Beef Day 2020 was a success, despite students facing unprecedented challenges during the final weeks leading up to the annual event.
Beef Day gives students with the Student-Managed Farm – Powered by New Holland
(SMF) purebred beef, commercial beef and livestock research units the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge when it comes to weaning, preparing, marketing and selling cattle. In the past, this event brought farmers, ranchers, industry representatives and students together for a dinner and live auction.
This year’s sale wasn’t like previous years. One week before the event, which took place on March 20, the Government of Alberta cautioned against holding events with more than 50 people in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, putting the sale in jeopardy.
“Preparing for Beef Day this year was incredibly stressful,” Robert Geis, general manager of the SMF purebred beef unit, says. “At the beginning of the year, we were given this herd and were responsible for weaning the calves and getting them ready for the Beef Day sale. Marketing them was tough because, with COVID-19, people didn’t want to come out to actually look at them.”
Options after live event cancelled
After the live event was cancelled, Geis says that he and the other students involved had to work through their options to see whether having Beef Day was going to work at all.
“We sat down and thought about our different options,” he says. “We could try to sell the cattle private treaty, which is always difficult when you’re just coming in off the cuff. But we thought about how we already had everything lined up to go through with Beef Day, and after consulting with other producers in the industry, we decided to hold the sale online.”
Moving online itself wasn’t a daunting prospect, because online bids always ran in conjunction with the live auction and the infrastructure for it was already set up. The main concerns they had, according to Geis, was that people wouldn’t be willing to spend money in such a delicate economic environment and that some of their potential customers weren’t comfortable with the online technology. The students added the ability to make phone bids to help mitigate that.
Team created success online
Austin Partington, Beef Day staff advisor, is incredibly impressed with how well they handled the difficult circumstances of the sale.
“Even though most of them returned home, they were still engaged and made phone calls to potential bidders to stir up interest. Three students stayed at the college to make sure everything went according to plan. It was such a team success,” Partington says. “We are so thankful for the bidders and buyers working with us to make this sale such a success.”
In total, the students put 14 Black Angus bulls, six Black Angus replacement heifers, four commercial Angus breds and three Pens Simmental x Angus replacement heifers up for auction. At the end of the day, the bulls went for an average of $4,400, the purebred heifers went for an average of $4,280, the commercial replacement heifers averaged $1,500 and the research-bred heifers averaged $2,050. That’s higher than average for the college.
“It went amazingly well,” Geis says. “We were ecstatic with how it turned out. There are so many producers out there who helped the college out, which is amazing. This entire experience has been really eye-opening. The marketing tactics I’ve learned, the people skills that I’ve picked up – it’s great for the students to learn this way. When I’m done at Lakeland, I’m going to go back home and use these skills on the farm. It’s such a valuable hand-in-glove experience to go through.”