How three breeders market their bulls

The marketing of cattle has taken leaps and bounds, with the internet opening up a global audience for bulls and sales moving online.

We talk to three breeders about their marketing strategies.

See also: Rival Breeders’ Collaboration Sees Angus Bull Sales Triple

Rob Havard, Phepson Angus, Droitwich, Worcestershire

Rob Harvard with his Phepson Angus herd © Michael-Priestley

A regenerative system with virtually no inputs other than a salt and mineral lick and an electric fence has been a major attraction for a growing number of customers of Rob Havard’s Phepson Angus herd.

Mr Havard bought his first Angus pedigree in 2013 and first sold bulls in 2017. He stresses he is still a ‘beginner’ and sees what he is doing as a 30-year project to raise cattle that grow with such low inputs.

Expecting to calve 100 cows this year, and already two or three times oversubscribed for bulls and females, Phepson Angus is expanding its herd through a collaborative agreement with three other breeders.

Two more herds are set to join next year.

Starter herds have been sold to like-minded farmers and bulls are bought back from these farmers every year, but rather than paperwork and contracts, the deal is based on good working relationships and systems and aligned goals,” says Havard.

Questions and answers for breeders

Do you sell anything online?

No, just farm-to-farm sales. Last year each bull was valued at £3,750.

What is your unique selling point?

The system we run here is a huge marketing feature. We calve outdoors, it’s a holistic zero-input crowd pasture with native-type compact Angus. All the cows and bulls get is pasture and hay bales.

We used bulls and females from various autochthonous herds.

Cattle can be traced back to bulls such as Evesund of Dupplin, Betro of Classlochie and Dunlouise Gypsy Earl. The Eddisbury genetics also worked well.

Line breeding means slightly suppressed growth and performance for us at home, but provides true crossbreeding for our customers, bringing them greater heterosis and performance.

Do you attend associative sales?

No, we rely on developing relationships with like-minded farmers interested in our system.

Do you advertise?

We had a stand at Groundswell this year to target the progressive regenerative agriculture market.

We ordered branded Hawaiian shirts and handed them out at the booth. It worked very well and changed branded caps or vests.

Sales of embryos or semen?

We’ve sold Kaiser straws across the UK and the Netherlands, with 2,000 straws recently sold in Argentina for their grass-fed market.

We are interested to see how this market will develop in the years to come.

How many shows do you do?

Currently none.

Do you have an online presence?

Yes, we put most things on twitter and took over the UK Farmers Twitter Page earlier this year. We also have a website,

Is herd performance recorded?

At calving, we record fertility, calving ease, udder and foot score. Any cows that cause a problem or require intervention are marked for culling.

But we do not record performances with Breedplan.

Ben Harman, Chesham and Silver Charolais herds, Buckinghamshire

Ben Harman

© Tim Scrivener

A conscious effort to produce functional, easy-to-calve, short-gestation bulls for suckler breeders opened the dairy market to the Harman family in Chesham, Bucks.

Ben Harman is targeting the dairy artificial insemination (AI) market with Silver Oakman at around £5/straw (depending on volume) but a £500 levy is charged to limit pedigree interest.

Balthayock Musketeer is aimed at the pedigree market (£30/straw with a £30 royalty).

About 15-20 bulls are sold each year, about half of which are sold off-farm, with straw sales roughly equivalent in value to selling one bull each month.

A buyer acquires most of the herd of 40 cows (second calving and more) in October.

The bulls are penned on the value (A, B and C) and selected by the breeders. No haggling is done. Better bulls are taken to Welshpool and the cream is sold to Stirling.

Questions and answers for breeders

Do you sell anything online?

Apart from putting bulls to stud, no. We sell at auction or privately. We try to deliver each bull ourselves personally.

What is your unique selling point?

I’m lucky because we are the oldest British Charolais herd. I have my grandfather and father’s shoulders to stand on.

We were also able to buy some great genetics, like Thrunton Fairfax. It really clicked with our cows and then Balthayock Musketeer worked well over Fairfax.

Do you attend Company sales?

Yes – Stirling, Welshpool and sometimes Carlisle.

Do you advertise?

Advertising is done mainly by word of mouth and the fact that we are well established. Custom snooze is a delight to have.

Sales of embryos or semen?

Yes, Silver Oakman and Balthayock Musketeer.

How many shows do you do?

Pre-sale shows and local shows, and I’m lucky enough to be invited to judge the cattle as well.

Do you have an online presence?

I talk a lot about cows on my personal Facebook page, but that’s a soft sell.

Is herd performance recorded?

Yes – via Breedplan with the Company. We breed short-gestation, calving-easy animals with the Estimated Breeding Values ​​(EBVs) the breed is known for. We need docile, well-made cattle.

John Douglas, Ervie Line One Herefords, Stranraer

The Douglas family attends the sale of bulls

© John Douglas

One of the few on-farm bull sales in the UK takes place every February at Mains of Airies, where buyers travel to south-west Scotland to buy Hereford bulls from the Douglas family.

The low birth weights (32 kg to 42 kg), short gestation, uniformity and forage-based genetics of a breed system, attract Black Baldy breeders, suckler breeders and dairies.

The first on-farm sale took place in 2010 where 18 bulls were sold that day.

Today, the family sells around 80 bulls a year, half of them at the farm sale, organized by Harry Begg, C&D Auction Marts.

The farm has up to 230 cows, although 100 have been sold in 2020 and 90 will be marketed this year through a two-day racehorse type sale (12-14 October) with online auctions and in person and a “buy now”. prices on all animals.

A production sale of the farm’s Texel ewes will take place on September 23 at Dumfries mart, which will also be broadcast on a webcam.

Each sale has been a success, but John Douglas, his wife Alexandra and their four daughters Rosie, Ellen, Olivia and Kristina, say there are always nerves before and huge relief after.

Questions and answers for breeders

Do you sell anything online?

Yes, we have been using The Livestock Link, a website run by in-laws in the United States, for two years. We sold 11 bulls online in February. The upset price starts at £1,900.

Some breeders buy numbers, our reputation, and a 30-second bull locomotion video. Videos are important to give an honest portrayal of the animal.

What is your unique selling point?

We imported Line One Herefords that come from a herd in Montana that are line bred (35% inbreeding) in a very low input system in a harsh environment.

The cows are lined at Ervie, which means less performance due to a lack of heterosis at home, but greater heterosis and hybrid vigor for commercial customers.

Do you attend Company sales?

Historically in Hereford, Perth and Stirling, but not for 25 years.

Do you advertise?

Yes, we advertise in the agricultural press and we send mail leaflets to customers, sometimes adapted to cattle or dairy farms.

We send a reminder a month before the sale and another one a week before

Sales of embryos or AI?

We marketed Ervie Classic S30 through Cogent and in Ireland.

How many shows do you do?

We don’t focus on the showring, although we have enjoyed local shows in the past.

Do you have an online presence?

The limited 4G signal means we don’t do Twitter, but the herd is on Facebook. We always try to link to our website so people can read in detail what we do.

Is herd performance recorded? Yes, since the 1970s, and now using the Breedplan system, although imported American genetics take two years to prove themselves, so the numbers seem artificially low.

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