Cattle Purchasing Tips - Save Money

DCC Ranch e-News #279 - 6-22-22

by Darol Dickinson


Many people are starting Texas Longhorn breeding herds--in fact an amazing number. Some are impulse buyers and move fast. Some buy from distressed sellers when there is a drought, and love a low price. Some are picky as all get-out and watch every point of anatomy carefully, making certain of buying very high quality cattle, with no bad baggage coming along.

No matter what buying habits are, or what the budget is, buying a cow with a calf at side is the surest way to get what you want, and know what you are getting. For example -- if a cow does not have a calf at side, she may be bred or not, she may be a good mother or not, she may have a good udder, and milk well, or maybe not. She may have never had a live calf. There are a lot of unknowns that affect purchase price, if the buyer knows what they are.

Texas Longhorn Pair

Tips: When buying a cow age 4 or older it isn't an auctioneer's embellishment, it is a fact. You will see a mature size, a developed horn shape, and conformation shows you what it is. Not many surprises will happen after this age.

Tips: A mature cow with a calf at side shows what kind of calf she can raise. It shows the shape of her udder while in use. It proves that she is a breeder. It shows if the calf is fat or poor. These are high-dollar questions especially if it is a high-dollar cow.

Tips: Texas Longhorn cows were not bred for dairy. Over hundreds of years they were not carefully selected for the perfect shaped forward dairy udder. As a result, some cows may have somewhat odd shaped udders. In that regard, always look at the calf. If the calf is big and fat that means the udder is doing the right job. More ranchers cull cows for raising a small calf than keep a cow for a textbook shape udder. Ranchers don't care about shape if the weight is there.

Tips: The purchase of a cow calf pair bred back is called a three-in-one. That is the fastest way to start a herd and often a good purchase value. One value-hiccup is what kind of bull is she bred to? Can the bull sire calves of consistent high value. Is he a different breed and will sire a mongrel calf, or could something very valuable be the result. The service sire may add or subtract up to 40% of purchase value. If the sire is low quality and the cow has to be fed a year to remove the pregnancy, that is reduced value. A cow bred to a high-value bull, that is real time and money to consider.

Tips: Does the seller provide accurate data on the cow, the history, weights and measurements.  Can they readily provide a registration certificate and pay the transfer fee to convey title. As in real-estate, title must be relinquished by the seller and legally recorded for the buyer to legally own the new registered cow. If there is a story about some monkey-business of the registration certificate ate by the dog, that is not a registered cow and may never be. Don't believe that story. At that point it is a non-registered cow and a much lower price. Probably a value of the local auction barn by the weight on a given day -- not a penny more.

Tips: When buying a yearling heifer you will be guessing rather than what a three-in-one pair is visually telling you. When buying a cow not raising a calf there is some guessing there.

Tips: In a full year cows are raising a calf about half of that time. True, the cow/pair purchase isn't an indicator for the whole year. With dry cows some facts will not be known. The value then is less.

Tips: For the seller, timing is very important. Market cattle with a big fat calf at side and make it easy for the buyer to  make an investment decision. If a cow had a calf die in a blizzard, flood, or trampled in a January 6 fake insurrection, just buy time. Wait and sell when there is a big healthy pair --- the pair is a tell-all of transparency and increased value which helps the buyer and seller.