Cattle Buying 101: Look for the Right Type, Low Stress Cattle to Gain

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When it comes to buying calves to background, both the risk and the reward should be considered. The beef business can be risky, but with careful planning and consideration, the potential returns can also be rewarding. 

Getting started with the right calves means making the right the buying decisions. According to long-time professional order buyer Charly Cummings with Superior Livestock Auction, the first thing he looks for when buying cattle to background, both for himself and for customers is the type of cattle and their genetic make-up. Cummings, from Yates Center, Kansas, has been buying and feeding calves for nearly 15 years. He will look for the right kind of cattle to meet the needs of the environment based on time of year and geographic location where the cattle will be backgrounded. 

“Going into the fall and winter, I like to buy English-based cattle that are going to be able to grow some hair through the winter and sustain some cold,” Cummings said. “In March and April, I don’t mind some cattle with a little ear that will sustain the heat and be out in the sunshine grazing versus those that will be haired up and standing in the trees.” 

After considering the genetic make-up of the cattle, Cummings suggests looking at management factors that might have an impact on the level of stress as the cattle transition from one environment to another. Find out if the calves have been weaned and if so, for how long. Fresh-weaned calves will often take longer to acclimate to their new surroundings. Also, ask about any vaccination programs, and if the calves have had one or two rounds, if vaccinated. 

“Each of those items adds value to load of cattle. Longer weaned, vaccinated calves are healthier, better condition and take the stress better from being in a new home and new environment,” he said. 

Cummings suggests taking a little time to visually appraise the cattle. He can tell a lot by looking at just four things: the eyes, ears, tails and feet. If the ears and tails are frozen, it usually means the calves were born during a cold, harsh winter, and consequently their feet will have issues too. These are generally harder gaining calves, in his experiences. 

His final advice in buying calves is to work with someone you know and trust. As a cattle buyer, he has built relationships with producers who he knows raise all levels of cattle, and he knows what risk factors to look for. He compares his skill set to another professional that you would never question twice to hire. 

“I tell everyone if you can hire a professional order buyer, it’s like trying to roof your house, if you’ve never roofed before. If you hire a professional, and he charges 50 cents or $1 cwt, it will be the cheapest investment you’ll make. Number one, you’re not going to see something or know something by not doing it, no different than a roofer. If it’s got a leak, you’ll know it when you get it home, or you’ll know it 25 days down the road. You want a load of calves that will be healthy and gain,” he said. 

After the Purchase 

Once you’ve got those calves home, Cummings said it is essential to get them started right. He said to achieve good herd health which leads to efficient gains, he suggests a good vaccination protocol and good mineral program to sustain gut health. He typically vaccinates 24 to 48 hours after they have unloaded, to give them time to acclimate. He feeds the Gain Smart® mineral with Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic to keep them healthy and gaining.  

“I can see the difference in health, that is why I use Gain Smart. From eye trouble to health trouble to foot trouble, I feel like Gain Smart has cured about 85 to 90% of all that. My medicine costs have gone down tremendously by using the Gain Smart. Cattle have continuously been healthy throughout and have been wanting to come and eat. When you see them out on the grass, you can sure see that herd health,” he said. “Our medicine costs are lower, our labor costs are in check, our gains are better, and our consumption rate is where it is supposed to be.” 

Gain Smart is a loose mineral designed to help stocker and yearling cattle put on healthy, efficient pounds with the Amaferm advantage. Amaferm is research-proven to help increase intake, digestion and nutrient absorption for optimum gains. Gain Smart comes in four formulas for various feeding and management scenarios. 

The cattle business is full of risks and rewards. Minimize your risks from the beginning with good genetics and lower stress cattle that are ready to gain and perform. Implement good health and nutrition protocols for optimal rewards. 

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