You’ve been selling a few bulls off your seedstock operation for several years now. You have increased your herd size and think next year might be the year to make the switch from selling your bulls privately to conducting your first bull sale. Are you prepared? Do you know the amount of time you will dedicate to such an event?
44 Farms, Cameron, Texas, currently hosts five sales a year, including four bull sales and one female sale. Since the purebred Angus operation has started marketing via public auction in 2007, they have had 43 of them. Doug Slattery, Chief Operating Officer at 44 Farms, said that hosting a successful sale is the combination of offering a package of the right genetics in a sound, functional animal along with providing great customer service.
“You have to have the product for your customers, and you have to have them presented correctly using good genetics, nutrition and health. Customer service and customer relationships are key. You can’t expect customers to come and buy. You have to give them reasons to come and buy. The genetics, nutrition, service and relationships all have to come together. If one is missing it won’t work,” Slattery said.
At 44 Farms, they primarily market yearling bulls that range in age from 12 to 14 months. However, to meet some customer demand, they also sell some older bulls that range from 18 to 20 months.
“Ideally, we’d like to sell them younger. You have less time and expense in them, less exposure to something going wrong, but we hold some over to meet our customers’ demands that are located in different areas,” he said.
The bulls are run on pasture to keep them in optimal condition and prepare them for their next phase of life. The bulls are run in 30 to 100-acre traps to ensure adequate exercise and fed a total mixed ration of silage with pre-mix that includes Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply within for maximum performance. The amount of feed depends on the development stage of a particular group of bulls. The bulls are not pushed excessively hard but fed enough where contemporary groups can be compared.
The Amaferm advantage helps increase intake, digestion and absorption, which helps the bulls at 44 Farms get the most nutrients from their feed and forage. Amaferm is research-proven to increase fertility, and that is especially important when your goal is to market bulls
“Feed is the biggest expense we have at 44 Farms, and anywhere we can shave something on our feed bill is a good day for me. We’ll have 1,700 to 1,800 bulls on feed at one time at 44 Farms and we really feel intake is better, conversion is better, digestion is better, and bloats are down by feeding Amaferm. We feel we get a huge boost on the feed we do provide by feeding Amaferm,” Slattery said.
About four or five months prior to the sale, Slattery said they start working on their sale catalog, which is a key marketing piece. It is more than a catalog of animals for sale, it tells the story of their program. Preparing the catalog includes selecting bulls for the sale, pulling pedigrees of those bulls, taking photographs of nearly 200 bulls they will feature in the book, and starting to catalog them in order. They typically sell in sale book order, with several featured lots at the beginning, and spreading other featured lots throughout the sale; however, sometimes that changes after the catalog has gone to print. And, with five sales a year, it isn’t uncommon for them to be working on more than one book at a time.
Potential and past customers typically start getting their sale catalogs four to five weeks prior to the sale, with plenty of time to review the offering. 44 Farms conducts semen tests on all bulls slated to sell about 30 days before the sale date. And then, for the last two weeks before the sale, the focus is on day-of logistics and customer service. Slattery said they strategically pen the bulls, produce maps and make the final sale order. He also spends a lot of time those two weeks prior to the sale working with customers to make sure they find the bulls that best fits their needs in the catalogs, answering questions about bulls and even helping customers make travel arrangements – all part of the customer service that 44 Farms provides.
On the day of the sale, 44 still runs each animal through the ring, allowing the customers to get a final view from the bleachers.
“We’ve discussed that a lot internally. We feel like our clientele really likes the bulls coming through the ring. We sell a bull every 45 seconds. Bulls come in, make one or two turns in the ring and they are out. Our buyers have to adjust throughout the sale based on price if they don’t get the ones they really want. We really feel like it is a plus to run them through the ring so our buyers get a better look at them. It’s a big effort, but we feel it pays off for us and the customer,” Slattery said.
Just because the auctioneer announces “sold” and the gavel goes down on the block, doesn’t mean the service stops. As buyers prepare to take their bulls to their new homes, Slattery said that is when customer service is paramount. Cattlemen have spent at least 12 months focusing on herd health and nutrition, and Slattery wants each customer to be happy with his or her purchase.
“We have people ask us for advice all the time, and we offer it to them. It helps us, and it helps the buyer from being disappointed in something. You still might have challenges because of different environments, different locations or management schemes,” he said. “But that is why customer service is so important to us. We are always here to help our customers through every challenge.”
44 Farms has its next Bull sale Oct. 27at the ranch. On Oct. 26, 44 Farms will sell 1,000 bred females. For more information visit www.44Farms.com.
The Amaferm advantage can help you develop bulls for your next bull sale by increasing intake and digestibility. You can find Amaferm in supplements like Vita Charge® or VitaFerm® or you can add it into your ration like 44 Farms does.