Tips for navigating online bull auctions
For The Fence Post
Online bull sales have broadened the options for cattlemen looking to purchase a new herd sire and there’s little question that this isn’t how grandpa purchased bulls years ago. Some buyers new to the business of purchasing cattle, especially bulls, online can do so with confidence with the support of the experts.
Superior Livestock Auctions changed the business of selling cattle at auction 30 years ago when they began videoing cattle and they continue to innovate and change the way cattle are marketed. Jake Feddes, Manhattan, Mont., joined the Superior Productions team several years ago and spends his time serving Superior’s purebred clients as they prepare for and host their sales. Superior streams sales both online and on television and works with some of the most recognizable names in the industry.
“We can market those cattle across the country and even around the world but they can also see them (clearly),” Feddes said. “If we’re not doing an online sale or on the TV, the only way people can see those cattle is to come to the sale or do a site unseen bid.”
The benefit to buyers, Feddes explained, is the videos are shot in pens large enough to allow the bull to stride out across the pen and give potential buyers a quality look at the cattle. Then, armed with the clear video, they can narrow their search and look at photos, EPDs, pedigrees or visit with the producer to make the most informed decision. All of this can be done online or over the phone, allowing producers to purchase outside their own backyard.
Once the videos are shot and available online, Feddes is on site on sale day to answer questions from bidders and to handle the Internet bids and the conference call bids. He makes himself available to bidders to make purchasing online as easy as possible.
“Some buyers new to online sales are skeptical about not looking at the bulls, seeing them and being able to put their eyes on them,” he said. “A lot of guys will call me before the sale and have me go look at a certain bull to verify what they’ve seen on the video.”
FAIR AND ACCURATE
The bidding process can seem intimidating to new online bidders but the truth of the matter is that safeguards are in place to ensure the bids are accurate and fair, even if the bidder is hundreds of miles from the sale.
Most producers Superior works with have a site unseen guarantee so if a buyer isn’t happy with their online purchase, the producer will make every effort, within reason, to assuage the buyer and to keep them as a satisfied customer. Superior prides itself on working with top producers who offer quality cattle and work to maintain excellent reputations for honesty and customer service.
“Buyers need to be comfortable and know what they’re looking for,” he said. “Some guys will look at the EPDs first, some will look at the videos first. Everyone is different.”
Feddes suggests narrowing down the choices to a group of bulls based on personal preference, be it data or phenotype or any combination thereof. Once that is done, the videos have been studied, and the information reviewed, he suggests calling the producer offering the bulls. This conversation can familiarize both buyer and seller with the other’s operation, needs and wants in a bull and can help buyers find the best bull for the money.
Feddes admits that online sales have made personal interaction more difficult so he encourages buyers to communicate with the producers before and after the sale so the producer has the opportunity to deliver great customer service. Following a ranch’s social media and web presence also allows buyers to learn about the operation and get a feel for how they do business.
Felton Angus Ranch in Springdale, Mont., is one of the operations Feddes works with that has a significant social media presence. Susie Felton is the social media guru on site and has invested time and training to best reach the ranch’s customers through social media, especially Facebook. In fact, Felton featured Feddes in two Facebook Live videos while he was on the ranch prior to their Feb. 13 bull sale with Superior.
Other ranches may or may not have an online presence to the extent of Felton Angus Ranch but offer high quality cattle and are but a phone call away.
Travis Stenberg, Weatherford, Texas, has been with Breeders’ World Online Sales from the beginning and recalls the days when convincing producers to host an online sale was a tough job. The bottom line for online sales is convenience and choice. Once a producer has identified the goals for their herd, they can be selective in choosing bulls that fit the goals of their program and ranches they are comfortable building a relationship with.
“Look for individuals who have a reputation for helping their customers,” he said. “If a bull goes bad, you’ll want someone you can work with who understands and that you can work with for the long term.”
MAKE A LIST
Stenberg suggests penning a list of bulls that fit the needs and goals of the operation rather than concentrating on a single lot. With a list of bulls in hand and a dollar range to stay within, buyers can navigate the fast-paced sale and feel prepared.
“There are several bulls on any given sale that will likely suit your needs,” Stenberg said. “Have some options available and know your price point.”
Having several lots in mind will keep buyers from potentially becoming frustrated if certain bulls garner higher prices than anticipated, as sometimes occurs in an auction setting. Having several lots selected, Stenberg explained, can take a great deal of stress out of purchasing a bull online.
When buyers begin their online search for a bull, they can relax knowing that all of the people involved have extensive experience in the cattle industry. Feddes, Stenberg, and their peers at both Superior and Breeders’ World are cattlemen in their own right and pride themselves on putting quality cattle in the hands of cattlemen. ❖