With optimism on ranches and feedlots riding an all-time high, auction markets are gearing up for an exciting fall run with potential for record calf prices.
Auction markets continue to reinvent this long-established and trusted system of selling cattle with all sorts of options to suit their customers’ needs and Dryland Cattle Trading Corp. at Veteran, Alta., is no exception.
DCTC co-owner and manager Graham Schetzsle explains the “Fall Forward” sale idea, which some markets have started offering and DCTC will be introducing for the first time on September 15, combines aspects of a video sale with contracting.
“The calf market is projected to be very positive and the whole industry is moving to forward selling, so this kind of sale appeals to ranchers with large strings of calves who may not be able to or want to pull them off pasture that early in the fall,” Schetzsle explains.
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DCTC’s Fall Forward sale will be an in-house video sale with buyers on hand at the market where the videos will be shown on the screen and auctioneers Kirk Goldsmith and Greg Johnson calling the sale.
A DCTC rep will visit the ranch ahead of time to video and accurately describe the cattle. Clips will be posted online through the Dryland Direct System along with a sale catalogue describing the calves, conditions of sale, and other specs such as the health program. The consignor stipulates the date of sale, which could be the actual day of the Fall Forward sale or any date thereafter.
It’s all in the description of the cattle, Schetzsle says. At delivery time, DCTC sorts the cattle accordingly to make sure the buyer receives what’s described. Sorting can be done at the ranch if appropriate handling facilities are available. If not, the calves are trucked to the market or another convenient place. The same goes for weighing, but other options such as feedlots and truck scales can be used to save miles.
DCTC handles the financial transaction and no money changes hands until the sale is executed according to arrangements made between the buyer and seller.
All of DCTC’s regular Monday sales are webcast live via the TEAM network, but without the online bidding option for now. “It’s only a five- to six-second delay, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s quite a break during a live auction,” Schetzsle explains. “So, in fairness to buyers at the sale, we are holding off until the day when online bidding fits smoothly with live sales.”
Schetzsle says even without online bidding, webcasting the sales has been a great information tool for producers to keep tabs on what market prices are doing from wherever they may be. If they like what they see, getting in on the action is as easy as putting a call through to one of the ringside buyers.
Weighing the lots of calves before the sale and putting them through the ring before the cows is another service that’s been well received by consignors and buyers and really saves time during the sale. The calves aren’t pre-sorted as for a pre-sort sale, just pre-weighed, he clarifies. A pre-sale catalogue is then printed and posted online, usually the night before the sale, but sometimes first thing sale-day morning depending on when weighing finishes up.
Regular calf and cow sales run every Monday at 10 a.m. year round except for stat holidays.
DCTC’s sale lineup also includes bred heifer and cow sales from late November through December, purebred/production sales from the end of February through April and cow-calf sales in May and June.
As a TEAM agent, DCTC reps are available to view and list cattle for TEAM’s online sales.
Nothing but cattle
The facility underwent a major renovation last year with a new front and the addition of 2,400 square feet of office space.
About 80 per cent of the penning is steel. The yard can comfortably accommodate up to 6,000 head. Realistically, though, 4,000 to 4,500 head is a big sale to finish up in reasonable time.
Schetzsle recalls sales during the fall run that ran way into the wee hours during his dad’s time and doesn’t miss those days at all now that the fall run is spread out more evenly. Ranchers moving their calving times into spring have adjusted their marketing programs accordingly.
Veteran is situated in the heart of east-central Alberta’s ranch country that was home to many well-known pioneers in the Charolais industry and gained a reputation for having the best Charolais cattle in Canada.
Top-quality Charolais calves attracted a lot of interest from buyers down east, but that market diminished during the past 10 years as ranchers rolled over to British-base cow herds. Schetzsle speculates that part of the reason eastern buyers may have backed off was because eventually there weren’t enough Charolais-type calves available to make the trip worthwhile. Freight costs during challenging times may have been a factor as well.
The recent shift to breeding British cows Charolais has been driven by strong demand for Charolais-cross calves from down east and Alberta feedlots, he says. Greater availability of this type of cattle and a return to overall profitability in the industry is reviving eastern interests and DCTC has been seeing more cattle headed that way over the past two years.
DCTC has a long history in the area as a locally owned market, originally established as the Veteran Auction Market by Albert Ellerby in the early 1970s. Cyril Curran kept the name when he bought the business in 1980. Graham’s parents, Terry and Linda Schetzsle, owned and operated the business under the name of Schetzsle Livestock from 1989 to 2000, when they sold to Graham and his wife, Jen, who ran the business as Schetzsle Marketing Corp. In 2005, Ian and Connie Goodbrand bought the majority share and the name was changed to Dryland Cattle Trading Corp.
Goodbrand, has been a huge asset to the company, Schetzsle says. As a veterinarian with a large, successful practice at Provost and a cattle feeder, he’s sharp minded and has a lot of contacts in the beef industry.
Alberta Auction Markets Association
One membership advantage he appreciates is the monthly meeting, which is usually a conference call. It’s a good way to keep in touch with peers and, even though they compete with each other for business, there’s lots of good information that members can share and use.
He feels keeping up his membership is important because the association has a voice with the provincial government on issues that affect the cattle-marketing sector and with the federal government through its membership in the Livestock Markets Association of Canada.
One of the biggest challenges and most time-consuming files has been traceability. This isn’t just the current animal movement issue, but going way back to when animal identification tags became mandatory in July 2002 and markets found themselves enforcing the regulations or being fined.
Schetzsle says auction markets aren’t against traceability. They are willing and have been working with government and industry all along to find solutions that are manageable and affordable.
Animal handling, welfare and safety for animals and people is another active file.
Labour is definitely a challenge, more so for markets in larger centres that don’t have large farm populations to draw in employees with experience handling livestock. Market operators are finding they need to put more time into training staff starting at the very beginning with basic handling techniques.
All things considered, Schetzsle says there’s a wave of positive feeling about the future of the cow-calf industry that bodes well for the marketing sector.
Schetzsle offered his fall market outlook on the condition that he could add a huge caveat — it was still four months out. Considering 550-weight calves were already being forward contracted for $2.20 a pound in June and the very strong demand, he’s pegging fall prices at $2.30 to $2.50.