Livestock Buyer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotLivestock 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.

dotJust like any other type of salesperson, livestock buyers must know their products.

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."

dotLivestock buyers work independently or for companies that deal in livestock. Their clients include feedlots and meat processing plants.

dotLivestock 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.

dotWorking 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.

dotLivestock 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.

dotThose 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."

At a Glance

Buy and resell all kinds of farm animals

  • This work requires quick decisions
  • You have to know a lot about the animals you buy
  • The best way to learn is by working on ranches and being around animals