Calf marketing finds strength in numbers

Marketing calves in groups, rather than as individuals, can help command a higher price at the sale barn. That’s the finding of recent research presented by the University of Arkansas’ Tom Troxel, who evaluated factors that affected sale price of Arkansas beef calves as they were marketed in 15 Arkansas livestock auction markets in 2005.

Troxel reported on data from more than 100,000 head of calves sold in 52,401 lots. Several interesting price differences were noted.
• Calves selling as groups of six head or more brought $122.61/hundredweight (cwt.), while calves selling as singles sold for $117.26/cwt. This indicates producing uniform groups of calves that are marketed together has added value.
• Healthy-appearing calves of unknown “processing” brought $118.21, which was more than calves with “dead” hair ($105.55), stale-looking calves ($100.01), sick calves ($80.22), bad eyes ($104.39) or lame ($84.74) calves. However, if the calves were announced as “preconditioned,” they sold for a higher price ($122.36) compared to the healthy unknown ($118.21) calves.
• Polled calves still sell for more than horned calves by $3.70/cwt. and the difference between steers and bulls was $6.27/cwt.
• Very full or “tanked” calves were discounted about $10 to $17/cwt. compared to calves that appeared to have normal shrink.

Much of this data is consistent with information collected by eastern Oklahoma Extension educators in 1997 and again in 1999 from 14 Oklahoma auction markets. These researchers concluded that properly managed, process-verified calves sold in group lots bring home the most dollars.