The title of this column was the slogan that destroyed livestock marketing as we once knew it. Though it was nothing more than a cute saying, it is a fact that became reality. Every livestock marketing terminal in the country adopted the philosophy of believing that it was more important to tell their clients a story of “smoke and mirrors” than it was to sell their livestock for the highest possible dollar.
When livestock producers finally wised up, it was too late for any kind of recovery. They had no value-based system of marketing available, nor did they even understand what it meant.
It was a slow demise though, as there were die-hards that had to keep doing it like grandpa did, or enjoy the thrill of topping the market and having it broadcast all over. Little did they realize that the highest price at a public terminal stockyards still was net dollars below what the neighbor was getting right down the road.
It was a real eye-opener to me when first exposed to the terminal marketing concept, perhaps because all of my experience had been in direct marketing. The idea of paying somebody to sell slaughter livestock just didn’t make any sense.
Why not sell directly to a packer and take home the whole check or a bonus for value- added marketing?
After probing a little deeper, l was told that it was more competitive, and thus worth the additional expense, suggesting beyond that it was the competitive bidding that set the market. Nothing could have been further from the truth. It was packer orders determining the market — orders based on actual cut-out values.
To further compound the intrusive cut of the farmers check, the buying was being done by order-buyers who were reselling direct to packers.
That just added up to far too many middlemen taking far too big a chunk of the check. It was on this premise that I began putting on livestock marketing seminars, and teaching courses in livestock marketing around the country. It can be a very satisfying experience to explain to someone they are leaving as much as a $100.00 on the table for every head of livestock they are selling.
This wasn’t about trying to destroy public stockyards or support meat packers. It was all about helping livestock producers find the most proﬁtable way to sell their livestock. Even after eliminating all of the middleman costs, there is still a lot to learn about how to sell direct to a packer. Most livestock producers still don’t know how to determine the value of sort, grade and yield, or pin-point the value-added concepts of ‘grid type’ marketing.
Believe it or not, among my many clients, were the stockyard companies themselves. They could see they too needed help, so they reached out to me for advice. I met with all of the terminal stockyard managers in the United States, and offered to develop a program for them that would tap into all of the marketing sources and incentives available. But it was so far beyond their understanding that they couldn’t comprehend how this might save their markets. Instead, they just slowly died and went away.
A marketing concept and tradition that had lasted for more than a century went away because of a bull-headed mindset that wasn‘t willing to change with the times. They could have been of great service to livestock producers if they would have been open to change.
In this particular case, they chose not to change because of the cost that would be incurred to use my services. Kind of a contradiction of philosophy, since they had been charging producers for years for something they could have done for themselves more profitably.
This is a service that exists even today, for there are those that fear the unknown. They think what they don’t know won‘t hurt them. By not knowing how to get every dollar of value your livestock is worth, you short-change everything in your life that is dependent upon you.
Like that of the public terminal stockyards in this country, you too could be coming to the end of the line if you don’t take off the blinders and realize that getting anything less than full value for your livestock will soon put you out of business.
When you‘re living a lie – which the stockyards were doing – the truth will catch up with you. A lie may be masked by “smoke and mirrors”, but the truth will eventually prevail.
The days of being about how you tell ‘em rather than how you sell ‘em may have long gone, but if you don’t know enough about what you’re doing to even know the difference, you may be a victim of your own volition.