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One Stop For Livestock

Henry and Wendi McCarthy of Wawota, Sask., strive to deliver the best product possible. The difficulty has been getting the best returns possible for their value-added calves. That led them to put their own experiences in the beef industry and the real estate market together with a few other people to organized a new company — One Stop Livestock (OSL).

OSL is an interactive website where producers can connect with producers and people from other sectors of agriculture to find information, discuss industry issues and promote their products and services.

The idea for this type of web-based service grew from their experience marketing their calves directly to a feedlot for the first time last fall. The arrangement wouldn’t have been an option if not for their connection with a friend who had already been selling his calves directly to the feedlot.

Following through on the special conditions for the direct sale didn’t cost much money or time beyond what they would usually expend. “We were able to negotiate a price and sold the calves for better returns with no transportation and commission costs. The buyer had the kind of calves he wanted with the health benefits of shipping them directly from the cow to the feedlot within 36 hours,” McCarthy says.

The McCarthys couldn’t help but draw a comparison with their experience flipping real estate as an investment sideline. Sometimes they use the services of professionals, however, there are other ways to easily connect and share information with people looking to buy and sell houses by private treaty.

That didn’t seem to hold true when they tried to connect with other livestock producers. Sometimes it could be to your advantage to sell through a broker or auction market, McCarthy explains, and sometimes it could be mutually beneficial to try to negotiate a private treaty sale.

A venue for producers to communicate directly with one another opens up opportunities to promote and source calves, heifers, cows or bulls that meet specifiprogram requirements, such as herd health and vaccination protocols, weaning methods, feed rations, age verification, or a production system focused on genetics, organic, verified beef, or environmentally sustainable production.

Direct marketing can be a challenge and it’s not for everyone, McCarthy adds. For those who are looking for alternative ways to market their livestock and livestock products, OSL hopes the site will enable producers to enhance their products and profit margins as well as realize other advantages, such as traceability, accountability and quality assurance.

The forums tab is a place for producers and other professionals to post information and comments on topics such as gate-to-plate marketing, how to set your price, contract law, tax tips, health, nutrition, succession planning, regulations and genetics.

The marketing pages are for all classes of cattle, other species of farm livestock, stock dogs, horses, machinery, services, feed and pasture.

The latest features allow members from all sectors of agriculture to profile their businesses and how they contribute to the industry, follow OSL on Facebook and Twitter and use a “watch” function to automatically receive notifi- cation by email when the type of animals in which they are interested are posted on the site.

Advertising sponsorship of the OSL website makes it possible for producers to use the site free of charge.

The time is right

The people behind OSL feel that this is a time of great change within the industry and they want to be a positive part of that change. They hope the service is one small way to help producers open up lines of communication, as well as to learn about and gain an understanding of other parts of the industry.

The McCarthys’ goal as a cow-calf operation is to build a relationship with a steady buyer that will give them honest feedback and tips on ways to improve their product. They started building their own cow herd in 2003, when Henry purchased a veterinary practice at Wawota. He grew up in Calgary, where his mom was a veterinarian and his dad had a mixed farm, then spent five years working on the OH Ranch and at the Diamond * feedlot in southern Alberta. After doing some travelling and working on farms in Australia, New Zealand, Alaska and Hungary, he completed his degree at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and went to work with a large-animal practice at Pincher Creek. That’s where he met Wendi, who also has a farm background, and was employed as a pen rider at one of the feedlots in the area.

Now, they see cattle numbers dropping, but not to the same degree as the decline in the number of producers. “With people retiring and the mass exodus of middle-years producers who have gone into other lines of work, the industry is evolving to a point when there will be a lot of cattle controlled by a younger generation of ranchers who are savvy with the Internet and this service could play right into their operations,” he explains.

That said, there are still smaller feedlots and cow-calf operations that have limited marketing options because they aren’t able to deal in large numbers. Some feedlots may be more interested in the type, quality, pre-sale management or location of the cattle, he adds.

“We’re also entering the era of mandatory traceability. The reality is it’s been forced upon us and, as is the case with most government regulations, there will be no going back. This may be one way to ease the pain,” McCarthy says. Transacting a sale to move calves from the home-pasture premise of one producer to the home premise of a feedlot shortens the electronic trail and could help to reduce the paper trail.

“We’re not implying that producers shouldn’t use brokers or auction markets if those options are working for them. The site is user-friendly so they can source value-added livestock through OSL as well,” he stresses. “We believe direct marketing is an option that’s good for the industry because it encourages producers to add value to their calves and purchasers to pay a fair price for the added value — it’s a win-win arrangement, and you don’t come across too many of those in agriculture.”

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