Boost your benefits from showing livestock

Having a good marketing strategy when exhibiting livestock at shows can bring a big boost to profile and income. Jeremy Hunt speaks to two livestock breeders about their showing strategy

Showing livestock is becoming ever more costly, but the desire among committed breeders is as strong as ever. And while some livestock exhibitors prefer to savour nothing more than the enjoyment of showing, others see it as an important part of their business – something that’s capable of generating a substantial income.

Even with the cost of the entry fee, putting stock in front of a wide audience of other breeders and commercial farmers still looks exceptionally good value.

And from taking a stroll along the lines at any show, it’s clear there are those who certainly make the most of being there and relish the chance to show off stock, not only to the judge, but to potential customers, too.

The work involved in attending a show – caring for the stock, preparing them for the ring and actually showing – doesn’t always leave much time to stand about chatting to potential customers, which is why those who are experienced in the job of making the most of showing livestock have fine-tuned their promotional tactics.

Richard Bown of Richaven Holsteins is no stranger to top awards at major shows and reckons showing is a crucial part of his business. Over the years he’s made sure he knows how to make the most of the promotion opportunity it presents.

“We attend major shows where we know we have the best target audience and have always tried to move about the country to maintain the herd’s profile in the show ring – we always show at the Dairy Event. Over the past 10 years we’ve developed a marketing strategy and the shows are the best shop window for us,” says Mr Bown.

A herd flyer is produced every year, detailing what’s on offer in terms of semen, embryos, young bulls, in-calf heifers or any other stock for sale.

“We sell a lot of stock through the flyers we hand out at shows. It means people have something to take away with them and they aren’t just relying on what you’ve said to them on the day. And if you’re in the ring, milking cows or dashing about, you aren’t always on hand to talk to people, so providing as much information as possible on the stalls and through the flyer is vital.”

Each stall has an individual headboard carrying the herd name, the name of the animal, her breeding, NMR figures and classification, as well as any other relevant information.

“We also give details of her progeny and anything we may have for sale out of her. We have a small stand close to the line to carry the herd flyers, so visitors can collect information as they walk by. We get a lot of visitors to the farm and a lot of comments about how we market the herd and we can relate individual sales of stock and genetics back to specific shows,” says Mr Bown.

But making sure you keep the flag flying isn’t just the preserve of the major breeds. Julie and Tony Benneworth of Holsworthy, Devon, have been breeding Red Devon cattle for 12 years and have made the most of the tremendous show and breeding success they’ve enjoyed with their bull, Yeomadon Ferdinand.

“We’ve always made an effort to promote the breed at shows – and it definitely works. We’ve sold semen from Ferdinand and all the stock we had available through enquiries generated by being at shows,” says Mrs Benneworth.

Well aware of the costs involved in showing, the Benneworths are convinced it’s an essential part of marketing their cattle and the Red Devon breed.

“We find we get a lot of interest from newcomers, as well as from existing commercial farmers wanting to get involved in a native breed. But very often they are at the show on a fact-finding mission – and it’s the information you can give them that makes all the difference.

“If we are there with plenty of display material and on hand to talk, there’s nothing to beat it as the best possible shop window for the breed.”

Livestock 2012

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