Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Unlocking Top Dollar For Cattle

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Fall is a crucial time for ranchers, many of who are shipping calves to market. This year, these animals may bring in more money than in a long time, but it’s crucial to ensure that you’re getting every dollar you deserve.

Researchers from South Dakota State University have been like detectives lately. They’ve been visiting sale barns—those are the places where we sell our cattle—to see what makes some calves sell for more money than others.

They’ve figured out nine things that can make a big difference in your paycheck at the end of the day.

First up, where you sell your cattle matters. Bigger sale barns, where lots of cattle are sold, often get better prices. But before you hitch up your trailer, remember extra costs like gas, shrink and fees at a new place. It’s possible it simply doesn’t pencil out. Bigger is not always better.

Steer calves, young male cows, typically sell for more than heifers or bulls. If bulls have all their parts, they may be worth less. Therefore, it might be worth considering special breeding tricks or surgery for the boys.

And would you believe the color of a calf’s hide can change its price? Single-color, especially all-black calves, often earn more green. If you’ve got a mix of colors, you might not get as much money.

Size matters, but maybe not how you think. Selling a bunch of calves together can get you a better price, but only if you don’t go overboard. Too many together don’t seem to make a difference.

Here’s a no-brainer: buyers don’t like horns. They’ll pay less for horned cattle because those pointy things can be a real problem, causing injuries or other damage.

Calves without extra growth boosters can sometimes sell for more, depending on the buyer’s preferences. Keeping your calves healthy is super important. The research showed that buyers are willing to pay more for calves that have had their shots, especially if you can prove it.

So, there you have it. Nine tips straight from the experts that might just put a little extra jingle in your pocket this selling season. Happy ranching!

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