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The Casual Cattle Conversations Podcast: Finding Direction: Advice for developing a marketing program for crossbred calves

Reference: Podcast Corner

Finding Direction: Advice for developing a marketing program for crossbred calves

February 5, 2024 |  Written By Shaye Koester

Adaptability, direction and consistency are driving factors of success for Otley Bros. Inc. as they set an example for commercial cattlemen across the country. Fred Otley, president of Otley Bros. Inc., and Rachael Oliver, commercial marketing specialist with the Red Angus Association of America, share how the Otley family has succeeded at developing a strong and adaptable cowherd and a marketing program filled with trust and opportunities for generations to come in Season 7, Episode 6 of the Casual Cattle Conversations podcast.

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Otley Bros. Inc. has a deep history that dates back to 1886. They are a true family operation where siblings, spouses, children and grandchildren all play an important role and contribute to the success of the business. Currently, the operation raises commercial Sim-Angus cattle and excels at raising cattle that fit their environment and meet the demands of feedlots and consumers. Located in Oregon, the Otleys’ cattle must adapt to a variety of environments such as high-desert, steep and rocky mountain ranges as well as creek bottoms. “Around 1990, we switched to Red Angus genetics because of the balance of genetic attributes they could offer our current herd. Then we started crossbreeding with Simmental to get more hybrid vigor. With the help of Red Angus producers and the association, we were able to get the help we needed to create a composite that meets our needs for not only fertility and adaptability, but also our real interest of meeting the carcass and growth traits desired by backgrounding yards and feedlots,” said Otley. Crossbreeding is a key component to the success of the Otley operation. It has opened doors for marketing, impacted the efficiency and production of their cowherd and reduced the amount of labor that goes into managing their cows.

The Otleys’ marketing program is nothing short of impressive with numerous components that make it successful for them year after year. One of these components is having a clear direction to work toward. “Our marketing program starts with our health program. We get our calves off to a good start with their vaccinations. We also feel that if we work toward a good yield grade and growth but still emphasize trying to grade Choice, we will be able to adjust as needed depending on where the industry goes. Maintaining a focus on producing Choice or Prime beef has proven to work for us and the demand for United States beef continues to be high even during trying economic times,” said Otley. In addition to maintaining good herd health and a clear direction, the Otleys take DNA samples on their heifers and participate in the Allied Access program. In the past, they have also retained ownership on their calves.

Allied Access is a USDA program that provides age- and source-verification for calves. “It is a sister program to the Feeder Calf Certification Program through the Red Angus Association of America. Buyers like calves with age and source verification. The Allied Access program allows cattle producers like Otleys to do this and capitalize on their crossbreeding program,” said Oliver. Allied Access has helped Otleys build more trust with their buyers over the past 14 years because they can now provide more information on the calves they are selling. “One thing that helps Otleys successfully market their calves is that they incorporate an EID component with their Allied Access tags. This EID component allows them to piggy-back on or add on other programs through IMI Global or GAP. It opens them up to other opportunities and a wider variety of interested buyers,” said Oliver. It’s truly been a game-changer for commercial cattlemen who want to age- and source-verify their calves but can’t specifically breed verify. “Without the Allied Access tag and help from the Red Angus Association, what we are doing today would not be possible. We would face many more limitations when it comes to analyzing our data and making decisions. It’s been a big benefit to our program,” said Otley.

Successful stories like this don’t happen without hard work and consistency. Consistently maintaining a focus on their direction and being honest with themselves about the true performance of their herd is what allows the Otley ranch to be resilient during the high and low times. “We consistently have a cow herd that meets our needs and the needs of the feedlot, which puts us in a good position to maneuver as the industry changes, because it will change in the future,” said Otley. He also shared how they are continuously analyzing their production records and the information they get from DNA testing their heifers to make better genetic selections each year.

Oliver and Otley both encourage commercial cattle producers to ask for help from breed associations, their seedstock providers and other commercial cattlemen when developing a marketing program. “There’s more than one way to do things. We like to help commercial cattlemen brainstorm and learn about all the options they have available,” said Oliver. In addition to asking for help, remember to make changes intentionally. Otley shared generations worth of wisdom in a short conversation during this podcast episode, but summed it up best by saying, “Don’t change what you are doing too quickly without knowing where you want to go.”

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