Alabama beef cattle producers now have a new venue to help market their livestock — the Internet. A Web site, recently launched by the Alabama Feeder Cattle Council in cooperation with the Alabama Farmers Federation, gives producers throughout the state more visibility in advertising high-quality feeder cattle and commercial replacement heifers.

Perry Mobley, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Division and administrator of the Web site, says it's about time producers reap the benefits of Internet advertising.

"The Internet has the farthest-reaching advertising capability of any one vehicle to date," Mobley says. "With more and more people using it, it is simply the perfect way for producers to reach potential buyers."

Through the site, cattle owners can post any information they want advertised about the livestock they are selling, including breeder contact details, weight, sale date and vaccination history. Advertisers must pay a $25 one-year membership fee and 50 cents per animal posted and meet specific requirements listed on the site.

One big advantage of the site is it gives smaller producers wider exposure to national cattle markets and cattle buyers, says Rickey Hudson, regional Extension agent for the Wiregrass region.

"Smaller operators who may not be able to attend the national meetings and trips to recruit buyers in the Midwest are given a less expensive way to advertise and offer their product — feeder calves."

Another beneficial feature of the site is the free e-mail alert system. "Anyone can sign up for it, and every time new cattle are posted, an e-mail with a link to the new cattle is sent to the recipient," Mobley says.

Though the site is strictly used for advertising, buyers viewing the cattle have contacted breeders and made bids and purchases, he adds.

One producer who has experienced the advantages of the site firsthand is Joe Williams of Dothan.

"I was one of the first ones on the site when it was just getting off the ground, and I've received two or three telephone calls I know I wouldn't have gotten if it weren't for the site. It's a great asset for us in the future because the more we advertise, the more interested people will be in our cattle."

Progressive producers like Williams, who market the best feeder cattle each year, are the primary advertisers on the site, according to Mobley.

Those same forward-thinking cattle producers also are using the site to promote their value-added programs. One such group is the Southeast Alabama Feeder Cattle Marketing Association (SAFE), known for selling calves with strong health programs behind them. "This past August, several SAFE members received bids because they used the Web site to promote their programs and sale," Hudson says.

Even though the site has advertised more than 3,000 calves since it was first implemented in early July, Mobley says its success is difficult to measure overall in light of the strong cattle market.

"It's hard to say if the site had any effect on the price of cattle with the market being so strong this year. Still, several buyers and feedlots reported that they like the convenience of being able to view cattle from their own desk."

With few cattle on the site so far, Mobley says promotion of the site has been limited to feedyards and order buyers in the Midwest and High Plains. "They're our target audience, but if we could advertise the site better in-state, I think we'd be more successful."

In the long run, Hudson believes all Southeastern producers will benefit from the site because it will help overcome the stigma of inferiority for which Southeast cattle have a reputation.

"Over the years, order buyers and feedlot operators have discounted Southeastern cattle as being inferior. Through board sales and this Web site, we hope to conquer this by promoting superior genetics, performance and health."

As long as cattle owners are ambitious enough to try a non-traditional marketing tool like the Web site, both producers and consumers will continue to benefit from progressive thinking, Hudson says.

"It's a great way to promote Southeast cattle and give order buyers and the public the opportunity to experience some of the highest quality cattle in the United States."

For more information, check out the Web site at www.alfeedercattle.org.