Market Tactics to Consider When Selling Your Calves During a Rally

James G. Cole

While motivation is important, so is changing one’s behavior. When setting out the route to success for marketing cattle in the years ahead, we all must be willing to adapt to changing market cues, be flexible in our strategy and be ready to make different decisions than the ones made in years past.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time watching this year’s early feeder cattle sales and want to share some thought-provoking observations and ideas with you.

First, why are cattlemen accepting a $0.30 price spread on their heifers right now? July’s Cattle Inventory report \stated that we sit with the second-fewest beef cows and second fewest replacement heifers that the market has had in the last 50 years. By next spring, and potentially as soon as later this fall, bred cow prices are likely going to skyrocket. The closer calving season gets, and the closer breeding season gets, producers who are wanting to sell breeding stock will likely be able to ask for more money. If cash flow and drought conditions aren’t plaguing your operation, then there are probably better options than accepting the current $0.30 price slide on heifers.

Second, when it comes to marketing one’s feeder cattle in a rallying market, selling your cattle in the most aggressive marketing environment matters. There are pros and cons to every marketing outlet (country buyer, video sales, sale barns) but energy and competition when supplies are thin help drive prices higher. Justin Tupper, a cow-calf producer from St. Onge, South Dakota, and manager of the St Onge Livestock Auction, once said, “the most important bid in any auction is the second bidder. They help drive prices higher and help promote true price discovery.” Selling to a country buyer can be one of the least stressful ways to market your calves, but without a second bidder breathing down the country buyer’s neck, it’s hard to argue for higher prices when it’s a one-man show.

Third, feeder cattle sales aren’t the only way ranches generate profit. With cows nearing a point in time that they’ll be in high demand, be willing to truck your cull cows to better marketing environments. If your region is still plagued with drought, you may want to consider trucking your cull cows to a region where feed is plentiful and buyers are likely to be more aggressive.

The cattle market sits ripe for a jaw-dropping rally. No one else will advocate for you or your ranch’s bottom line. Be keenly aware of how the cattle market is changing week in and week out, and be ready to “out market” the markets, so you can sit in the driver’s seat for a while.


Comments above are for educational purposes only and are not meant as specific trade recommendations. The buying and selling of livestock or livestock futures or options involve substantial risk and are not suitable for everyone.

ShayLe Stewart can be reached at [email protected]

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