The best time to think about how you will sell heifers is long before the actual sale date. Unless you are planning not to have sales, it pays to focus on who will be most interested in your heifer and where you will find these people in order to sell to them. Selected auction barns? Classified ads? Have a brainstorming session and see how many places you can come up with that would be possible venues for your animals, including your own barn. Then make sure you know what you have that will sell. “Don Johnston of Cherry Crest Holsteins recently told a Genetics Workshop, “Select what you would like to buy yourself.” If you are planning to focus on heifer sales, he has another hint, “Watch what the major players buy.” And finally, he urges breeders to remember, “This is a belly to belly business. Don’t overlook markets close to home.”
TIME WELL SPENT
At one time or another, every dairy cattle breeder has sold animals. What sets you and your financial success apart, is the time you take to get the best price for your heifer. Good preparation doesn’t happen in a couple of days or even a couple of weeks. A couple of months ahead is a good lead up time for the best presentation of your animal. Even better is the philosophy that every animal in your string is presented at her best on a daily basis.
SHE’S GOING TO A SALE
For the purpose of this article, let’s look at the best way to prepare a heifer for a sale off of your farm. There are five main areas to focus on:
- Feeding and managing your animal well before the sale
- Achieving the condition sale management expects the animals to arrive in.
- Up-to-date and accessible paperwork, including the registration certificate, on each animal you plan to sell and pictures, if necessary, for the sale catalogue.
- Meeting all health requirements. Standard vaccinations complete.
- Trucking arranged well-in-advance
Breeders who pay attention to these details are usually the most successful at the end of the sale.
TWO MONTHS OF TRAINING
The easy way to prepare an animal for a sale is to pack your heifer on the truck and wave goodbye. The best way to prepare your sale heifer is to begin with a rope and halter two months before she leaves. Tie her up for a while every day. Move her around the stall or pen until she is used to it. It’s not the easiest way. It involves time and patience. At the end of the day, you want your animal to do her best. If she is out of control, not only could you lose substantial monetary returns, she will not get the best treatment from busy cattle fitters nor present the best view of herself to potential buyers. Training makes a difference that can add or subtract hundreds of dollars.
NO SHORT CUTS to A GOOD CUT
At least two months before the sale is also a good time for the first clipping of your sale heifer. You want her hide to shine with health. It also gets her used to being handled which can be good for the fitters at the sale. Don’t attempt more than you can do a good job of. The main goal is to have her hair in good condition to highlight her best features.
A FEW WEEKS AHEAD: GIVE HER THE WORKS TOE TO HEAD
The way your sale heifer moves is directly impacted by the condition of her feet. In some cases the feet may require two trimmings. Don’t leave it too long and then try to do too much. It could be dollars down the drain if the heifer can’t move well or, worse yet, is lame. Decide the condition of your heifer’s hooves and set your trim dates based on what you see.
When the feet are dealt with, consider the other treatments that can turn negatives into positive cash. Your sale heifer should be de-horned, free of lice, mites, ringworm and warts. Extra teats should be removed as well.
WEEK BEFORE SHIPPING RIGHT FEEDING
Preparing your animal for the sale or show starts with the right feeding! Unlike the show ring animal, your heifer is better on the heavy side than too thin. You can best control your heifer’s body condition by the amount of grain she is fed. If your animal is in good condition, she will need very little grain. On the other hand, if she is thin and in poor condition she may need, 6 or 8 pounds of grain per day. Some heifers gain much more rapidly than others. The diet will be drastically altered when sent to consignment sales, adds Dave. Also recognize that sale cattle will be placed on a hay diet to expand rib cage, tighten up manure, etc. It will be a week’s time well spent, if your animal learns to eat dry hay. Another good plan is to teach her to eat and drink from pails or tubs, especially if this is not something she is used to in your barn.
A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE SALE
The last phase in the preparation is a few days before the sale. Wash them again and train a few times on the halter, “Well trained animals show themselves better and the potential buyers can see her much better.” You may do some clipping, but remember hair can always be taken off, but clipping too much cannot be corrected.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
To help your potential buyers, it pays to have a professional photo included in the sales catalogue. But don`t leave all the marketing up to the sales team. Do your part and take every opportunity to let people see your sale heifer. Post that picture. On your personal website. On Facebook. Create your own farm brochure. People buy on looks. Put something in front of them in as many ways as you can. You never know what piece of information will the one that makes the difference to an undecided buyer.
THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE
There is no doubt that in today’s marketplace genomic testing is focusing attention on the numbers! Having said that, there is still the emotional factor that comes into play when watching animals circle the ring at a sale. Make sure that your good preparation get’s your heifer “Sold!”
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