Buyer Beware!

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After reading cattle posts daily over the past months, I've noticed there are a lot of posts with problem cattle from health standpoint. Now I know that the messageboard sample is but one speck in the universe of the cattle population. Anyway, I wanted to offer a few suggestions to any new purchasers of cattle. They are:

[1] Always go to the place you are buying from to inspect their operation, set-up, handling, and sanitation program.

[2] If the price on a bovine (or any other animal) is too good to be true, there is probably a problem with the animal.

[3] Unless you are knowledgable about cattle, who is selling them (and their operation) and have a very good eye for an animal's condition, by VERY cautious about buying anything from a sale barn! We don't send our best cattle there.

[4] If you don't know the reputation of the seller and their quality of operation, always have an independent Vet check any expensive animal; and, request a health certificate (and vaccination record if you can get one) on any animal you plan to purchase.

[5] The "better livestock auctions" (selling quality and/or registered breeds) can "generally" be trusted to sell quality animals.

[6] Avoid buying any animal from a "backyard cattle mill" or any place where sanitation and condition of the operation is sub-standard.

[7] For what it's worth, we raise registered Texas Longhorns. We always buy from above-average breeders and obtain health information on all animals. In the past 2 years we have only had ONE brief incidence of a calf problem--she got diarrhea--this was promptly corrected with some bolus pills the Vet gave us.

[8] In the long run, it "costs no more to go first class." An animal that costs $800 can well be 100 times more quality and healthy than one costing $400. The difference in Vet and medication and frustration can well eat up the difference in price and more. (This price comparison is just an example, no more).

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Some afterthoughts:

[1] Granted, ANY animal can get sick from eating the wrong thing, or any number of "Murphy's Law's" coming to visit you!

[2] Regularly "police" your stock areas, pastures, etc., and pick up and remove any foreign items you may find such as plastic, cans, bits of wire or other metal things, or any other item that the animal might ingest or get tangled up in.

[3] In livestock pen areas, especially where a Dam might calve in an enclosed shed area or such, rake out the manure the best you can to prepare the cow for calving so new calf is not laying in manure (fresh or old).

[4] An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the saying goes.

[5] Also, periodically inspect your pasture and pen areas for any toxic weeds or other plants that cattle might injest.

[6] Always ensure there is plenty of water (preferably clean)for them to drink and they have free access to salt.

[7] In feeding, due to the nature of a bovine's anatomy, roughage (hay, proper type of grass, etc.) is most important part of their diet...they need it for rumen fermentation and proper digestion.

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Not knocking you, just sharing the cow/calf producers' viewpoint…

"[3] Unless you are knowledgable about cattle, who is selling them (and their operation) and have a very good eye for an animal's condition, by VERY cautious about buying anything from a sale barn! We don't send our best cattle there."

If you are a breeder or running a certain type of breed for a hobby, maybe so. If you're running a cow calf operation and hoping to make a profit, I'll have to disagree. I've bought and sold cattle at the salebarn all my life, with overall success. Private treaty can work fine too, but we would be in a world of hurt without salebarns.

"[8] In the long run, it "costs no more to go first class." An animal that costs $800 can well be 100 times more quality and healthy than one costing $400. The difference in Vet and medication and frustration can well eat up the difference in price and more. (This price comparison is just an example, no more)."

Again, this might hold true for breeders. But again, if you are trying to make a profit selling calves into the beef market, I'll have to disagree. The market is not looking for papers. The market wants healthy heifers and steers that will gain and finish per their program objectives. It's a lot easier to figure out what the market does not want than it is to figure out what it does want. As long as you avoid the don'ts and pay attention to the basics, you'll generally come out ahead.

> [2] If the price on a bovine (or
> any other animal) is too good to
> be true, there is probably a
> problem with the animal.

Not always. I've been told that setting high price works. The buyer then thinks they are getting something really special just because they are paying more. I believe that is true. Take a look at the sale catalogs. I'm sorry but there is no way to economically justify spending $20,000 or up for a bull. Are you going to make that much from his calves? Only if you play the same game of selling hype.

I can easily find sale results of say $5000 for an angus bull. It does not mean that paying $2000 or even $1000 will be a problem. It just means that my seller didn't spend a load on advertising, marketing, etc. I have one very promising yearling angus bull right now. He has a great disposition, great length, depth and breeding. If I don't use him myself, I'd sell him for a reasonable amount and be proud to do so. He's a great bull.

I just sold some cheap cows. The price was fair (in my opinion) and the buyers seemed happy enough. They weren't perfect animals, but they weren't represented to be. They have some use left in them...enough to warrant the price I charged and all were healthy.
Appreciate your comments! As with my previous posts to this message board, some people take me at face value, some read things into my comments, some think I'm full of crap, others are somewhere on a scale between 1 and 100.

Anyhow...the livestock business is supply and demand, in any bonafide business. True, some people overprice their animals perhaps in hopes of not selling them or realizing a good profit; or, to hedge against having to lower their negotiated price.

On the other end of the spectrum of all of my posts the past several months, I have come to realize that MOST of the cattle people out there are NOT raising registered stock as well as not raising specialty livestock. That is where perhaps I have found myself "out of the flow" with people.

As a specialty breeder I would never purchase any animal at the usual sale barn and would only purchase at a sale that was promoting high end auction animals. All of our stock have been purchased at private treaty; and, only one pair was taken to the sale barn--fence crashers (no the grass was not better on the other side). Likewise, we sell our stock via private treaty, as individual animals.

