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Sale Preparation Part 1 - Grooming Cattle

By Tracy McMurphy

Many producers around the country may not have the time, number of cattle or resources to host their own production sale. However, consignment sales are a great tool for producers, both large and small, who want to market a few animals or feature their stock for a new and different audience, such as a sale at a stock show.  But making your consignment a success involves much more than signing up for the sale and showing up with your animal.  To ensure great exposure and the sale price you are looking for producers need to take charge of properly preparing and marketing their animals.  There are a few key steps that can take your consignment to the next level and make that sale commission worth while!

Today we’ll start with part 1 of our series on preparing your cattle for a sale.  We’ll discuss the importance of grooming and go over some basics to help producers get started. These principles can, of course, be applied to cattle being prepared for any sale, not just consignments.

Groomed Cattle Sell Better

This is just a fact. Cattle that are clean, groomed and fitted to whatever degree is possible look dramatically better, are going to attract more attention from potential buyers and have a greater chance of drawing higher bids.  If you aren't sure take a look at the two photos below. This is the same heifer, photographed before fitting and then 10 days later after having her hair worked and being clipped. She is the same high quality heifer in both photos, but she really grabs you when she is clean, clipped and set-up properly.


Invest Your Time Up Front and See Greater Profits in the End

If you have halter-broke cattle you should always start by washing your animal and blowing hair dry. The more times you can work the hair prior to clipping the better your results will be. Even just a week or two of hair working and adding conditioning products can make a dramatic difference in your clipped animal. The hair will be softer, more manageable and lay smoother in the direction you want it to go. You can then clip them with sheep head or 2-speed clippers. At the very least try to clip heads, necks, toplines, tailheads, tails and navels or sheaths. If you are a more advanced fitter you can then fine-tune the rest of the body and smooth out rough areas.  Here is a video that walks you through clipping halter-broke cattle.


No Halter Doesn't Mean No Grooming

If your cattle have not seen a halter that doesn’t mean you still can’t groom and present them at their best. A squeeze chute can make clipping easier and safer and allow you to at least reach the major areas mentioned above: heads, necks, toplines, tailheads, tails and navels or sheaths. If clippers aren’t your style or aren’t available, torching is a good option to make quick work of cleaning up your cattle.  It is very effective on very hairy cattle and requires less precision than clipping. You will want to focus your torching on necks, toplines, legs and bellies and use clippers for areas that need to be tighter, such as heads, tails and briskets. Torching equipment is not a big investment and with a little practice you can achieve results close those of clippers.  Here is a video that walks through clipping cattle that aren’t broke and using a torch courtesy of Z-N-T Cattle.


If You Can't Do It Hire Someone Who Can

If you don’t have these skills or the time to prepare your stock, fitters can be hired anywhere in the country.  Ask your neighbors or fellow producers for referrals of good fitters who can come to you and get your stock ready.  The investment for a day of labor will come back 10-fold on sale day.

Check back soon for part 2 of our series: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Taking the best photos for catalogs and ads!



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