Australian Cattle for International Conditions
As the Brisbane Royal is upon us, my thoughts drift to the pros and cons of showing and whether in fact there is any Return On Investment (ROI). I discussed this with my rural produce provider who talks to many stud breeders and he highlighted one story of a breeder who has a budget of approximately $10000 to attend Brisbane and $20000 to attend Sydney. He felt there was good ROI on his Sydney investment with semen, embryo and bull sales as a result, however for some reason Brisbane did not reap the same rewards.
We don't show cattle at the moment due to other commitments (young family, off farm income, on farm focus) and certainly enjoyed the experience most of the time when we did. It is very time consuming with few rewards apart from some recognition in the beef community, a bit of an ego trip and a few ribbons or trophies that we put up in the wardrobe only to be seen each spring clean. One of my biggest concerns with showing these days is that the audience you are showing to is generally other stud breeders. Which is fine if your primary focus is on selling to other studs. Our primary focus is on the commercial breeder and very few seem to go to the shows to identify and connect with stud breeders. Is it because most of the shows have the stud cattle exhibited at very early hours before most families even get to the show? Is it because there are so many other ways to connect with the stud breeder through sales, advertising, and the internet that the exhibition of cattle at shows in no longer relevant?
Like Steve our primary focus is the commercial breeder and shows are no longer where they go to update their knowledge or socialise. Quite often there are not even many stud breeders watching the judging. We do not show much either however, the feature show at Canberra was great because there was a big audience and all our animals got a ribbon!
Benefits for us include a chance to visually compare our animals against others, gain feedback from the judge, showcase bulls we wish to use as a sire ourselves (nice images for adverts that commercial people do see) and socialising with the other exhibitors of all breeds.
Very hard to put a $ figure on a return but there is value to a point.
Everything that is done with the farm business should have a consideration regarding return on investment. Showing is no different. We always find it difficult to justify it with stud cattle, but the numbers come out better with steers/carcases. There are many things to consider only one of which is ROI.
Other considerations include
- what time frame do you allow for a return. Often an interaction with a potential client may not actually render a sale for 2-5yrs (thus it is difficult to be able to determine accurate ROI)
- Most seedstock cattle businesses at the top of the industry spend around 10% of their gross turnover on advertising/marketing. Thus amounts of $10,000-$20,000 may seem large but if you put them into perspective of some of the large cattle enterprises selling 100 bulls @ $5,000 ave then those amount do not seem too outragous.
- Of more importance is how showing fits in with how you want the industry (including commercial breeders) to view your business and wether it is a sigle pronged approach or a smaller part of multi faceted marketing.
- There are many opportunity costs that are not often calculated into the true cost of showing. These include splitting up contemporary groups and thus making objective measurements less powerful, changing onfarm best practice (ie calving times etc) to fit in with the show date instead of fitting in with the business' best interest.
How everyone fits the above into their business (or hobby) is totally up to them, obviously we all have different financial commitments, business goals, environments etc so the ROI is really up to each individual to consider and make plans accordingly.
Further to the showing thing. We have a relationship with a local school where we supply a couple of heifers and steers for the kids to show. On Saturday it was Bedgerabong (a little settlement west of Forbes) show and there was a good line up of a number of breeds some of whom were fresh from the Ekka. Tania who used to work for Millwood MG's until they dispersed but now works for Twynam with Angus was the judge. A very nice Shorthorn cow and calf won through.
Not having to do anything we were free to sit and watch and as you do judge on the side and thereby honing your skills. It occurred to me that this is also a side benefit of showing as otherwise you might not attend. We thought Tania was an excellent judge not only because we mostly agreed with her or close to but because she articulated why she placed animals briefly but thoroughly. If an animal had a fault she pointed it out and explained it - but nicely. Not everyone agrees with this but if you put an animal forward to be judged you need to be able to take it.