Marts are seeing a growing number of cattle being offered for sale as the grazing season comes to a close on the majority of farms.

But with a relatively strong beef market, there are plenty of buyers attending sales looking to source forward cattle for winter finishing, or a lighter type to go back to grass next year.

Experienced buyers know what to look for in stores and the best way to manage these animals after the transition from the mart back to the farm.

But for farmers with less experience at buying stores in autumn, outlined are five tips to consider when purchasing animals.

1 Buying cattle over a short time period

Bought in cattle will be under stress when moving from the farm of origin, through the mart and on to a new farm premises.

As cattle will mix with other animals when moving through the mart, they are also at greater risk of developing respiratory diseases.

So, to minimize health risks, buy your quota of cattle over shortest time period possible. This allows you to get animals settled in sheds faster and shortens the risk period for health problems.

Buying one or two cattle every week over a longer time period means new stock will continually be mixed in with the animals already settled on-farm.

These animals will continue to pose a disease risk to healthy cattle already standing on-farm.

2 Buying like for like cattle

Before buying in cattle, think about what the end market is likely to be for the animals purchased this autumn.

With this in mind, try to buy as many animals of similar type as possible. If the plan is to finish cattle, forward stores of similar type and size are easier to manage, as one diet should cover all animals.

There will also be larger groups of cattle coming ready for slaughter at the same time, increasing your bargaining power when selling animals next spring.

Buying a mixture of breeds with a big variation in weight and age makes it harder to group cattle for feeding and general management. There will also be more bullying in social groups.

3 Repeat buying

To cut down on disease risks and variation in cattle type, is it possible to buy multiple lots from the same herd?

Most farmers selling weanlings or stores through the live ring will normally sell multiple lots at any one time.

While you may have to stretch your buying budget for some lots, it may be worth it to have more animals coming direct from one or two herds.

Also, buying cattle from a herd you have purchased from in the past and know the management background of is always recommended.

If possible, it is often worth approaching these farmers directly to see when they are selling animals. On some occasions, these farmers may be willing to sell animals direct from the farm.

4 Feeding meals when arriving on-farm

As soon as cattle have been purchased, get them loaded and transported back home as early as possible.

On arrival to the farm, cattle should be offered 1kg to 2kg/head morning and night during the first four to five days as a means for screening health status.

Animals that do not come forward for meals may be in the early stages of developing a respiratory problem. Early detection and treatment will improve the chances of avoiding a herd breakdown.

If ground conditions and weather are favourable, there may be an opportunity to let newly purchased stores outside to graze a sheltered paddock beside the yard for a couple of days after arriving on-farm.

Fresh air will greatly improve animal health and serve as a short quarantine period. Cattle tend to shed viral pathogens when they are stressed, so being able to keep bought in animals isolated from the main herd for a few days lowers the disease risks posed.

If newly purchased animals are being housed as they arrive on-farm, make sure that sheds are well ventilated and do not overstock animals in pens. Make sure forage is fresh to improve palatability and intakes.

5 Dosing routine

Allow newly purchased cattle to settle on-farm for a couple of days before treating worms and fluke, or bringing animals up to speed with any vaccinations.

Newly purchased animals will be stressed, making them immune-suppressed for a short period.

Handling animals to treat internal parasites on the day they arrive on-farm will do more harm than good, as more often than not, it will trigger respiratory issues.

Delaying dosing for a couple of days after arriving on-farm greatly reduces the risk of such issues.

Cattle can also be clipped along the back, neck and head at this time, to prevent animals from overheating in sheds, especially on days with limited ventilation.

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