Marketing Your Cattle
It may not be easy to determine how and where to market your animals. The choice
of market outlet depends on the class and grade of the cattle. Thus, the method of marketing usually is different
for fed cattle, feeder, or purebred cattle.
There are many different methods of marketing
cattle, but most livestock in the United States are marketed through one of three channels: direct, auction, or
carcass grade and weight basis. The direct and auction markets are for both fed and feeder cattle, while the
carcass grade and weight basis is primarily for fed cattle. Purebred cattle usually are sold at special breed
auctions or private sales.
If you have a feeder or stocker enterprise your product is one or
more 700 to 900 pound calves. You may choose to keep the animals and feed them as a market cattle enterprise or if
you do not have the desire or resources to do so; you will need to market them. If you only have a few cattle of
this type your marketing options are limited. To ensure cattle are marketed optimally discuss your options with
those experienced in the business and keep up to date on market reports via newspaper or radio. You can sell them
at a local auction or sell them by private treaty by advertising them in the paper, word of mouth or an
advertisement on bulletin boards at the local feed store or wherever cattlemen gather.
Livestock auctions or sales barns are trading centers where
animals are sold by public bidding to the buyer who offers the highest price per hundredweight or per head.
Auctions may be owned by individuals, partnerships, corporations, or cooperative associations.
Direct marketing (country dealers)
Direct selling, or country
selling, refers to sales of livestock directly to packers, local dealers, or farmers without the use of agents or
brokers. The sale usually takes place on the farm, ranch, feedlot, or some other non-market buying station or
You may choose to have your cattle finishedand butchered for home consumption. You can
also have them slaughtered by a custom packer and sell them to individuals cut and wrapped which is not always
economical. Extension personnel can assist you in determining the economics of home raised beef.
This method does not involve a recognized market. Sellers who direct-market should be
aware of possible regulations regarding the private sale of breeding animals or beef for consumption.
A producer often can develop a local or regional
market for certain cuts of beef or specialty beef products. If this interests you, check into meat handling
requirements, inspections, and permits that may be necessary. This type of marketing usually takes time to develop
and also may require a consistent seasonal or yearly supply.
Grades of carcass beef
Carcass beef sold to wholesale and retail outlets usually is graded to determine the
quality and price. There are two categories of grades for beef: yield grade and quality grade.
Yield grade, or cutability, designates the yield of
trimmed retail cuts from the carcass. Factors determining yield grade are:
• Fat thickness over rib eye
• Rib eye area
• Kidney, pelvic, and heart fat (KPH), calculated as a percentage
• Hot carcass weight
Yield grades range from 1 to 5, with 1 being the leanest and 5 the fattest (requiring the
Quality grades designate various characteristics of meat and
give the buyer a guide to tenderness, juiciness, and flavor. Grades separate beef into groups that are somewhat
uniform in quality and composition.
The quality grade of a beef carcass is determined by physiological maturity and
marbling. The age of the animal affects the tenderness of the meat.
When consumers go to the store to purchase beef, they want quality meat, free of bruises,
dark spots, abscesses, or lesions. Quality assurance means that beef producers pay attention to the factors that
contribute to quality meat, produce a beef product that is free from defects, and ensure that consumers get the
quality they want.
When you raise beef cattle to sell to a feedlot or packer, you are selling a food
product. The handling, management, and environment on your farm or ranch affect the quality of the product and what
the consumer ultimately buys in the store. Poorly designed facilities and equipment can increase the number of
cuts, puncture wounds, and bruises on beef animals. Corrals or chutes with sharp corners or protruding nails or
bolts should be altered or repaired.
You must keep records to document that vaccines and antibiotics were administered
properly. Pay attention to withdrawal times on labels as well as dosage. Use only vaccines and drugs approved by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the state Department of Agriculture. Your veterinarian or Extension agent
can advise you of proper injection sites and procedures to reduce abscesses and lesions.