Participating in Florida’s Live Cattle Auctions
Florida farmers are familiar with the importance of the state’s live cattle auctions, where Florida’s cattle industry representatives meet to establish transparent, public market prices for the annual calf crop and any older animals. Without these markets, it would be nearly impossible to establish baseline prices for comparisons.
“If the markets were not here, nobody would have a price comparison,” said Dave Tomkow, co-owner of Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction Market Inc. in Lakeland, Florida. “The auction markets keep everybody honest.” If you are looking for farms for sale in Florida, you can increase the value of your property by raising cattle for Florida’s live cattle auctions.
Getting to Know Florida’s Auction Sites
Florida has eight federally licensed auction markets where cattlemen can meet to set prices on cattle. Auction markets tend to serve smaller ranchers with about 1,000 head of cattle or less, but these markets still account for nearly 50 percent of the total volume of calves sold in Florida. A cow-calf operation describes a ranch that maintains a herd of cows and bulls for breeding purposes. The calves raised in cow-calf operations will be sold within 6 months to a year after being born. Any remaining calves are usually sold by larger ranchers who assemble massive groups of nearly uniform cattle for substantial financial transactions with major food manufacturers.
During this process, the smallest calves are sent to a “finishing ranch” and the larger animals are sent to Midwestern feedlots to be fattened before the slaughter. Although the main focus of Florida’s cattle auctions are the calves, these markets do sell adult cows and bulls that ranchers no longer use for breeding. The current list of Florida live cattle auction sites includes:
- Arcadia Stockyard – Arcadia, FL 34266
- Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction Market – Lakeland, FL 33801
- Columbia Livestock Market – Lake City, FL 32025
- Ocala Stockyard Inc. – Ocala, FL 34482
- Okeechobee Livestock Market – Okeechobee, FL 34972
- Sumter County Farmers Market Inc. – Webster, FL 33597
- Townsend Livestock Market – Madison, FL 32340
- Tri-State Cattlemen’s Market Inc. – Graceville, FL 32440
Seven Decades of Live Auctions
Florida’s live cattle auctions have largely remained entrenched in classic ideologies and practices that were established over seven decades ago. Most markets take the term “live” literally, and require participants to physically attend auctions to place bids in lieu of posting bids while browsing the internet from home. Electronic bidding also creates difficulties with payment processing and cattle transportation, so if you plan on entering Florida’s live cattle auctions, you should be prepared to cut a check the old-fashioned way.
Even the smallest ranches with only 5 or 10 calves to sell can participate in Florida’s live cattle auctions. If you are interested in purchasing Florida farms for sale, consider the positive benefits of raising your own cattle to sell at Florida’s historic auctions. In time, you may find that one of Florida’s longest enduring traditions provides a notable financial return on your Florida farmland.