When I wrap a gift, my wife usually rewraps it. When she informed me that the wrapping is sometimes just as important as the gift, it wasn't something I easily comprehended. But when it comes to marketing cattle, the principle is a good one to remember.

First of all, we've come to the hard realization that our product isn't irresistible. If it were, order buyers would be stacked two deep at the ranch gate. After you've created value in your product by putting in the right genetics and management, it's important that you put a ribbon around the packaging to give it that finished look.

The wrapping can be as important as the gift itself when it comes to determining value. It's a principle we see lived out every day in the seedstock business. While not as pronounced, it's just as applicable to the marketing of "commercial" cattle.

I haven't tried this, but I'm told the response a suitor gets to a diamond ring will be more positive if it's packaged in a little blue Tiffany's box than if it's pulled out of a Wal-Mart bag -- regardless of the quality of the diamond.

As an example, take a look at these two ads that ran adjacent to each other in our local livestock paper this winter:

  • "For sale -- 25 heifers, bred to low BW, calving-ease bulls, to start calving Feb. 1. Reasonably priced. Call Steve."

  • "For Sale -- 30 elite Angus bred heifers. If you're looking to build a great cowherd, this is a set of heifers you won't want to miss. Representing four generations of stacked genetics for maternal and carcass excellence out of the heart of our replacement heifers. Heifers were bred to XYZ bull, to begin calving Feb. 1; heifers were exposed to light birthweight full-brother sons of XYZ bull for 40 days. Heifers have been ultrasounded for pregnancy, freeze-branded and double tagged. Carcass and feedlot information available on herd mates the last five years. This set of heifers will return the premium you pay for them in the first year! Call Jim."
Jim tied a ribbon around those heifers while Steve didn't. What makes the story interesting is that Jim and Steve are brothers, and the two sets of heifers represented the same genetics and management. They both sold their heifers in short order, at the price they had asked, but there was a $400/head difference in the sale price.