Purchase Considerations for Stocking a Small Beef Cattle Farm or Ranch
If you purchase cattle to put on pasture try to avoid cattle with excess fat as they gain
poorly for the first month. Cattle should be healthy but lean and avoid cattle that may not have performed well
elsewhere. You may be able to purchase them for less money but they probably won’t achieve an acceptable
Does the animal look healthy?
Is it alert and bright eyed?
Is its breathing normal and does it move about vigorously?
Does it have a dull hair coat and look emaciated?
What has it been vaccinated for and when?
Cattle with a small frame will finish at a light weight while cattle with a large frame
will finish at a heavy weight. Cattle with different frame sizes require different feeding programs. Since you will
want to manage your cattle as a group, purchase cattle that are uniform in frame size.
In most situations frame and conformation are more important than breed in relation to
Some animals such as dairy type will require different management and sell in a
different market category.
Animals with a high percentage of Brahman genetics do poorly in cold winter
The disposition of the cattle can be an important factor and is usually considered as
being a breed characteristic. Avoid cattle that are high strung or aggressive.
As with any purchase it is important that you get value for your money. If you are
uncertain about how to purchase a beef animal then it would be best to deal with someone who is ethical and
understands this side of the business. This could include a family member, friend, neighbor, local farmer or County
Agent. The idea is to not go into a purchase with little or no information or background.
Cattle can be purchased directly from beef producers with the price based on local
market conditions. The local market is established primarily in commodity markets many miles away from where you
live. These are then modified for each specific region of the country based on transportation costs to markets and
local conditions. These local conditions could be such variables as abundance of feedstuffs, moisture conditions
and supply and demand. Markets will change through the seasons and from year to year.
Within most areas there are also livestock auction markets in certain municipalities.
Here livestock producers bring their animals and exhibit them through an auction ring and sold to the highest
bidder. It is a system where potential buyers and sellers are brought together and a fair price established. In
order to determine what may be fair, however, the potential buyer must have some idea of local market conditions
and a predetermined animal type that they wish to purchase.
Market reports are provided on the radio and can be checked on a daily basis, along
with local auction market prices on the Internet. Following the market for a couple of weeks before you purchase
will help you insure that you are paying a fair price for your cattle. If you have done your homework it will
assist you in purchasing at a fair price whether you purchase from a local auction or an individual.
Commercial market prices are quoted on the basis of the weight and sex of the animal
sold. Generally there is little to nothing reported about the condition or quality of the animals. You may have to
learn to judge quality and condition on your own or with the help of a trusted advisor.
The correct size for your enterprise: If you want stocker cattle to put on grass,
calves that weigh less than 450 pounds may perform poorly on grass pasture. If cattle weigh over 750 pounds in the
spring they will need to be on high quality pasture to make GRASS FINISHED BEEF or should not be fed on pasture.
These larger cattle may need to be placed in a confined situation and fed a higher proportion of concentrate feeds,
such as barley or corn. Make sure you have animals that fit your enterprise.
Cattle talk and cattle terminology.