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Vaccinations becoming key in earning more money for calves

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Greeley, Colo. – Ranchers could earn an additional $2.25 a hundredweight just by giving their calves preconditioning shots. 

“Vaccinations are becoming so important. It is the first question I am asked when I pick up the phone to sell cattle,” according to Brad Jones, branch manager of the Producers Livestock Marketing Association in Greeley, Colo. “Buyers want to know what shots the cattle have had, not where they are or how many they have.”

Jones told ranchers in a packed room at the Colorado Farm Show Beef Day that vaccinating calves is easy money in their pockets. 

“If we have calves or yearlings that have been properly vaccinated, we can always sell those cattle in the market before the ones without shots. That’s just how it is,” he pointed out. 

Profitable marketing

Jones explained to producers how to market their cattle for profit. 

Vaccinating is just one of many things they can do to be successful, he said. 

“Successful marketing means being in the market for that day, that sale and sometimes that hour,” he explained. “Consistency is important, especially weight and size in our program as a holistic business.” 

Adding value

He urged ranchers to participate in value-added programs. 

“All the special programs can benefit calf and yearling programs. If we look at a Superior catalog, we see programs like Vac 34. All these are value-added programs, and every one of them is important for us to do for our business to add value to what we are doing,” he explained.

Non-hormone treated cattle (NHTC) are also gaining popularity in the marketplace, and producers are earning more for those cattle, Jones explained. 

“NHTC has gained in marketing over the last few years. Last year, it was through the roof. We saw a $7 to $12 a hundredweight add-on for those cattle selling throughout the country and through the video,” he told producers. 

Cattle that are NHTC can’t be marketed just anyplace. 

“If the local sale barn is not NHTC-approved, then we can’t market those cattle there. One of the requirements for the program is they go from the ranch to the feedyard through an approved method,” he said.

Bring back buyers

Jones says one of the common questions he gets from ranchers is how to find buyers that will come back year after year. The key may be in finding a representative the rancher can develop a long-term business relationship with. 

“We should choose a rep we get along with, because that long-term relationship is really important. When we look in a catalog and see someone getting $12 more, think about what that means. They probably have longevity, doing the same thing every year and keeping the cattle consistent. Part of it is the rep. We need to be able to trust our rep to do a good job for us,” he said.

“We see it every week at the sale barn,” Jones continues. “Someone will come in with 10 to 15 calves that are as good as any out there. That rancher has called me and told me the process they went through. I’ve gone to their place. It doesn’t matter if they only have 10 to 15 head – they’ve done the work, and they’ll bring the market,” he explained. “That rancher has a relationship with me.  I call all the right guys, and we get the buyers there or at least on the phone. The calves get sold, and they get sold very well.” 

Jones told ranchers if they aren’t comfortable with their rep, they should look for someone else. 

“We need to find someone who will come to the place, invest in what we are doing and get their head wrapped around us, our ranch and our program. It needs to be someone who can sell our ranch and what we are doing,” he said.

Write a good contract

“To me, shipping is the most fun day of the year, but if we write a horrible contract, the stress on shipping day can be huge,” Jones said. “If we write a good contract, have a good rep who has talked to the buyers about how it’s all going to work, and we have everything prepared going into the day, it will be a beautiful day.”

Jones also urged ranchers to prepare ahead for shipping day. 

“Make sure the corrals are fixed and the gates don’t drag,” he says. “When the buyers comes with me to the delivery and the first thing they see are pickups parked against the fence holding it up, it doesn’t leave a good impression in their mind.”


Weigh-ups are the number one thing that brings buyer back consistently, Jones said. Buyers try not to pay for water weight on calves or yearlings, so the equivalent of three percent shrink is ideal. The industry standard is one percent per 100 hundred miles for the first 300 miles and then 1.5 percent after that, Jones explains. 

“If we are driving cattle two to three miles that morning, they will have a nice shrink on them, and we could probably get by with one to two percent shrink on the contract,” he said. 

Typically, the cattle are weighed upon arrival at the feedyard. 

“That is the first thing the buyer sees. If they don’t have a good experience with weigh-up, that is the first phone call I get,” Jones said. 

Slides are also important. 

“The number one thing that drives slides is the cost of feed,” he said. 

Superior has gone to a 15 to 20 cent slide for 400-weight calves, adjusted further for heavier weights. 

“When we get our base weight, everything over is one dollar a hundredweight on calves, and 80 cents on yearlings,” he explained. “It gives the feedyard more confidence in buying cattle.” 

“We have also nearly stopped selling yearlings without a weight stop. Every year is different with grass and how they feed, but last year, we had 70 percent of our yearlings come in 50 to 60 pounds heavier, even though they are the same cattle we get every year,” he explained. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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