#1 Do Your Homework Prior to the Sale
Most breeders go to the extent of organizing a catalog for review prior to the sale. These catalogs contain pertinent information about breed, date of birth, pedigrees and EPDs. If this is your first time to purchase from a particular breeder, make a phone call well before the sale to introduce yourself, ask questions and get to know them. Reviewing the catalog and having specific questions will help the breeder understand what you’re looking for and help them steer you in the right direction. It is through this call you will get a feeling about building a relationship with this particular producer, their knowledge about the cattle, and their patience and willingness to help. Be sure to be respectful of their time knowing they have a lot going on planning for this sale. If you have a lot of questions, call a week in advance. Do not wait until the day before or day of the sale to ask.
#2 Understand What You’re Looking for in a Female
Cody Sankey, Area Sales Manager for BioZyme, breaks down some general basics when evaluating heifers: When purchasing a show heifer it is important to look at feet and leg structure. For them to hold up over their show career and have a life after the halter comes off, they need to be sound. They should have the correct slope to their shoulder and a functional set to their hock. They need to have a solid hoof shape with depth of heal.
It is also important for those heifers to have plenty of depth of body and be easy fleshing females. Heifers that have plenty of depth of rib are low maintenance and easy to maintain once put in to production. It’s important for them to have adequate muscle.
Finally, after we have covered all the basics to building a functional brood cow then I look at them from the side and make sure they are balanced. Sometimes we focus too much on necks and front ends and not enough on the traits that are important after the halter comes off. We all like pretty cattle but they have to be able to function as cows when their show career is over.
I do believe that the pedigree and performance information are also important when selecting show heifers. Many shows these days give the judges EPDs and pedigree plays a key role in marketing their offspring in the future.
#3 Get a Feel for the Environment and Know How to Handle the Crowd
A live auction can be intimidating and fast-paced. It is always a good idea to arrive early, be certain of the lots you have selected to bid on and have plans B, C and D in place in case the auction doesn’t go how you had hoped. Have a firm budget in place prior to the lot entering the auction and know how far you’re willing to push and when you need to quit. Always know, there is another female out there if you don’t get the one you want purchased.
#4 Talk After the Sale
A quick conversation with the breeder after the sale is always a good time to let them know what you purchased and if you will be in contact at some point for questions or help along the way. If for some reason, you did not have a chance to purchase what you hoped for, they may have other private treaty options available or can help point you in the right direction. Keep lines of communication open!