Large and medium frame, heavy-muscled Angus and Angus-cross calves drew the highest prices at sale barns, while substantial discounts went to bulls, horned or fleshy calves, according to recent research by specialists at two universities.

University of Arkansas and Sam Houston State University animal science researchers conducted sale barn surveys to study factors affecting feeder-calf prices at Arkansas and Texas livestock auction markets. The surveys were conducted in all of 2010 and the spring of 2011 on nearly 90,000 feeder calves in 40,000 lots. Data recorded included sale date, auction-market location, lot size, sex, breed, color, health condition, gut fill, frame size, muscling score, horns, weight and price.

Angus and Angus-cross calves received the highest price premiums in both state surveys while high-percentage Brahman- and Longhorn-cross calves received the greatest discounts. Black, black-white faced and yellow-colored lots brought a price premium while spotted or gray-colored calves received the lowest selling price.

Heavy-muscled calves received a 5-10% premium over average-muscled calves, while light-muscled calves drew heavy discounts. The selling price of large- and medium-framed calves was similar, while small-framed cattle drew heavy discounts.

Bulls were discounted 5-20% vs. steers of comparable weight, with greater discounts imposed at Texas markets compared to Arkansas markets. Polled or dehorned calves received 7-10% higher prices than horned calves.

Thin calves brought a slight premium over average body condition calves. Fat and fleshy calves were discounted relative to calves of moderate condition. Calves carrying more than average fill were discounted 7-15%.

There was a regional effect of lot size on sale price. Single calves were discounted 5% at Arkansas markets, while singles were discounted 15% at the Texas markets.

Calves announced as preconditioned (PC) sold for 5-8% more than non-PC calves. As expected, sick, stale or crippled calves were heavily discounted.

Beef producers selling through livestock auction markets can influence calf selling price with breeding, management and marketing decisions. Changes as simple as the color of the next bull purchased, use of a knife or group selling could increase the sale value of calves by as much as $75-$100/head.

Results of a Kansas-Missouri auction market survey can be found in the May 2010 issue of BEEF “Research Roundup.”

Read the full reports at – Abstracts 324 and 326; – Abstract W22.

Editor’s note: For more on this topic, see “Premiums, Discounts For Western Calves Studied.”