Who wouldn’t? As each day passes, we are getting closer to the realization the premium is the standard – and everything else receives a discount.

An example of this can be found in the finished cattle side of the industry, where 75 percent of cattle harvested will grade low Choice or better. The “premium” for Choice is pretty well expected. Select cattle receive a discount by default.

Southeast cow-calf producers are looking for marketing opportunities that open doors to receive premiums on their feeder calves. Some of these open doors are coming through the export markets. This has launched “traceability” back into the buzzword circles. This time it’s not going away.

China and others want to buy beef that has disease, biosecurity and electronic identification traceability. This coincides with what progressive feeder calf markets are already doing, as electronic identification tags quietly become a marketing requirement in many video, tele-auction and value-added sales. The best marketing avenues are going to know what the buyers want.

Buyers are able to pay the most for high-quality calves with the most information as evidence to their reputation. This is quickly becoming the standard. The days of buyers putting together orders one calf at a time are slowly dying. These cattle have no information behind them and are indirectly discounted as high-risk. Buyers want information and traceability.


The Virginia Quality Assurance (VQA) program has met that need. I asked Butch Foster, field manager of the Virginia Cattleman’s Association, how VQA had been received in the area.

He told me that, 11 years ago, they sold 400 head through the VQA program, and this year they will market 10,000 head around one local area: Abingdon, Virginia. These are 90 percent commingled lots, but the health protocols are third-party-verified by VQA staff, veterinarians or extension staff.

The cattle are videoed whenever possible and sold at auction via the internet. There are multiple avenues to market in VQA. One is the “Genetic and Health Program Assured + Weaned.” These feeders are not only pre-conditioned but also sired by bulls that meet minimum requirements for growth genetics. Premiums of $90 to $120 per head sound pretty good.  end mark

Jason Duggin