in those cattle started with the beef buyer, filtered all the way back to the farm and ranch. That has just continued to grow as we’ve maintained the trend for stronger Angus premiums over non-Angus calves.”        

Earlier research from North Dakota State University reported in 2009** found calves of primarily Angus genetics were the top-value category each year and noted three other factors affecting sale prices most:

  • Sex: Steers had the greatest premium, at $9.68/cwt. ahead of heifers in fall 2006-07.
  • Lot size: Groups with more than 21 head sold at a $6.29/cwt. advantage to lots of 5 or fewer in the fall; $4.99/cwt. in the winter.
  • Color: Black groups sold at the highest prices in both seasons, with $3.39/cwt. and $1.72/cwt. premiums, respectively. Black and black white faced mixed groups came in second, followed by straight black white faced and then mixed color groups.

Here’s the Premium data on 314,304 cattle sold at 10 auction markets across the U.S., 1999-2014, analyzed by Dr. Lee Schulz, Iowa State University, 2015.

**2009 data from the sales of nearly 200,000 cattle in 18,178 lots by attending auctions in North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota

The Right Information

Astute auction managers recognize the demand for more detailed information flow. You have to share information to garner the proper attention for your cattle. Here’s how:

Use the AngusSource® Genetic Program.
It’s a complete system, tracking
genetics, birth dates and
management practices.
  • Write a half-page description of your cattle and provide copies of all supporting documents at sale time. A good place to start is building a calf resume.
  • Use the AngusSource® Genetic Program. It’s a complete system, tracking genetics, birth dates and management practices. Plus, it gives you the marketing benefit of sending potential buyers information about your calves.

The Right Communication

The key is to add value to your cattle, documenting everything and then communicating those details to the market representatives.

  • Make sure the sale manager identifies your calves as Angus, not just “blacks.”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more information on buyers. Some markets will share more than others, but that is just another point of differentiation.
  • If you want that higher level of feedback, shop for the auction channel that best meets your needs.

You can work with your auction representative to help gather feedback on buyer acceptance of your cattle. To find a livestock auction that suits your needs, search the Livestock Marketing Association’s website.