Cattle production: How to prepare your cattle for auction

Are your cattle fetching low prices at auctions? Here are some tips and suggestions on how to prepare animals so that they can compete for better prices.

A few changes to on-farm animal management practices can make all the difference.


  • It is important that animals be castrated and dehorned.
  • Beef calves are usually castrated for easier management.
  • Weaner calves that have not been dehorned are often more aggressive and liable to fight with other animals.

Also read:
Castration methods for calves/cattle

Livestock production: Effect of castration on growth

Confined horned cattle can injure others in the pen and cause a great deal of damage to hides. And 1 or more horned cattle in a group raises the probability of bruised carcases greatly. Animals that have damaged hides or bruised carcases will fetch lower prices.

An animal’s temperament is also a price-determining factor; a good-natured animal that handles well generally fetches a better price.

Also read:
How to dehorn cattle

How do I know if a calf has been dehorned correctly?


  • Ensure that calves are free of external parasites such as ticks and lice.
  • If they are infected, these parasites can also cause costly damage to hides.
  • Animals infested with horned and stable flies spend more time in the shade and won’t graze, which will lead to poor performance.
  • A farmer can alleviate such problems by using commercial parasite control treatments or fly repellent.
  • Eliminating the areas where pests reproduce also helps to reduce the severity of external parasite attacks.
  • Pour-on remedies and dips are effective in treating animals infested with ticks.
  • Summer isn’t the only season when animals are prone to parasitic infestation.
  • Although animals have fewer ticks in winter, they stand a good chance of picking up lice.

Also read: Eliminate the ticks on your cattle


Don’t wait until your calf is too heavy before you sell it. Weigh it regularly to keep track. Feedlot buyers prefer lighter calves that have growth potential because they have a longer growing period in the feedlot.

  • Calves weighing between 200 kg and 245 kg are optimal.
  • The animal’s breed and conformation also tell the buyer something about its growth potential.
  • If it is short and too heavy it will not have good growth potential in a feedlot.
  • The ideal calf is a lean male weighing between 200 kg and 245 kg that can grow out to a 240 kg carcass (after slaughtering) while spending at least 120 days in the feedlot.


  • If a farmer plans to take animals to an auction he should first consider whether the cattle are uniform.
  • This is very important when selling cattle.
  • If a farmer brings a group mixed in size, age and breed they will, collectively, generally fetch a lower price.
  • The main criteria used to classify a beef carcass are the age of the animal and the fat coverage.
  • A farmer entering cattle in a weaner calf competition has to ensure that calves are not due to cut their first permanent teeth within 120 days of the auction date; they will be disqualified if they do.
  • The age of an animal is determined by the number of permanent incisors – the more it has, the older the animal.
  • Age also indicates how tender the meat will be – that of an older animal is tougher than that of a younger one.
  • Meat from an animal that has 3 to 6 permanent teeth will be classified B grade, and one that has 7 to 8 permanent teeth will be C grade.
  • Any farmer who wants to be an important player in the auction industry has to practise good calf management.


  • It is essential to ensure that animal hides are in a good condition.
  • Defects can be caused not only by parasites and fighting, but also by poor branding practices.
  • Hides are used for leather seats in the automotive industry, and indiscriminate branding will cost you money because car manufacturers will reject badly branded hides.
  • The tannery will pay lower prices for such hides, particularly if the expensive part is damaged.
  • One way to prevent this is to improve the construction and design of animal pens and fences. Farmers should use poles and pipes instead of barbed or sharp wire. If these are used, hide damage is almost certainly guaranteed, because animals rub against the fencing.
  • If poles and cables are not available, use smooth wire.
  • Once the pen’s basic structure has been completed, bend back any sharp edges and secure them safely.

Also read: The wisdom of cattle

  • This article was written by Wilma den Hartigh and first appeared in Farming SA.

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