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Watch each Friday for Doug Ferguson's Market Intel blog on Beef Producer.

In praise of auctioneers and cow profits

Get to know your auctioneers for maximum value, and take note how good are the opportunities for cow-value appreciation.

Right now the World Auctioneer Championship is taking place and it reminds me to say that auctioneers deserve some recognition for all they do selling cattle.

Their job is greatly misunderstood, especially among their customers. For example, most people fail to realize the auctioneer’s first job is to be an appraiser, and he has only seconds to do this before he starts his chant. A good auctioneer will also be able to get the seller a little more money. And if you’re a buyer who's been sitting in the seats for more than eight hours you want someone who is not abrasive to your ears. In addition, auctioneers donate their time, skill and talent for fundraiser auctions all the time and rarely receive anything in return.

Feedback from auctioneers can be a good resource to improve how you market your cattle. Last winter an auctioneer came to visit and gave me some feedback on my operation. I took his advice and made a few small tweaks to what I was doing and it paid off.

When most of us call to consign cattle we tell them what we are sending them. Go a different route, call the auctioneer and ask him what weight of cattle could he use the most. When they figure out you are willing to do business they may even call and inform you that the market is hot for cattle of a certain sex, color and weight. If you have some of those he can get you a good price.

The surprise this week was the amount of pairs that came to auctions. With the prolonged cool and wet weather, grass is slow to come on and this is leading some to cull. The way the price is hanging in there leads me to believe some people have grass. The greatest demand this week was for 5- to 8-year-old pairs.

I saw pairs 2 to 4 years old $250 softer, on average, than the mature pairs. Also four- to five-weight feeder heifers have a high value of gain right now. Here’s why that stands out. My friend Wally Olson in Oklahoma has come up with a “cow bell curve” where he highlights the appreciation/depreciation value of a female. Right now both side of that bell curve are fairly steep. That means there is opportunity to easily capture some appreciation value on young females, and the depreciation value on older cows can cut deep.

On the feeder side of the market the highest values of gain were on cattle weighing under 600 pounds. Unweaned steers carried only a slight discount, while heifers had a $10 discount. Feeder bulls had a $20 discount.

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