Last week I had the pleasure of attending a meet your beef tour run by the New York State Beef Council. The event was held at Golden Acres Farm in Westerlo, New York. The first thing I noticed was how well organized the property was. That organization is vital to the enterprise as the entire operation, which finishes over 100 cattle a year, is run by just 3 individuals. Gerry, Laura, and their son Jack, run a cow calf operation on about 800 acres. It is inspiring to see an operator who has really got his system dialed in. They calve in the early spring, and Gerry himself attends to each calving and brings the calf cow pair into the barn for a few days to get acquainted. Come the green up, they truck the cattle over to their summer ranges and check on them daily. With the cattle off munching and growing, the family begins to focus on growing their winter feed. They grow and mill a variety of grains and grasses for winter and finishing forage, and I must admit that I was in awe of all the big green machines. Each month they move some of the cattle to the pens near the house and feed a homemade finishing ration. The family does most of their business from one buyer that they have been working with for many years. The tour was informative and the family was open and engaging about their operation.
It is my duty to urge you, the new farmer or established producer, to get out there and see what other people are doing. Farming breeds innovation but it doesn’t share it. Most of us are too busy to submit our stuff to Farmshow magazine; in fact most of us are too busy to even read Farmshow magazine! The point I’m trying to make is this: There are any number of ways to build a profitable and sustainable business around livestock. The production system at Golden Acres couldn’t be more different than my ranch but our product is ultimately the same, healthy beef from happy animals. Many farmers, especially new farmers, fall into the trap of thinking there is only one way to do things. Gerry and his family have come to their current system by experimenting and observing their animals, their land, and their financials. This is what I find so inspiring, a family who is making a happy living doing what they love. Just remember, behind those smiles are some really long nights and difficult decisions, but that is exactly what makes this lifestyle so appealing.