Farmers and ranchers take on more work to supplement their income
In many a café in rural America hangs a sign that reads, “Behind every successful rancher is a wife with a job in town.” Though meant to be humorous, the reality is that more agricultural producers are not only diversifying their operations to expand their opportunities for income, but are picking up side jobs, in and out of agriculture, to make ends meet.
In eastern Colorado, Dallas and Meghan Loutzenhiser, Flagler, Colo., are members of a long line of cattle producers, a large family of well-known and established cattle ranchers. After graduating from Colorado State University in 2009, Dallas Loutzenhiser returned to the ranch and picked up cattle production as the fourth generation on the ranch. Meghan, also a CSU graduate, first moved to nearby Flagler where she worked full-time for a beef verification company.
The couple incorporated artificial insemination (AI) into the entire herd upon their return to the operation and were looking for the best ways to purchase semen from the sires they chose. Willie Altenburg, who at the time was a Genex representative, suggested they become representatives and they decided to follow his advice.
By 2013, the couple had wed and Meghan was splitting her time between a feed sales job, the ranch, and their budding Genex business. On the ranch, the couple run about 400 commercial pairs and raise their own replacements. When the Genex business grew, it allowed her to concentrate on that endeavor in the fall and spring and remain on the ranch the remainder of the time. She has since begun helping Lora Bledsoe, DVM, a young veterinarian in the area who left a brick and mortar practice to serve the region as a mobile practitioner.
“Any given year, we’ll AI around 3,000-5,000 females,” she said. “We do have a couple projects that take us into Nebraska but pretty much up and down the I-70 corridor and as south as Holly.”
The couple built their Genex business, Loutzenhiser Cattle Services, through word of mouth from neighbor to neighbor.
“We have our own AI barn and portable corral facility so we can be full service,” she said. “We actually do everything. We synchronize, we breed, we help with bull selection.”
The young couple has been able to keep both hands in the cattle business they enjoy and put their agriculture education to use serving the needs of their neighbors and clients.
BEEF, SHEEP AND MEAT
In Cortez, Colo., Andrew and Kendra Schafer of Cedar Mesa Ranch, diversified their operation to include a small Angus herd, a flock of Navaho Churro sheep and a meat business.
Not yet 30 years old, Schafer has built his cow herd and has concentrated in previous years on bull sales regionally. He also sells beef through “cowpooling” to local consumers who purchase a portion of the live animal and its processing and receive home-raised, grass-fed beef or lamb. Cowpooling, he said, is purchasing a portion of the live animal rather than in bundles or as a whole beef or lamb.
This offers some marketplace differentiation to their operation, he said, as the animals are all raised entirely on their ranch before finding their way onto consumers’ dinner tables. The Navaho Churro lambs yield a meat that Schafer said his clients have found to be delicious and less overpowering than some other breeds.
“Everything we grow here either stays as a replacement heifer or ewe lamb or goes to the processor and then to the consumer,” he said.
Until last year, Schafer’s focus was on selling Angus bulls. As he progressed through the summer and took stock of his bulls and the market for selling bulls in southwestern Colorado, as well as lambs and cattle on feed, for the meat business, he shifted his predominant focus to the growing meat business.
“People move here because it’s an amazing place to be between the mountains and the desert,” he said. “I’ve got customers who have done everything — chemistry professors, multibillion dollar company owners — everything. They come here to retire.”
His customer base values home-raised and grass-fed lamb and beef that makes it a good fit for Schafer’s business. Even with this differentiation, Schafer appreciated Big Iron Auctions and decided it was a good fit to complement his main agriculture operation.
“I was a customer to begin with,” he said. “I thought it was an amazing service. In this region I’ve always thought if you don’t get (equipment) at the annual junk auction, and you don’t get it at the dealership, what choice do you have?”
Big Iron Auctions allows buyers to shop equipment across the country from their computer or phone in no-reserve auctions. The work as an independent sales representative worked well with Schafer’s cyclical demands on the ranch and he joined the Big Iron team.
His side gig with Big Iron provides them with a predictable income that helps cash flow during the less busy times on the ranch. He said with the differentiation he has created more frequent income opportunities than a producer who sells calves annually, but the steadiness of the income is an advantage. It also allows him to network with agriculturalists locally and across the country as he helps list and sell equipment in addition to seeking new equipment to list.
The combination of enterprises allows Schafer to steady his income, meet the demands of the busy times for both businesses, and remain the face of his businesses in the community. ❖
— Spencer Gabel is a freelance writer from Wiggins, Colo., where she and her family raise cattle and show goats. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Rachel Spencer Media.