Informed Viewpoint: Brian Craswell from Hunter River PEI often has the best seat in the house when it comes to studying cattle. With his wife Amber, he has built Crasdale Farms Inc. into a thriving dairy operation. This lifelong on the job education has been further enhanced by his other business, Brian Craswell Auctions Ltd. Positioned behind the microphone he has the clearest sight lines in the building as great opportunities come and go in sales ring. Over and over again he witnesses the thrill of getting in on an opportunity or the defeat when that opportunity is missed when the final hammer falls before a decision was made. His other centre-of-the-showring position as show judge is probably the best view of all. Brian has judged the Royal Winter Fair (2003) and World Dairy Expo (2010). He has traveled to many countries around the world to share his talent for ranking cattle. Of course Brian Craswell is well positioned to have an informed viewpoint on dairy cattle investing.
Stick to a Winning Strategy: When looking to invest in dairy cattle Brian starts with his own feelings. “First I have to like them.” In today’s market, he then looks for two other attributes: cow family and genomics. “I want the total package.” Says Brian who points to Winterbay Goldwyn Lotto as the best investment he ever made in terms of profit and how the animal turned out.
Be Willing to Walk Away: Brian admits that not every deal has been perfect. He says, “I heard about a cow once and made myself like her. She wasn’t what I liked and she didn’t turn out.” He probably wishes he had followed some good advice he was given. “An older dealer told me one time that if you have to make yourself like them, then walk away.”
You Don’t Win Every Time: Despite knowing what to look for and Brian acknowledges that sometimes you walk away from a deal and sometimes the deal walks away from you. He recalls that this very thing has happened a few times. “I almost bought Lacoulee Justine Goldwyn when she was a December calf and 4th at a show. I didn’t and she went on to be Jr Champion at the Royal. I was runner up on the Jr Champ from the Royal Winter Fair last year when she sold in The Canadian National Convention Sale.” He goes on, “I also was runner-up on Pineland Goldwyn Tidbit when she sold in our Opportunity East Sale as a 2 year old.” You don’t win every time.
Take Calculated Risks: Craswell Holsteins has invested in both young stock and already proven cattle. Going back to his focus on cow families Brian points out, “I will not hesitate to buy young ones from great families that I like. Sometimes the calculated risk of buying them younger enables you to pay a little less.”
Keep Up With the Changing Marketplace: In the past five years Brian sees that the marketplace “has changed immensely with the emphasis that is being placed on genomics. This has driven the price of high genomic animals up and, in particular, the younger high animals.” He recognized that debate is going on. “Some would say that genomics has devalued animals. I would argue that it has raised the bar on the high ones and widened the spread.”
Brian says, “In This Business, You Don’t Have a Crystal Ball”: But then he goes on to say “Genomics is here to say and the use of it will find its place. Right now it is almost everything in the high end market.” He often refers to his philosophy of balance in the cow business and he foresees “genomics coming into balance with great cow families with numbers”. Again he focuses on the complete package.
Know the market. Know your customer: There is so much to learn in this business and Brian encourages those who are starting to invest in dairy cattle to “try to find a member of one of the great cow families that has that total package and invest at the top end of genetics right from the start.” Of course this is expensive but by focusing on these top animals “you can cash flow it with embryo sales, while you build your own branch.”
BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE: It’s all about the package.
“You need to have the package that people want to successfully market your cattle business.” Brian Carswell, Crasdale Holsteins.
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Bullvine writer, Karen Hunt, is a dairy-farm wife who is an author, entrepreneur and champion of all things rural and family farm. Karen loves the wordy side of life. Husband, three children, eight grandchildren, thirty cows and Jack Russell terriers are her inspiration!