March 26, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, KY.

Kentucky cattle producers are using a variety of tools to market their animals and stay ahead of the competition. 

The Bluegrass state is second only to Texas in the number of cattle going through Kentucky-based marketing companies, according to University of Kentucky Agricultural Economist Lee Meyer.  He said Kentucky cattle producers’ marketing technology ranges from traditional to cutting edge.  They are using video and Internet selling, and getting access to improved market information.

Kentucky’s cattle selling system is built on stockyards and direct sales.  Farmers deliver their cattle to stockyards where other producers, order buyers and dealers buy the cattle at auction.  But with new information technologies, Meyer said farm managers are looking for ways to improve competitiveness and get more information.

“There are around 40 stockyards scattered across the state,” he said.  “Some are small, handling fewer than 100 cattle per week.  But others are among the country’s largest.  Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington is by far the largest, but six others handle more than 1,000 cattle each week.”

Meyer added that while Kentucky’s calf crop is around 1.1 million per year, dealers and order buyers handle nearly three times that many because they buy cattle from all over the Southeast and move them to backgrounders and especially to feedlots to the north and west of Kentucky.

Kentucky producers have always been on the lookout for new and innovative ways to market cattle.  About 20 years ago, some Bluegrass area producers organized and used a board sale where buyers could call in bids.  Meyer said while it was a good idea, without buyer support the system collapsed.

In the past 10 years video sales started to emerge, but they too did not get widespread support in Kentucky and surrounding states.  Meyer said the best thing to happen is that in the last year stockyards have gotten on the Internet and change is rapidly approaching.

“Two innovative cattle marketing firms are Superior Livestock and DV Auction Line,” he said.  “With these firms, cattle can be consigned two ways – taken to a cooperating stockyard or kept on the farm.  Smaller groups do best at the stockyard.  If cattle stay at home, they are videotaped and listed.  At the time of the sale, buyers on location as well as buyers 1,000 miles away can all bid at the same time.

Since anyone can get online and access the best market information, Meyer said the results are promising.  He said Bluegrass Stockyards has partnered with DV Auctionline to offer the service in Lexington and other locations.

Producers may wonder if there is an additional cost associated with marketing cattle online, but Meyer said the cost is about the same for farmers who take their cattle to the stockyards.

“For cattle sold off the farm, the seller saves,” he said. “Some research has shown higher prices from the video sales.  It looks like the Internet sales are going to perform at least as well.”

Meyer said new marketing technologies offer yet one more option for producers who have worked hard to improve the genetics and health of their herd to be competitive and reap rewards for their efforts.

Contact: 

Lee Meyer, 859-257-7272, ext. 228