So...LOL...suppose I have shot myself in the foot again with a few fragments hitting me in the groin...(smile).

Everyone has their own livestock program and if it is working for them...fantastic! No one can be all things to all people.

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The prices you got weren't too good to be true, Jena, just reasonable.

There are times when buying a $20000 bull makes sence. If there is a realistic expectation of selling semen on the bull, $20,000 could be a bargain.

$5000 for a good stock bull is reasonable if the bull will generate enough extra income from his calves. If a purebred breeder wants a very top quality bull because he doesn't want to, or can't, A.I., $5000 isn't out of line. Even for a commercial herd a bull that sires calves that will gain and grow better than average can be worth $5000.(3years at 20 calves per year at $100 premium per calf is $6000).

If your just breeding some cows to get calves though, those prices are out of line.

Jason Trowbridge Southern Angus Farms Alberta Canada

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You are right. Everyone has their own program and needs to do what fits their needs.

Maybe that's something that needs to be on the "buyer beware" list. Really, what people need to do is get educated before buying the animal.

It seems that many on here are just buying cattle because they want to give it a try. Obviously there are some mistakes being made, but buying expensive seedstock might not be in their best interests either.

I'd tell the "experimenters" to try a local farmer. Heck, I'd be happy to sell a couple healthy calves to someone who just wanted to see if they liked it. I'd probably be willing to buy them back if they decided it wasn't for them and I'd help them along the way as far as telling them how to care for them.

Also, I am buying some specialty cattle (I suppose you could call them that). I am paying far below what others are asking for this breed and far below what I would for a more popular breed at a big sale. I wasn't looking for the cheapest animals I could find, but the best. I was willing to pay quite a bit more for them, but the best I could find also happened to be at a very good price.

The man I am buying from is more interested in building a lasting business relationship than making a quick buck. His philosophy is that the next time I need a bull I will ask him first and you know I will. He also believes that I will send business his way and you know I will do that too :)

To each his own.
> It depends on the sale barn also. I've seen some out west that run a lot of decent feeders and some good older cows and an occasional 'retirement' sale. here in Ohio you get lots of just one or two head that need to go. Culls, runts,bad cows, lump jaws, broken mouths and guys that just run out of feed, fence or time and need to sell. I know several buyers who seem to always know to the dime what a cow will bring and take the bargains home to calf, doctor, feed, or resell. Of course they all laugh and admit they spent a lot of money getting enough experience to make a profit!
If that's most of what goes thru the ring at your salebarn, no wonder you feel that way.

Most of what we see in our local auctions is weaned calves going to the feedyards. After that, the biggest category would be cows. Some are open, some bred, some have a calf by their side, all conditions but mostly fair to good. After that, bulls. If we are culling cows or bulls we take them straight to a slaughterhouse that less than 50 miles away. They have their own locally distributed label. That's where the cull cows and old or inferior bulls going thru the ring will end up anyway. There are always a few guys that will buy them in the ring, load them up and haul them to the same place. They will all go straight into hamburger, assuming they don't have any fever etc. The slaughterhouse is also pretty tight about docking you a quarter because of a recent injection.

Anyway, salebarns serve a very important purpose in the cattle business. Before we had local salebarns everybody had to truck their calves up to the stockyards in Ft. Worth where the railhead was. That was a little before my time, but nobody would doubt it's better now.

Salebarns can also be an excellent source for momma cows. As far as the guys that just ran out of feed, I'll pick up their bred cows and pairs at the salebarn all day long. Get them back on some good grass or hay and watch them improve. Couldn't care less about papers, etc. Just looking for good momas that will raise good calves and breed back dependably. The private sales generally have beautiful animals, not doubt about that. But they are also usually way too proud of them. They're nice, but not worth the premium the seller thinks they're worth. I'm pretty Machiavellian when it comes to cattle. Let's face it. If a cow will drop a calf every year and they will hit within 100 pounds of a target weight by the time you wean them, there is no reason to pay more for her. Well, there's no business reason anyway.

Same when it comes to bulls, you get what you pay for – to a point. I'm looking for good calves, not bragging rights. When it comes to papers I couldn't care less. The way to get good calves is to have a potent and aggressive bull that is young, healthy, and enjoys his work. After a certain point in price (and my guess is that I would put it a lot lower than most folks on this board) you don't ever get your money back. I know, I know, I'm old fashioned. But there is some merit to the old tried and true method. It works.

I agree, with Craig. I have found on my own, and have been told this by several cattle feeders, that there is more money to make on cheap cattle than their is on high priced cattle. I'm not talking about bringing home sick, lame, or old animals. But lots that are of mixed or off color. Or animals that are still bulls, or have horns. They are usually docked pretty heavily.

It is easier to turn a profit, buying 500 lb animals for $.75 than it is paying $1.10. The expensive animal may finish a couple weeks sooner, and if your lucky they may on average grade a little better. But the $175 you save in the purchase price can buy a heck of a lot of feed. And the the $40 premium you get for the higher grade that you may or may not get doesn't look like much all of a sudden.

But, I also am a cow/calf operator. And try to only keep cows that will give me those expensive calves and manage our operation accordingly. I don't want to sell cheap cattle, but I don't have a problem buying them.

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