Every seedstock producer has their own approach to marketing, whether that is traditional print media or embracing the digital age, but most agree using all tools in the toolbox is a necessity in this competitive age of bull sales.
We spoke to three of these producers to gain insight into their approach to marketing during the 2023 Southern Beef Week open days.
Ian Locke runs a 600-cow breeding herd at Wirruna, Holbrook, while James Pearce operates Yavenvale at Adelong with 1400 stud and commercial breeders, and founding his stud in 2010 is Damien Halloway, Tobruk, at Wagga Wagga.
When it comes to marketing the Hereford breed, sustainability was a focus for all three stud principals.
“So many of the traits in the Herefords means the breed has advantages in that area – the ability to forage and be reproductively efficient in such a diverse range of environments,” Ian said.
“With genetics we can do anything if it is measurable and heritable – we are achieving as a breed with calving ease, carcase quality and yield. We need to ensure they are in our breeding objectives and continue to drive those traits.
“Herefords are well recognised for docility, fertility, feed efficiency and reproductive efficiency but we can be recognised for other areas, it is just a matter of targeting those areas and collecting the data and making smarter selection decisions.”
Damien said the cattle industry needs to position itself as a more sustainable protein option and can justifiably compete with chicken and pork.
“Increasingly in agriculture and in particular, the cattle industry, we are reminded of our carbon footprint. For me what better way of reducing it by economically and ethically targeting a product that can be processed at 14 months rather than 20 months and thus reducing its footprint by at least a third. Going forward I believe Herefords as a breed have a major opportunity in this space.”
For James, one of the great positives of the breed is the versatility of a Hereford steer to fit any market as a vealer, feeder steer or grass fed two-year-old.
“Combined with the use of EBVs to improve the carcase quality of our cattle, Herefords can consistently grade highly with MSA. We need to continually identify those superior genetics and expediate their usage through the breed to make us a first-choice option,” he said.
For Ian Locke, marketing begins at the point of genetic selection, conception and data collection.
“I’m about what are the cattle designed to do, and are they relevant to the wider beef industry,” he said.
“Therefore, I need to describe them and select the genetics to meet client and industry demands, such as calving ease, carcase quality and profitability. It’s about having the bells and whistles in the genetic package.
“Our marketing aims to draw people to the genetics and the program of high quality data collection to give them confidence the bull will achieve their objectives and move them forward.”
Client focus is important for Ian with Wirruna holding field days and seminars.
“It is about educating clients to set a breeding objective and to use the available tools to make a more informed decision on bull selection,” Ian said.
Damien Halloway believes marketing is integral and has drawn on learnings from his mainstream business to use at Tobruk. Family members maintain the website and social media site at Tobruk while a marketing professional was used to refresh the website.
Facebook has been a mainstay for Tobruk, launching their site prior to their 2019 sale.
Damien has also used print advertising with the rural media in the past but prefers to use the website, social media and personal engagement to generate sales.
At Tobruk, Damien chooses to create his own videos and photography. His plan for next year is to have an on-property sale with a professionally produced catalogue.
Selling 180 bulls a year, James Pearce considers marketing extremely important but also places a high emphasis on the breeding program.
“Dividing your time so you can do both properly is the key for us and that is why we engage professionals to assist with video, photography and social media,” James said.
“We concentrate on the business from the point of conception onwards. We have come up with different ways to market the bulls and in 2023 have instigated a spring online sale.
“Videoing the bulls and running the sale on AuctionsPlus will allow an additional line of client participation and exposure to a wider audience.”
Wirruna makes good use of their website with current sale catalogues and AI sires and collects the analytics.
Ian said the website was a window to the stud and allowed people to get a feel if the breeding program and genetics suited their breeding objectives without pressure.
“It is important to keep websites current and active with the sales and AI section updated frequently,” he said.
Ian is keen on direct marketing, using email to target clients not engaging on social media or the internet.
He concedes printed newsletters mailed out were once an important part of the growth of the Wirruna business but has let them lapse.
“People have changed their way they want information with small grabs in a short email,” he said.
Yavenvale does not produce a newsletter either but prefers to concentrate on a quality sale catalogue which is supported by sponsor advertising.
“Although mailing is expensive, people still like to have something tangible and when they are looking at the video, it gives them a point of reference to go back to on sale day. I try to make the comments on each bull as concise as I can,” James said.
When it comes to advertising in traditional print, radio and TV, there is a varied approach between all three.
Wirruna uses print advertising in the rural print media and aims to tie editorial to the advertisements to reinforce the messaging. The stud also supports the Herefords Australia magazine with advertising.
Ian likes the way digital platform Beef Central targets the beef industry demographic and advertises on the site.
James uses all mediums and rates TV advertisements on Imparja as good value with its wide coverage of central, northern and southern Australia.
“The radio ads have been really good – I like the fact I can do interviews as well so we can tell a little bit about what we have to offer. Beef Central has been terrific, and we support the HAL magazine,” he said.
Yavenvale and Wirruna participate in the Victorian and NSW Beef Week field days allowing people to browse through the bulls at their leisure.
Ian Locke commented that prospective clients like to see more than just sale stock at the field days, and therefore tries to exhibit a cross section of the herd and future genetics.
At Wirruna, the next generation operates the Facebook and Instagram sites putting out short messaging continuously and using the platforms to see the news from other studs and explore other genetics. Ian concedes Facebook yields more value for his business and he is disengaged with Twitter as a medium.
Yavenvale has outsourced their social media with a focus on consistent on-brand messaging and boosting engagement, not just in the lead-up to a bull sale.
“It has been terrific – I don’t feel the pre and post-sale media was overpowering, it was conversational, engaging and created awareness around the sale,” James said.
Yavenvale was one of the first seedstock operations to video sale bulls, with James conceding it only involved limited bulls and was “trial and error” in the early days.
“There was a perception our location was a disadvantage, so the videos give clients access to the bulls online 24/7,” he said.
“Photographs don’t always do the bull justice or can hide faults whereas the videos generally show the bull for what he is.
“We now run the auction using the video and it streamlines the logistics of selling 140 bulls for both the staff, agents and animals.”
Ian Locke has grown to realise the importance and value over time of using professionals to produce videos and photographs of sale bulls.
“People are really using both photos and videos – in a video it is hard to disguise faults in an animal or alert you to having a look at the bull more closely,” he said.
“Videos have become commonplace in our marketing, and we are seeing that immediate reaction in the analytics. Consistent branding of your business helps it become familiar in the marketplace.
“Some people would never buy without standing in front of a bull but especially post-covid, there are plenty of people with confidence in visualising the bull via a video. Having confidence in the data given to describe that bull, we see a shift of more clients willing to operate remotely in the buying process.”