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Ask the Consultant: Marketing cattle in a COVID-19 world

Jason Bradley for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2020
Markets are continuously moving

When it comes to selling cattle in a normal year, it’s good to have a marketing plan. In a year when there is a global pandemic, it’s a must.

Nevertheless, just knowing when you’re selling and where you’re going to be selling are just the tip of the iceberg.

Marketing could be thought of as intentional selling. In the literal sense, cattle ranchers are in a business where they intend to sell a product. However, when I say “intentional selling,” I’m talking about creating a specific product based on foresight, planning and the use of multiple best management practices.

Know your ‘why’

When you started your cattle business, you knew what you wanted to sell: calves straight off the cow, preconditioned calves, stockers, replacement females, etc. Did you ever ask yourself the same thing my 4-year-old has been asking me (for what feels like nonstop the past two months) – why? Why did you want to sell that particular product? Did it match your skill set? Did it match your environment? Did it have the highest revenue at the time? Whatever your reason, you started your business with a product in mind.

You grew your product and eventually sold it. Then when you sold your product, did you ask yourself why again? Why did you sell at that particular location? Why did you sell on that particular date? Why did you sell that particular product? Was there something that you could have done to add value to it?

Being intentional about marketing by using a marketing plan is essential. It allows you to be able to answer the who, what, when, where and why of every part of your product. Knowing the answers to all these questions allows you to think about all the “what ifs.” What if the cattle haven’t gained like expected? What if the market is favorable for retaining cattle? As we’re all well aware, the markets are constantly moving. Having contingencies in place can be the difference between a breakeven year and a last year.

In addition, write your marketing plan down. This allows you to recall your reasoning for your decisions and the ability to share your decisions with others, should you need to.

Find and mitigate your risk

With your marketing plan laid out, contingencies accounted for and everything written down, you can begin to see the risks you will be facing. Whether it’s production risk or financial risk, your marketing plan will now need to include how you plan to mitigate those risks. Utilizing programs like Pasture, Range and Forage (PRF) insurance to protect against a lack of feed due to drought or using the futures market to protect against price risk could be part of your marketing plan.

Have a written plan

It may seem like a lot of extra steps and things you don’t have time to do, but being intentional about your marketing – and developing a marketing plan you are constantly reviewing – can be your light at the end of the tunnel when things get dark. In the last few months, we’ve seen an incredible shift in supply and demand at almost every level of the livestock industry. This has resulted in prices all over the place. Having a written marketing plan in place allows you to weather the storm and sleep easy at night knowing you’ve been intentional in your management.  end mark

PHOTO: Markets are continuously moving. Cattle producers should be intentional about marketing their product. Photo courtesy of Noble Research Institute.

Jason Bradley
  • Jason Bradley

  • Agricultural Economics Consultant
  • Noble Research Institute
  • Email Jason Bradley