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Sell Your Calves on TV
Imagine putting your calves up for sale this fall, 8,500 buyers show up, and the cattle don’t even have to leave your farm until they’re headed for their new home.
Could that work to your advantage?
That’s the belief of Superior Livestock Auction, a TV and online video cattle and calf marketing company. A representative comes to your farm and videotapes the animals in your pastures, then runs the video on TV or the internet on a day of your choice. Superior invites those 8,500 registered buyers to take a look and click to bid.
Superior vice president Joe Lichtie says their biggest advantage is that huge buyer base. It’s in every corner of cattle country and includes all the big and small feedlots and backgrounders. The extra eyeballs can add dollars to your returns, he says.
Superior holds a video auction every other Thursday for most of the year. These sales are broadcast live on the Cowboy Channel, Dish Network channel 232, DirecTV channel 603, and over the internet. “Buyers bid by telephone or by a click on a keyboard,” he explains.
From June through September, Superior conducts additional multiday regional auctions in Council Bluffs, Iowa; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Winnemucca, Nevada; Sheridan, Wyoming; and Denver, Colorado.
In an online program called Country Page, cattle are offered for sale every hour, every day of the week. This works for people who want to sell (or buy) cattle immediately. Sellers pick the day and an asking price. When that price is hit, the sale is completed. “It’s buy-now shopping,” Lichtie says.
“With any of our programs, you can include in your listing everything you want about the calves – from birth dates to vaccinations and implants to genetics,” he says.
You pick the delivery date range to ship the cattle to the winning bidder. The buyer pays for transportation.
Lichtie says about 70% of Superior’s cattle sales are weaned and unweaned calves, 20% are yearlings, and the rest is breeding stock.
A common program for cow-calf producers is for a Superior representative to bring a camera to your farm in May or June and videotape the calves on pasture with their mamas. The short video (usually a minute or less) is shown on TV or the Superior website in July, August, or September on the sale day of your choice. Final weigh-up and delivery often happen between September and December.
“We also sell a lot of Southeast calves in the spring that deliver in the summer,” Lichtie says.
“The new thing for first-time sellers is probably the videotaping,” he says. “We try to pick a day with good sunlight. If the cattle can be brought into a fresh pasture or a smaller area, that can help get good video.
“With on-farm video, potential buyers can see your cowherd, too. You can even show the sires if you want,” he says.
Typically, the video is available on the internet for several days prior to the auction for buyer scrutiny. In the Country Page, daily auction sales, the catalog, and pictures are available the day you list them.
After the sale, Superior coordinates delivery details with the buyer, says Lichtie. A representative supervises loading and weighing. You are issued a check at delivery from a Superior bonded custodial account.
Superior’s fees are 2% of the sales value, plus a $2-per-head consignment fee.
Lichtie says video auctions have several other advantages to traditional cattle sales.
• Cattle are sold while still at the farm or ranch in their natural surroundings.
• There is no added stress on the cattle, and shrink is less.
• Sellers establish a reputation for their cattle on a national market.
• Sellers can sell on contract for future delivery.
“As with any cattle sale, there is some advantage to having enough calves to make up a truckload,” says Lichtie. That usually means 80 head or more. Sometimes, neighbors with similar cattle genetics team up to get more volume, he adds.
In the summer-fall sales season, Superior may sell 250,000 calves a week from all over the country, Lichtie says. “It’s still less than 10% of calves sold, and this approach will continue to grow,” he believes.
Superior Livestock Auction
Why these producers like video auctions
Netolicky Cattle of Fairfax, Iowa, has been using Superior Livestock Auction for about seven years to sell calves from its 200 spring-calving cows. The father-son team of Larry and Mike Netolicky also buys 400- to 500-pound steers and backgrounds them. In addition to selling calves, the producers sometimes buy cattle through Superior video auctions.
Mike Netolicky says when they sell calves by video, the animals are typically filmed two weeks before the actual auction. “At the time of filming, we decide when the cattle will reach their target weight and when we want to deliver to their new owner,” he says. “We usually give a seven- to 10-day window for delivery.”
His contract with Superior also lists the breed and type of cattle, vaccination history, and feeding history for potential buyers to see when they bid.
“After the auction, our Superior representative works with us and the new owner to arrange a shipping day. I have sold cattle for delivery one week after the sale and as far out as four months after the sale,” says Netolicky.
He likes the large audience of potential buyers. “I’ve sold cattle into eight states with Superior, the farthest being Michigan. We have some really good family feeders who are repeat buyers.”
Netolicky thinks his returns are greater with the video auctions because of more potential buyers, the buyer pays all trucking costs, and the cattle are weighed straight off the farm. “They are less stressed than they might be in a sale barn,” he adds, “and they are not comingled with other cattle.”
Dwight Burdette of Vaughan Ranch in Grenola, Kansas, says the ranch has used Superior for over 20 years to sell weaned calves off the cow and feeder steers off grass. It typically sells five loads of calves for July delivery and three more for November. “The fall calves and grass steers are generally filmed in May or June for Superior’s Corn Belt Classic special sale in mid-June,” says Burdette.
“The spring-borne calves are usually filmed in June or July for a mid-July sale, with delivery the first 10 days of November,” he adds.
Burdette knows the potential market for the ranch’s cattle is bigger with the video. “Our calves have gone to Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, and South Dakota. We have many return buyers,” he says.
One advantage he points to is the weigh-up on the cattle. “They don’t stand around waiting to be weighed like they might at a sale barn,” he says.
“The commission we pay is about the same, but we don’t have the cost of freight to the sale barn,” he says. “Superior has a good buyer base that is willing to pay for good calves. We intend to keep marketing this way.”