Young cattlemen share positive ag outlook
Farm News staff writer
Lake City-While cattle feeding is just one component of two young Calhoun County ag leaders’ careers, they are glad that beef production remains an important part of their families’ farming operations.
“I was raised in the cattle business,” said Seth McCaulley, 28, a Calhoun County Farm Bureau board member, who feeds nearly 1,000 cattle each year with his father, Kevin McCaulley, southeast of Lake City.
“Not only is it a family tradition for us, but it’s still one of the least capital-intensive ways to get into agriculture today.”
McCaulley, who is also a branch manager and loan officer at Iowa Savings Bank in Lake City, said his ag background is a plus in his banking career. “I understand where our customers are coming from, because I have mud on my boots, too.”
Ben Albright has also integrated beef production into his farming operation.
“While I’m in charge of crop operations, I’ve always liked working with animals, too,” said Albright, 29, a fifth-generation producer who farms near Lytton with his father, Alan Albright, and younger brother, Nick Albright. “Since we market all our corn through our cattle, it’s important for us to be as productive as possible.”
Managing risk is key
Albright started farming full-time in 2005 after earning his ag studies degree from Iowa State University in 2004. Working with the family’s cattle operation was a natural fit for Albright, who started his career in the cattle business while he was a middle school student.
“Back then I would buy feeder cattle from my dad and would raise up to 15 animals at a time,” said Albright, a Calhoun County Farm Bureau board member and Calhoun County Cattlemen’s Association member, who farms more than 1,400 acres with his family.
“While the scale of my operation has changed a lot since then, I still try to feed the animals that will make money – not necessarily what’s the fanciest.”
While some of the family’s cattle come from Iowa, the Albrights also work with a cattle buyer in West Virginia to get cattle from the eastern and southeastern United States, said Albright, who noted that the family’s feedlots can hold several thousand head.
As they feed the cattle to 1,350 or 1,400 pounds, the Albrights include a lot of ethanol co-products in the rations.
“These co-products give cattle producers a big advantage here in the Midwest,” said Albright, who noted the family’s cattle are sold to Tyson Foods in Denison and Nebraska Beef in Omaha.
While record prices in the cattle business are exciting, there’s also more risk involved, said Albright, a member of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s ag leadership class who noted that risk management has become more important than ever in agriculture.
“Not only is livestock production a 365-day-a-year job, but I also spend well over 100 hours a year on the business side of my operation, paying bills, checking e-mail, making phone calls, handling accounting, recordkeeping and tax work, doing balance sheets and performance summaries, and staying current on environmental compliance regulations.”
Juggling many responsibilities is also a priority for McCaulley, the Lake City Fire Department treasurer.
“The bank is fairly flexible with scheduling, which is helpful with my cattle operation,” he said, who earned his ag business degree from ISU in 2005.
“Dad is also a big help when I’m busy and, in return, I help him with fieldwork or do chores for him when he’s planting.”
McCaulley, who lives with his wife, Angie, in the farm home where he grew up, expanded his family’s cattle operation by two thirds when he added four new feedlots in 2006 to hold an additional 640 head.
While McCaulley likes raising red Angus because they gain well, he and his father focus on buying animals that offer the most profit potential.
To manage feed costs, the McCaulleys include distiller’s dried grains in the cattle rations. Ethanol co-products are a huge benefit for Iowa’s cattle industry, said McCaulley, who serves on an advisory board with the Iowa Bankers Association and is excited to see more young farmers entering the cattle business.
“As a banker, it’s rewarding to work with our ag clients, especially since I’ve known a lot of these folks for years.”
Strong family support is another key to success in the cattle business, said Albright.”For many producers, we do what we do so we can provide for our families and their futures,” said Albright, who lives on a farm north of Lytton with his wife, Susan, and their one-year-old son, Aidan.
“I want my family to live comfortably and improve my operation for the next generation. It takes an understanding wife to put up with the long hours and erratic schedules that most farmers have.”
You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.