by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
Central NY beef producers and buyers met at the new, state-of-the-art, Farm Credit East near Cooperstown, NY, to discuss on-going progress and future plans during a meeting led by CNY CCE Educator Bill Gibson and Cornell Beef Cattle Specialist Dr. Mike Baker.
Featured at this meeting was a live, web-based conference, with Virginia’s Senior Extension Educator of Bedford County, Scott Baker.
Scott shared information provided by Virginia beef producers, along with his experience in developing a successful program and marketing system over the past seven years.
“You’ve got to have cooperation at all levels.” Scott emphasized.
He related the ups and downs that had taken place with securing a reliable location for cattle dispersal and with coordinating protocol for calves.
The Virginia program has found success working with a local auction barn, where feeder cattle sales are held separately, on the day previous to auction sales. This provides sellers the opportunity to offer unsold cattle at the regular auction on the following day.
“This takes some of the risk away,” Scott stated.
As with the CNY Beef Producers, Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) methods and protocol are followed along with stringent adherence to specific vaccination schedules and management strategies.
Dr. Baker presented information on low stress fence weaning, which has been practiced by some CNY producers with excellent results.
“They can see each other and it takes the stress off of the calves and the cows,” said ‘Lil’ Dave Stanton, who has practiced this method of weaning for years and has been both a successful producer/seller and buyer at the CNY Beef Producers tele-cast auction.
Low stress is key in keeping calves healthy and continuing to gain weight.
Dr. Baker reported on data that he had collected over six years showing factors affecting buyers decisions to purchase feeder cattle and sales results from a “premier feeder calf sale barn” in New York State.
The report reflected 54 auctions and nearly 30,000 head of cattle.
His overview showed prices are affected by injuries, sex, muscling, horns, mixed group, and number per group. Individual farms are responsible for grouping.
It was noted that although in the past most cattle were shipped west, a “growing number are staying in the area.”
It was also noted that there is much time required for driving to and then attending these auctions, and while some buyers don’t have a problem with investing that time, other buyers such as CNY Beef Producers tele-cast auction repeat buyer Allen Hough, Morrisville, is content with not traveling to auction barns.
“I am very happy with the quality of these animals,” commented Hough. “That’s why I came back.”
Buyers reported a variety of interest in feeder cattle, with some requiring smaller sized steers and finished steers, while others are interested in purchasing heifers.
All buyers stated their satisfaction with the CNY Beef Producers quality of feeder calves, with one buyer saying he had questions that were promptly and accurately answered, with no hemming or hawing involved.
One producer stated that belonging to the CNY Beef Producers has promoted better herd health in his cattle. “As a producer this group has really helped me. Protocol provided really works,” he said.
“I second that,” commented producer Fred Ross of T&F Ross Beef Farm, West Edmeston, NY. “I think our herd is a lot healthier since we started with this group than it was before.”
In addition to vaccinations, strict attention is paid to complete castration of steers — and to assure that heifers are not bred.
CNY Beef Producers have conducted several tele-auctions since the autumn of 2015 as an alternative method for smaller producers to market quality, pre-conditioned calves. The concept was introduced in Otsego County by Dr. Mike Baker and participation has increased, with 109 calves sold at the October 2017 sale.
“The consignors to the CNY Sale show continuing improvement by making some changes that provide buyers with increased quality feeder cattle,” said Dr. Baker. “The buyers show their commitment by continuing to purchase cattle in an unconventional manner. However, by buying cattle that are vaccinated using a strict protocol, weaned a minimum of 30 days and remain on the farm until picked up, they are reducing their risk. Sellers and buyers are on a learning curve, but by trusting each other, it is a win-win situation.”
Baker said CNY Beef Producers are targeting the ‘natural beef market’.
“There is growing demand and cattle finishers supplying beef to this market are having a difficult time locating this type of feeder calf. By working together the CNY Beef Producers are able to adjust cattle health and management protocol to meet the demands of this specific market. By building credibility and increasing the numbers they have to sell, prices will only continue to improve.”
Gibson says methods have improved with each sale. “Sixteen local beef breeders from Otsego and neighboring counties have sold over 200 calves weighing between 450 and 850 pounds to nine different buyers.”
A follow-up with buyers from recent sales has established that 100 percent of calves sold have remained healthy and are growing well.
“I have been very happy with the animals that I have gotten from the Central NY Beef Producers. The 36 that I bought last fall are all growing nicely,” remarked Hough. “They should be ready for market some time near the end of the year.”
The group has reorganized a bit and the next sale, April 13, 2018, will include a change in delivery location. For this sale delivery location will be in Schoharie County, at the Sunshine Fairgrounds on April 28.
“Feeder calves are offered for sale in lots grouped by frame size and description based on a USDA grading regimens,” said Gibson. “Calves will be tagged on-farm with a CNY Beef Producers bangle tag and a NY State metal tag prior to grading.”
Videos, grading descriptions and bidding instructions are available at:
Pre-registered buyers are invited to participate by bids over the phone or in person on Friday, April 13, at the CCE Education Center, 123 Lake Street in Cooperstown.
Calves will be officially weighed and sorted for delivery by noon at the Sunshine Fairgrounds.
“Central New York has, like many regions of the state, seen an increase in the number of beef cows,” said Dr. Baker. “These beef farmers have shown a dogged determination to work together — they will succeed and become a model to emulate.”
For more information, contact Gibson at or 518.588.6032.