Livestock buyers assess, purchase and resell farm animals of all types
-- from traditional ones like cows, pigs and poultry to more exotic ones like
ostriches and llamas.
Just like any other type of salesperson, livestock buyers must know their
Bob Shore is the owner of an export cattle firm. He says good livestock
buyers must have a good sense for the animals that they are selling. "The
key to that is to have the knowledge and the eye for the product," he says.
Bob Robinson is a cattle buyer from Jerome, Idaho. He agrees with Shore.
"You have to know the cattle, or you are going to get yourself in quite a
bit of problems," he says. "Even people who have been in the industry a long
time don't make good cattle buyers."
Livestock buyers work independently or for companies that deal in livestock.
Their clients include feedlots and meat processing plants.
Livestock buyers must follow the pricing guidelines of their clients. And
they must make rapid-fire decisions when they attend auctions. They must also
be good negotiators.
Working hours vary, says Mark Canart, a cattle buyer. He says sales start
early in the morning, and can last well into the night. "Then you have two
or three hours with books after that." And it starts all over again the next
morning, he says.
Canart also says there are seasonal differences in workload. A lot of sales
happen in the fall as ranchers sell off their livestock to save money over
the winter. Sales are also high in the spring when the weather gets better.
Summer sales, meanwhile, are low.
Livestock buyers in other sectors of the industry may not experience such
peaks and valleys, however. Demand for dairy cattle, for instance, is constant
throughout the year.
Livestock buyers spend a lot of the time on the road as they travel from
auction to auction, looking for animals. Canart says he may drive between
50,000 and 60,000 miles a year.
Those with physical disabilities can find work. But livestock buyers must
generally have some physical dexterity because they have to spend a good deal
of time outdoors, and in small, enclosed areas like livestock trailers and
holding pens. And they have to be prepared for animals that get out of control.
Just ask Robinson.
"A couple of years ago I got run over a by a steer, and really kind of
hurt my back," he recalls. "We were loading it up, and I was trying to stop
him. He just went ahead and came right over top of me. So it's not the easiest
job in the world....You just gotta know how to read the animals."