Marketing is planning to have what you can sell at a good price. Marketing, like most things on a well-run farm or ranch, is a well-planned management activity. Improved farm marketing means improved farm income.

See also the introductory video: Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Crops.

Steps to marketing

Step 1: Decide what to produce

A farm manager’s first marketing decision is what to produce. Which crops will you grow this year? Will you sell weaned calves, bred heifers, or finished steers?

Price is the market signal that tells farm managers what to produce. Gather price information, market outlook and price forecasts to help you decide what to produce each year.

You will also want to consider crop rotation, grazing needs and other farm specific factors.

Step 2: Understand unit cost of production

Calculate your cost per unit to identify which crops are most profitable. One tool you can use to do this is our Crop Returns Calculator. The calculator allows you to calculate production costs, breakeven points and returns to equity based on your inputs.

Step 3: Set price targets and thresholds

Determine what you think the market will give over the year and how much profit you think you can make based on your cost of production.

Calculate your breakeven price and look at your cash flow needs, such as loans and cash obligations over the next year.

Step 4: Determine timing of sales

Set price targets for each crop and market portions of your grain throughout the year to manage price risk.

Look at your cash needs, storage capacity and price patterns to determine when you should sell portions of your harvest.

Step 5: Get informed about the market

Look at basis levels, price trends and other current market information.

Price signals are covered in other sections of this guide. See also: Agricultural economics, competitiveness and statistics page.

Step 6: Consider your marketing alternatives

Marketing alternatives include:

  • selling for cash, that is, spot prices
  • pooling your grain sales with other producers to receive the average price over several months, that is, price pooling
  • using deferred delivery contracts
  • hedging using futures and options

Do not forget to consider delivery costs, premiums for quality attributes and cost of carry such as interest and storage.

For more information read A grain decision marketing tool.

Step 7: Make a marketing plan

Make a plan and stick to it.

Evaluate, review and modify your marketing plan throughout the year based on current market information.

Marketing decisions

To make good farm marketing decisions you need:

  • price information – current market cash prices and, if applicable, futures prices
  • market analysis – an explanation of what's happening in the market place, how prices changed and why they changed
  • outlook – a carefully researched opinion on what market conditions and prices are expected to be in the future
  • market strategies – one or more suggested market strategies to deal with current and expected market situations