It's Fall and that means just about every day there is a cattle sale. Spring calves are weaned and everyone is looking ahead to the next show season.
In a sea of cattle farms and sales, what is the best way to sell your cows?
Online sales, live auctions, on-farm sales, Facebook (if they don't delete your post), Craig's list, your own website...how do you get the sale?
The secret is...it doesn't really matter what platform you use. The secret is to educate your buyer.
Whether you are dealing with a person brand new to cows or to your breed, or if it is an experienced person that knows exactly what they are looking for...
It all comes down to education.
Yes, educate your buyer.
For those that are new to cows or the breed, you will have a lot more work to do. Help them to understand why you think your breed is the best.
What makes this particular cow unique? There is no perfect cow. If someone tries to tell you otherwise...RUN!
Because no cow is perfect, it is O.K. to point out the flaws. Don't lie. It is always better to be up front with the buyer. If you have ever been to a cattle show, the judge will usually say what he likes about the cow...but also what he would change.
I always like to ask the seller what they would change about the cow. This accomplishes a couple of things. First of all, it is a test to see how honest the seller is being with you.
Second, it tests the knowledge of the seller. Do they know enough to give you a straight answer? If not, that isn't the end of the world. Maybe it just helps you to realize they may not be an expert and you may want to get another opinion. That doesn't mean this isn't the right cow for you, it just means you may need to do some more research.
Third, it prepares you for the judge's response. If you know what you or someone else would change about your cow, it won't be as big of a surprise when the judge says it in the ring. If you already know the brisket is a little fleshy, then you won't be surprised when the judge places a super clean fronted cow ahead of you. You roll with the punches knowing the pieces of the puzzle you want to improve upon.
Educate the buyer on why one cow might be a better fit for them than another cow. You may have a gorgeous show heifer that someone is dying to pay top dollar for. If grandpa wants to buy this heifer for his 6 year old granddaughter to show, but the heifer has an attitude, it is not going to be a good fit. No one is going to be happy. You are going to have one frustrated, and possibly terrified little girl who no longer has a desire to step into the show ring. You as a buyer, no longer have a show heifer from your farm going into the show ring. It is a lose, lose situation for everyone.
In a situation like this, it may be better to encourage them to buy a more plain heifer that is a doll baby. If the 6 year old adores the heifer and can't wait to show her, she is going to show...and may be back next year for another heifer. Not everyone is out there to win...some just want to have fun and learn.
Someone new to cattle, may not be the best fit for a bred heifer. Ask some questions to find out the buyer's skill level and abilities. If you are concerned about their ability to notice problems or handle a difficulty birth, it may be better to guide them towards an older cow that you know is an easy calver. Educate the buyer on the differences and help them feel comfortable with whatever decision they make.
You even need to educate the educated cattleman. Just because someone knows cows, doesn't mean they know your cow.
Educate them on the breeding. Let them know about the sire. What titles does the sire have? What are some of the characteristics the bull is known for? Is he good for first time heifers, does he clean up the front end? Is he known for throwing champion heifers and just so-so bulls?
What are some of the characteristics of the dam? We have some bloodlines that throw very easy keepers. They may not always be at the top of their class, but they just look at feed and gain weight. We have others that are as pleasant as can be in the pasture, but beware when they calve. The crazy comes out.
These are all things that help a buyer make the best decision. What is important to you might not be that important to them. If they are O.K. with putting up with a crazy momma cow to get a really nice show heifer, then let them make that educated choice.
Be content to wait for a sale. I know we all get anxious, especially when we see the prices of some of these online auctions. Ultimately, we all want our cows to go to a good home. We want them to be well cared for and succeed in whatever their future holds, whether that is gracing the show arena or just making babies. If that means the buyer really isn't ready to take the plunge, be O.K. with that.
I would much rather have a buyer who is ready and excited than one who is insecure and unsure of themselves. If they need more time to learn and prepare their farm, let them. They may be back in a few months, or a few years, but if they aren't ready they just aren't ready.
No one wants to lose a sale, but it is O.K. to wait for a buyer that will be a better fit for your cow. By respecting a potential buyer and not pressuring them, you gain their respect in return, and I bet they will be back to see you.
Selling cows is a lot of work. You may spend hours and hours with a potential buyer showing them cows and educating them. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Spending the time to educate your buyer helps the buyer find the perfect cow for them and it helps you to know that your cow is going to a good home.
We have learned much of what we know by being the buyer who got an education. With each sale we have learned more about cows, more about Miniature Herefords, more about what we want and don't want, and a whole lot about the cow we are bringing home...that is perfect for us.
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Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.