CONSIGNMENT SALES – THEY ARE FOR YOU
The statement was made in the movie Field of Dreams, if we build it, they will come.
Nothing could be further from the truth in the seed stock business. Regardless of the quality of the product that you produce, the success of your program will always rest on the strength of your marketing plan. Breeders are not standing in line to purchase the results of your breeding efforts. You must actively present your product to the marketplace. But how?
We all know of production sales. These breeders have achieved the size and name recognition to attract buyers to their ranches for an annual sale of select individuals. These events range in size from 60 to 100 plus animals. They are good sales for all breeders to select some of the most recognized and best cattle and pedigrees in the breed. But what about sales for the small breeder? Did you realize that the majority of our members register 20 or less animals per year? Programs of this size are faced with limited opportunities to market their cattle. Private treaty offerings, on farm beef sales and consignment sales are
their only options. For the small breeder, consignment sales are your production sales. You must think of them as such and plan what you intend to sell accordingly.
If you talk to the owners or managers of successful larger ranches they will tell you that they begin planning for next year’s sale as soon as the current year’s sale is complete. They identify a year in advance the pool of animals from which they will select their next offering.
From this pool they manage these animals with the end goal in mind. A mere 1% of the selected bulls will make it into the next sale. The small breeder should employ the same tactic. Select your sale consignments early. Get them ready far in advance of the sale.
What do you intend to offer and in what stage of production? Consider these obstacles for the animals you might offer for a sale:
1) If you are offering a bred heifer, what calving date will make her most valuable to a potential buyer? In addition, which sires will attract the most interest? Remember, you are breeding for a buyer and not for yourself. Breed accordingly.
2) If you will be selling a donor, will she have more value if you offer her open or pregnant? Does it make sense to offer embryos or semen with an open donor to sweeten the offering? Again, have a plan
3) Don’t offer a bred cow that has the potential to calve at the sale or just a few days before. There is the potential for a very young calf to be injured at a sale
4) Make sure bulls are breeding age and have the quality and pedigree you would like to keep. Make one pound packages out of 99% of all males. They have more value that way. Remember, bulls contribute 50% of the genetics in any breeding program. Cull them or consign them accordingly.
In short, make a plan for your consignment sale offerings well in advance of sale time. Presentation is of the utmost importance. I recall my disappointment with my first consignment sale some years ago. I had poor placement in the sale order, poor pictures in the sale catalog and yes, my offerings brought much less than the sale average. When my pity party was over, I realized that my placement in the sale order and lack of buyer interest in my animals was primarily due to the condition and quality of the females that I had consigned. When a potential buyer came into my stall he was able to simultaneously compare my animals with those of the consignor in the adjoining stall. Truthfully, mine did
not compare favorably. If you have questions about feeding or fitting your animals for a sale, the sale manager or our breed representative can help. Don’t be reluctant to ask. Your offerings should be something you would be willing to buy. The biggest mistake consignors make is offering an animal in a consignment sale that they wish to get rid of rather than one that will impress someone with their program. It is difficult to part with one of
your best, but if you are serious about developing a market for your cattle, this is a must.
Most buyers are diligent in their purchasing decisions. Do you want to sell the lowest priced and lowest quality animal or highest quality animal at a high price? Selling and buying at consignment sales is marketing your program.
The highest dollars are spent on animals that offer the most with regard to pedigree, phenotype, and show record or carcass data. It’s much like selling a car. The buyer who wants a red convertible with a V-8 may purchase a red hard top with a V-8 if the price is
right. The principal is the same with cattle. An individual with a strong pedigree and great data that lacks phenotype still has value, but not as much attraction as its competitor for the
buyer’s dollar that offers all three elements. Consider this as you select your offerings and as you reflect on past sale results.
Have a plan for marketing your animals. Whether you use print publications like the Lowline Ledger, the Internet, or direct mail, it is important to place your animals in front of the buying public prior to sale day. Many potential buyers are missed by the consignor’s reluctance to market his product. In addition, consider the value the consignment sale offers with regard to customer development. Many times the animal you sell would yield more net profit if sold off the farm. You must, however, factor in the new contacts you will make while participating in a consignment sale. A full day of exposure to customers that are not aware
that your program even exists is an extremely valuable opportunity. Think of the advantage of just being there.
Finally, disregard any myths that you may have heard about consignment sales. Contrary to some beliefs, these sales are not conducted to serve the needs of the Association or the sale managers, the commission charges are not much over the cost of promotion and production. Consignment sales are for the breeders. If you have had a bad experience in the past, dust yourself off and try again. I can assure you that your marketing efforts will not be enhanced by staying at home. If your animals have not brought what you thought they were worth in a previous sale, take a long, hard look at what you offered and the condition
in which they were offered. Maybe the fault did not lie with the sale.
An association is only as strong as its individual members. We all need a place to market our animals and the Lowline breed needs your participation to strengthen, and grow our breed. Buying and selling in association and regional consignment sales is marketing your program in its self. Make good purchases and sell excellent animals.
If you are unsure of what to buy, sell or whether or not to participate in a consignment sale, call our breed representative (Dean Pike) or the manager of the sale. They will be happy to
assist you. Pick the sale or sales that best fit your needs, Remember, a marketing plan and breeding plan is what brings you sales.
P.S. The Bitterness of Poor Quality Is Remembered Long After the Sweetness of Low Price is Forgotten.