Raising Steers for Retail Beef Market
Beef producers often consider opportunities to improve the profitability of their operations and look for long-term success. One of these opportunities is marketing their steers as retail beef directly to the consumer. Have you been thinking of setting up a retail market for your beef cattle? Read these profiles of enterprising Tend-R-Leen producers who turned to marketing directly to retail beef customers to make their beef operations successful.
Joe Wollak – Joe’s Beef Farm, Rice, MN
Joe Wollak designed and built his steer facility in 2000 with the goal of maximizing cattle comfort while also minimizing labor requirements. The barn features a feed room with a stationary mixer in the feed room. Whole shell corn is augered into the mixer from a storage bin located right outside the barn. Bags of the Tend-R-Leen finisher pellet are stacked conveniently in the corner of the room, next to another auger to add the pellet to the mixer. Joe simply turns on switches to add and mix feed.
The barn has five pens, with each pen of steers being grouped by weight. Self-feeders are installed between two pens, with a divider in the middle of the feeder so that separate mixes can be fed. Joe states, “Every group of cattle gets a different mix according to their size.” Joe’s feed system is equipped with augers that run from the mixer directly to the self-feeders, so Joe simply turns on the correct switch to deliver the feed to the right self-feeder.
There are fans installed above each pen and side-wall curtains are controlled by thermostats. Pens are bedded weekly or as needed with sawdust. Joe has a scale in the barn and weighs the steers once a month to ensure they are on track for their projected market date. Joe keeps meticulous records and consistently sees 3.0 lb. ADG on the Tend-R-Leen program.
Joe buys feeder cattle at approximately 300 lbs. from local farms or occasionally from the sales barn. He segregates new cattle in a separate facility for three weeks before putting them in his main barn to eliminate the spread of disease. He then raises the steers to market weight of approximately 1,250 lbs. He feeds 536 Tend-R-Leen Ultra Finisher.
Joe stated, “I have been raising steers for more than 25 years and have always been on the Tend-R-Leen program. It works well for me with the whole shell corn and protein pellet in my set-up. The results are really good. I’m extremely happy with the results.”
Joe markets all his cattle privately as halves and quarters, largely by word of mouth. He aims to market the steers at 1,250 lbs., which provides the quality his customers want. St. Joe Meat processes about 95% of his cattle. While some of his customers are local, he has people that travel several hours to purchase his beef.
“I get excellent reviews from my customers, top of the line. I get letters from them saying it’s the best beef they have had. It’s a win-win for me and for my customers,” said Joe.
Joe is a retired county commissioner and owned a farm equipment and hardware business in Rice for 32 years. He concludes, “I take a lot of pride in what I do. I really enjoy raising cattle and selling them directly to my customers.”
Pouliot Ranch – Aaron, Peggy, Rachael and Erica Pouliot, Maple Plain, MN
Peggy’s family raised beef and were on the Tend-R-Leen program while she was growing up. She really enjoyed working with the beef. Aaron’s family milked cows and also raised Tend-R-Leen steers. After they married, Aaron and Peggy started raising beef in 2003 with four steers. They currently market in the range of 30-40 head per year as whole, halves and quarters. In addition to their beef operation, the Pouliot’s also sell hay and do custom baling.
The cattle are Holsteins and purchased from local dairies at about 1-3 weeks of age. Aaron and Peggy feed Form-A-Feed’s Prime Life milk replacer, a starter/grower feed, and the Tend-R-Leen 375 finisher along with home grown shelled and ear corn plus grassy hay. They recently invested in a self-feeder for the finishing pen and are very happy with it.
The steers are raised to a finishing weight of around 1,400-1,450 pounds to get a carcass weight around 800-850 pounds, which is what the Pouliot’s customers are looking for. All cattle are pre-sold and require a down payment. The cattle are processed at a local butcher facility. The Pouliot’s deliver the animal, have the customer call with cutting instructions and have the customer pick up the final product from the farm. The pricing to the customer includes all costs. They try to sell year-round but certain times of the year can be slow. Another challenge is getting appointment times scheduled at the butcher.
The Pouliot’s do three types of advertising: Minnesota Grown Directory, Facebook page with ads, and word of mouth, which is the #1 form of getting new business. Aaron likes working with the public. The family loves raising steers and Aaron says they are “Livin the dream.” The cattle receive exceptional care and potential customers are always welcome to stop in and look at the animals.
Mike and Rosanne Zwiefelhofer – Bloomer, WI
Mike and Rosanne started milking cows in 1984 and sold the herd in 2004. They did not raise steers while they had milk cows but transitioned to steers and went on the Tend-R-Leen program after selling the dairy herd. In addition to their steer operation, the Zwiefelhofer’s also raise corn and non-GMO soybeans for the Japanese food market. Roseanne is a long-time soap maker and currently offers goat milk, beer, and wine soaps.
The Zwiefelhofer’s raise about 120 per year and sell about 100 on a private basis to retail beef customers. The rest are sold at the local sale barn. They target 1,250 pounds as the finish weight for steers they sell privately as wholes, halves, and quarters. A local butcher shop processes all of the retail beef they sell and also purchase steers for retail beef sales in their store. The Zwiefelhofer’s deliver the animal to the butcher and sell by the live weight based on current beef markets. The customer pays for the butchering and processing fees.
Currently, Mike and Rosanne do not do any additional advertising and have a steady return customer base. Their steer facility is maxed out at this time and they feel comfortable at this level, with no plans for expansion. The reason they like selling beef in this manner is they enjoy the rapport with the customers and want to help customers feel comfortable buying locally grown products.
Have questions for one of the featured Tend-R-Leen beef producers, or for a Tend-R-Leen certified marketing partner? Contact us here!