Goudeau shared with producers some key insights he has received from a lifetime of working in several facets of the cattle industry. He said that marketing calves doesn’t take away the flexibility of selling calves whenever the time is right. “You can be a marketer and still bring them to the sale barn any given day.” 

Veselka carrie
Editor / Progressive Cattle

Know what the industry is looking for: quality

“Auction markets do not work against you. We want you to make money. We want to reward you, but we can only work with what you bring us,” he said, and reminds producers that as a cattle buyer, he works on commission. “The higher the price that we can get for you, the better we do, and the better you do.” 

Goudeau stressed that knowing what the industry is looking for is critical to marketing your calves. Thanks to success stories like the Certified Angus Beef program, black-hided cattle are en vogue at the moment, so keep that in mind when planning for next year’s calves. 

“You have got to stay out of the elimination categories. You have got to stay in the mainstream because that is what the order buyers want,” he said. “They get paid on commission. Do you think they really want to sit there and watch a whole bunch of spotted calves at the sale if they don’t have an order for them?”

No novelties

Goudeau says “novelty breeds,” including but not limited to miniature breeds, dairy breeds, longhorns, Corrientes and show cattle will face severe discounts in the sale ring and are not generally wanted in the feedlot. Additionally, Goudeau said packers don’t like breeds with big-base horns, including longhorns, Corrientes and some Brahman-influenced cattle because the big horns can make cattle difficult to process and can slow down production, so cattle buyers working for packing plants will be hesitant to buy such cattle. 


“When you bring us these novelty breeds, we sale barns will take them and do the best job that we can to get them through,” Goudeau said. “But you are a true price taker, not a marketer, when you get down to this.” 

Herd health is a must

Implementing a herd health program is critical to setting calves up for success. Goudeau advised including both your vet and your buyer when working up a herd health program. The buyer, who is in tune with the cattle market and has the inside track on what is and is not desirable in a calf at the sale, and who, at the end of the day, will be the one buying calves, will have valuable insights on what a good vaccination program should include. 

A solid herd program also starts while the calf is still on the cow. Don’t wait until it’s time to send them to the sale barn to start their health program. Goudeau stressed the use of modified vaccine on calves. As a buyer, he says he won’t buy calves that haven’t been vaccinated. “Proper vaccination is your responsibility, and in my opinion, a major part of animal welfare,” he said. “We do a great job as producers of going to a bull sale and buying the best bull, the best cows, buying everything – and forgetting herd health. We have got to get these calves prepared; we have got to get them ready for the next level.”


Castration is also a must. Goudeau gave an example of the price difference castration makes. If a 780-pound bull calf brings $1.05 per pound, and a 780-pound steer brings $1.25 per pound, there is a price difference of more than $150. “You became a price taker by sending that bull calf there. You would have been a marketer, even in a sale barn, if you had made him a steer and brought him to the barn as a steer.”  

Don’t tolerate crazy cattle

Goudeau told producers to “quit being a hero” and get rid of their wild cows ¬– the ones that lurk at the far end of the pasture and are the first to jump and run – even if they produce a calf every year. “There are way too many cattle in the industry to be dealing with something like this,” he said. “They produce genetics too. What do you think their calves are going to be like?” 

Load them properly

Loading cattle properly can make a big difference in stress levels and condition when they get to the sale barn. “You’ve worked hard to raise these calves, and when they arrive at the sale barn all stressed and dirty, it does not reflect well on you.” Goudeau encouraged using the separator gates in stock trailers to keep calves from piling on top of each other during loading and transit and avoiding overcrowding loads. 

Global markets

The price of calves at the sale barn is constantly changing. A lot of different factors impact the sale price, and staying aware of those factors, whether they directly affect you or not, helps you keep tabs on the current cattle market. “We are in a total global market these days.” Keep up with the market via the reports that are easily accessible online from most livestock auctions or ag publications.

Market timing

Avoid selling your cattle during fall run. “As a rule of thumb, do not sell calves between Labor Day and Thanksgiving,” Goudeau said. “The whole system is not set up to handle all of these calves from everybody at one time that are unvaccinated, unweaned and high risk.” Also, the temperature swings during the warm days and cold nights can wreak havoc on travel-stressed calves. 


Is animal ID coming, or is it already here? Goudeau said the transition to an active animal disease traceability program will have to be market driven. “If they find out that a tagged calf is worth 150 dollars more a head, all of a sudden, we’re going to get a lot smarter on tagging,” he quipped. “If they’re worth 5 dollars more a head, the response might not be as enthusiastic.” Although the USDA has suspended their national traceability plan for the moment, the issue is not going away.

No weak, sick or injured animals

Goudeau strongly advised disposing of extremely sick and injured animals at the ranch instead of sending them staggering into the sale ring, where their poor looks and performance reflects negatively on both the sale barn and the rancher, from a consumer standpoint. “Don’t expose her to the rest of the industry. Don’t jeopardize everybody else by the decision that you make to try to get another 25 to 50 dollars,” he says. “It’s not worth it to the whole industry.”  end mark

PHOTO: Livestock auction owner Greg Goudeau tells ranchers what a buyer really likes to see in the sale ring. Photo by Carrie Veselka.

Carrie Veselka