Niche Marketing: Not For the Under Managed

US - When a cattle producer is not satisfied with the price he is receiving for his product he has two options; complain or change! Perhaps change means adapting your operation to meet the requirements of a branded beef program or niche market.
calendar icon 29 March 2007
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A recent survey of 100 U.S. sale barn operators, by the Livestock Marketing Association and Global Animal Management, revealed that value-added verification programs are extra work, extra record keeping, and extra management. However, they went on to say it means more dollars in your pocket, and the potential to attract new buyers.

Natural Markets

Natural markets are a great example of a niche market that is not for under managed, low quality cattle.

First and foremost, health is the most critical component of this program. If you plan on marketing natural cattle for any premium at all, vaccinations are essential to your success. Because sick cattle that must be treated are removed from the program, preventing health issues is essential. Furthermore, preconditioning cattle before marketing can allow buyers to have more confidence in your feeder cattle.

Documentation is important to your success as well. Because of the potential for audits, producers must document management procedures, feed records, treatment records, and more.

Lastly, the quality of cattle will dictate their ability to be successful. Producers have long been concerned that these niche markets are a scapegoat for plain, poorly managed cattle. If a cattle feeder wants to be successful without the use of implants and ionophores, they have to buy the best. Performance is essential, and crossbreeding will provide the best results. The use of an Angus Composite bull (SimAngus, ChiAngus, Balancer, LimFlex, etc.) on a primarily Angus cowherd has been a desirable combination for cattle being marketed in quality based programs. Age and Source Verified

While source verification has not had a lot of value to this point, it is easy to do. The true value has been in age verification. In order for cattle to qualify for Japanese export they must have an identifiable age to meet the insanely strict requirements.

Producers have been concerned that this requires each calf be tied with an individual animal identification. While complying this way allows each calf to have an individual birth date, a simpler approach has been used. It is allowable to report the birth date of the 1st born calf, however all calves have the same documented birth date on this system, taking away some flexibility.


This is not a new concept to beef producers, but as research continues to demonstrate the value, usage becomes more popular. Preconditioning typically encompasses vaccinating, weaning, and backgrounding feeder cattle prior to marketing. In its strictest form, cattle receive two rounds of vaccination with at least one round of modified live vaccines, weaned for at least 45 days, and broke to bunks and water tanks.

Source: Marshall County Journal
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