But, there are some management steps to reduce that number. Curtis Rankin, whose family buys and grows thousands of spayed heifers each year on grass in multiple western states, offers this advice:

“One thing we do is have the cattle close to the corral prior to shipping. We usually save pastures back and put cattle into those ‘shipping pastures’ right next to the corral the night before we load out. That way, they’re on fresh feed and get a big fill before we bring them in.

“We’ve also gone to several Bud Williams schools, where we learned how to work with yearlings to get them settled and prevent walking. When we’re done trailing, we’ll go out and spend time with them until they quit walking and start spreading out and eating, so they’re full and calm the next morning instead of stirred and hungry.

“We also try not to put more than 600 head in the corral at once. Of course, that number depends on the size of your corral and its layout, but for us, its 600 head. Then we have two scales set up, our portable scale and a permanent scale, and we can weigh those 600 head in under an hour,” Rankin says.

“If we’re shipping more than 1,000 head, we’ll go back out after the first 600 are done and gather the next bunch, which we’ll have in another pasture adjoining the corral, and we’ll get them in and weighed next. It’s all about how you handle them, and getting them across those scales as quickly as you can,” he explains.

Pasture sorting helps, too

Lance Creek, WY, rancher Shannon Bruegger also pasture-sorts his yearlings a couple of weeks prior to shipping. Another timesaving trick he utilizes is sorting his pairs by calf sex at branding in order to reduce time spent handling cattle on sale day.

“When you can just come into the corrals and go across the scales, it really minimizes the actual shrink those cattle experience. Buyers will often want to go through the bunch and pick off any they don’t think fit prior to weighing, but you should always weigh all your cattle first, then go through and sort and work them,” Bruegger says. “You’re probably already losing between 0.5-1% just getting them into the corrals and across the scales. If you let a buyer sort on them for 30-60 minutes prior to weighing, that’s an additional 0.5-1% loss in your pay weight,” he says.

Bruegger says having everyone and everything organized and prepared goes a long way. That means having your corrals ready, and health and brand inspectors, as well as truckers, there at a certain time.

“If you have your cattle in and sorted, and a gate breaks and they all mix, you’ve just cost yourself time and weight resorting them. If you have to wait 20 minutes for the brand inspector to show up after you’re done sorting, they’re losing weight. If a truck is late, you have to wait on him, and the first truck isn’t going to leave without him; so, unless you weighed on the ranch, you’re losing money that entire time. Those little things can really make a difference,” he says.