Most live cattle are sold through saleyard auctions on a cents/kilo basis. However, there is an increasing percentage sold to meat traders on a slaughter weight basis or by private negotiation in the paddock.

CALM (Computer Aided Livestock Marketing)

This method was discussed briefly in Sheep. However, it is also a popular selling system for cattle. It enables the sale of finished or store stock without the stock leaving the farm. The system allows for sale on a price per kilogram liveweight basis, price per head, or on a price per kilogram carcase weight basis. It depends totally on accurate assessment by trained assessors who with portable electronic scales, weigh the stock, estimate dressing percentages, fat depth and describe the stock in appropriate ways.

All this information is included in the sale catalogue which is circulated to interested operators through electronic services. During the auction buyers can place bids to the central mainframe computer via computer, telex, telephone or by nomination prior to auction.

The advantages to both the livestock and producer are numerous. Because stock can go straight from the farm to the meatworks rather than through the saleyard system it cuts down on bruising and stress. The seller still has the benefits of an auction system and because the stock are still in the paddock, he can place a reserve price, reoffer the stock later or withdraw them from sale if the market is not up to expectations.

Because the system requires feedback from processors to assist in the training and monitoring of assessors this information is also available to producers and must help then to meet the demands of the trade and consumers. The Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation has developed a uniform national description language to describe livestock and carcases known as "Ausmeat". Uniformity of description is obviously desirable for domestic and export consumers.

The market requirements vary but generally, the following apply:

Australia's diverse climate and production systems combined with the various types and breeds of cattle allow for of these criteria to be met.