Beef Cattle Consignment Sales Possible Downsides

       Knowing and understanding the beef cattle consignment sales possible downsides will go a long way in helping you to prepare for and make it a positive event.

     What are some disadvantages or potential problems with consignment sales?

     Where can a consignor go wrong?

     1. Lack of pre-planning ... Deciding at the last moment to consign to a particular sale, inadequate time to get the cattle in shape, inadequate time to do a proper job of promotion and advertising. Rush ... rush ... rush with no plan in mind. The lack of adequate planning is the biggest problem and most common mistake by most breeders. Plan ahead, know what animals you want to sell, where and when you plan to sell and how will be the best merchandising plan to get the desired results.

     2. Choosing the proper consignment sale for your cattle ... Choose quality animals that you feel sure will sell in the top 25 percent of the current market price structure, at least bring above the sale average. Other consignors can be an excellent gauge of the potential quality of the offering. If several well-known breeders are going to consign to a particular sale, the likelihood that more interested buyers might attend will be good. Therefore, the consignment sale may provide an even better opportunity to put your best foot forward and sell your cattle to someone who had little knowledge of you prior to the sale. However, there is a risk! You must be aware that the well-known breeders will come prepared, so you will be under even more pressure to consign a top entry.

     3. Selection of cattle for consignment ... The single most important decision is the quality of your consignment. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. A poor choice of consignment can do irreparable damage to your reputation and image among fellow breeders. The better quality you bring the better chance you have in selling the animal for a satisfactory price. Be honest with yourself! Simply ask, "Would I buy this entry if someone else consigned it to the sale?" If not, go back to the pens and find another consignment. Most potential buyers will judge your total operation by your consignment to the sale. They will wonder, "Surely, Mr. Jones consigned one of his better animals? Is this the best that Mr. Jones has to offer? If so, I'm not interested in any of his cattle ... today or later." Don't let this happen to you. Match your consignment to the quality that will be at the sale. We all like to keep our good herd replacements, but you may have to sacrifice at least one good one. Say to yourself, "I am going to have one of the top three consignments at the sale, not necessarily the best, but one of the top." When the customers, as well as other consignors go home, you want them to be very complimentary of your consignment. Have them in proper condition, well displayed and attractive. If consigning breeding age females, make sure that the breeding dates, pregnancy status and service sires will be in demand by the potential buyers. In other words, sell something that is in demand at the time, not cattle that were in demand five years ago. Never sell something that you would not buy yourself!

     4. Not doing your homework ... Be sure to allow plenty of time to advertise your consignment to the buying public. Contact potential buyers by telephone, letter or personal visit prior to the sale. Obtain a quality photo. Good photographs are better than 1000 words! They help sell your product. Never count on other people, including your breed association, sale managers or field representatives to sell your animals for you. You are totally responsible for your offering. If someone helps, that is an extra benefit of the consignment sale, but never count on someone else to do your marketing. That should also be an added incentive to consign quality. When you consign a quality animal, sale managers and field representatives will want to tell others about the animal. It's tough for them to recommend a poor consignment to someone if they don't particularly care for the animal themselves. Try to have a satisfactory bid on your consignment prior to the sale. Hopefully, there will be plenty of buyers interested in your consignment. But if not, then you are assured of getting your consignment sold for a satisfactory price because you worked hard merchandising your entry prior to the auction.

     5. Poor merchandising effort at the sale ... Arrive early and allow your cattle to recover from the haul. Provide a neat, clean display area with proper stall identification, animal consignment information and ranch promotional material. Try never to let a potential customer leave your display area without carrying some ranch or consignment promotional material with them. Of course, you should try hard to sell your consignment, but at the same time, you are trying to create an image of your total program, your cattle at home and yourself. Be professional!

     6. Poor sale management ... Too much money (commission) for too little service. Be aware of services to be rendered by sale management and the appropriate expense. Sale management should appraise the offering, help establish the sale expense budget, assist with livestock selection, possibly screening the sale entries if there is not a sale committee assigned this task, handle advertising and catalogue preparation, provide a mailing list and potential buyers, provide a pre-sale talk and clerking assistance, hire the auctioneer, and make sure the ring help is competent and works sales for a living and not as a sideline. Ringmen play a very important role in the success of a sale, and are often overlooked in terms of the value they add to the offering. Some sale management firms offer additional services for a fee such as fitting, clipping and conditioning the cattle, as well as food and refreshment coordination. These services are not typical of sale management, and those that offer it expect to be compensated for these additional services. They will typically do anything that they are being paid to cover. Sale management is a very tough job, but for five to 10 percent of gross sales revenue, depending upon size of sale, facilities available and services rendered, sale managers should provide the service and work for the consignors. Not all sale managers charge the same; they are generally close in terms of commission required to manage a sale, but some will charge considerably less; those are the ones to be wary of ... you typically get what you pay for!

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