The Pike Trail Cattle Company is a backgrounding and crop operation located outside of Delphos, Kansas. It’s ownership is transitioning from one family to another. Come along as Katie Sawyer introduces us to both the original owner, Dana Hauck, and the new owner, Taner Litton. We get an inside look at how this kind of transitioning takes place, and Dana explains why he feels there’s a tremendous difference between an estate plan and a transition plan. Stay tuned.
(Katie) Welcome to That’s My Farm, I’m Katie Sawyer here outside of Delphos, Kansas, on the Pike Trail Cattle Company backgrounding facilities. Today we’re speaking to Dana and Taner about backgrounding cattle, growing crops and the process of transitioning an agricultural facility from one family to another. Stay tuned for more from That’s My Farm.
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(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer here with Dana Hauck at Pike Trail Cattle Company outside Delphos, in Ottawa County, Kansas. Dana can you talk to me about your history in farming. I know you grew up just down the road from here. (Dana) I did. My Grandfather and my Father had an Angus cow herd. I grew up with them, loved the cow business. But when I graduated from Kansas State in 1971 and came back, I started backgrounding some cattle running some stocker yearling cattle on grass. When my father retired being an only child, I just didn’t feel like I could take on one more segment. We were a fairly diversified operation like a lot of other people in Kansas- wheat, alfalfa in the Solomon River Valley here, grain sorghum, and so I really concentrated on the cattle growing, backgrounding and grazing. (Katie) And so you moved into the backgrounding part of this. And so, talk to me about the evolution of the yard that we’re standing in right now. (Dana) The location we’re in now, I started building these pens in 1976. I have good protection here, have good drainage up on the side of the hill, wanted to get up here in a good location. And nearly everything you see here we did and so we took a lot of pride in the fact that we put this together. And been here ever since. (Katie) And how has this business or this actual facility then changed from when you first established it until this point now? (Dana) Well we have gradually grown, initially when I built the pen we were probably just handling 400-500 head. Now, we’re handling typically 1,500 head. It hasn’t really changed much. When I look at the backgrounding operation, it hasn’t really changed much. Number one, I enjoy cattle. That’s sort of been where I focused in my life. But the other thing is we take a lot of crops that maybe can’t be used in the cash market and it’s a way to generate good income and walk some of that off the farm. (Katie) And you kind of referenced an Angus herd when you were growing up, but I see some non-Angus cattle walking around here. So, what are we feeding today? (Dana) We like to feed cattle that are green. One’s that make money! That’s the main thing we look at. I mean we obviously look at the quality and a lot of different attributes of where the cattle come from, what the genetics are, but there’s some value in different types of cattle and so that’s what we look at and we try and buy cattle that have some potential profit out there. (Katie) And speaking of buying cattle, the cattle market is probably very different today than what it was when you first got into this business. So how were the changes in the cattle market and just all of the different price points that you deal with being in a backgrounding feedlot changed or impacted your business? (Dana) It’s a very capital intensive business obviously. And that’s becoming a real issue is for people in the cattle business is working with lenders, finding the money available that’s necessary now. And I will share with you I’ll never forget this, the first load of cattle that I ever fed in the mid ’70s, or backgrounded, I bought a load of calves that weighed 400 pounds, delivered here for $24.75 a hundred and cost $99 dollars a head. And just finished buying a load of cattle that are gonna be in the $1,400 dollar a head range. So, things have changed considerably in the last 40 years. (Katie) Things certainly have changed. Thank you Dana. Stay tuned for more from That’s My Farm.
(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer here with Dana Hauck at Pike Trail Cattle Company outside Delphos, Kansas. Dana, you guys are in the process of transitioning ownership of this facility. So, talk to me about how long you have been the owner of Pike Trail and then kind of when that decision point came that you were going to be moving out of ownership. (Dana) Well Katie, my wife Marsha and I came back from Kansas State University in 1971 and so we’ve been here quite a long time and we
raised two daughters here. They were very involved with the farm. They were my hay crew, rode horses, rode the pastures, helped with the cattle, they did it all. But they both graduated from K-State and one of them is still involved in an ag family, the other one is a nurse practitioner. And when it became obvious that neither one of our daughters were going to be back to the farm, we decided that we wanted to see the operation maintained. We’d invested a lot in it as well as had they and my Father and Grandfather and previous generations. So, we set out to first of all identify a young couple that we felt very comfortable with, all the things that everybody looks for- honesty, integrity, work ethic and also of course, the ability financially to be able to step into an operation like that. And that’s not easy in this day and age. But after that we put our own team together with our attorney, our accountant, our lender, tried to draw on all the people that we really needed the expertise of to help work in that transition. And Taner and LeAnn Litton fit the bill for us. Tanner grew up on a very similar operation at Beloit, Kansas, just a short distance from here. LeAnn actually graduated from Kansas State with a Master’s in Beef Nutrition, so she loves the cattle deal and fits right in here. Does the nutrition work. So, we just felt like it was a perfect match for us. (Katie) And you guys recently hosted the Kansas Livestock Association out here and kind of had a field day that focused on transitioning. So, can you give me the high point of what you look for and what you need to be considering when you’re transitioning the ownership of an operation, not only from one generation to the next, but in your situation from one family to another family? (Dana) You know I think probably every situation is unique and ours certainly was since we were looking outside the family. But you know, there are both emotional issues and financial issues. And I think they’re probably equally important. And like I said the main thing is to have a good team. And a lot of people I believe in our work, confuse an estate plan with a transition plan. And there’s actually a tremendous difference. And I’ll give my wife Marsha a lot of credit for that. She’s actually the head of a trust department at the Guaranty State Bank and Trust in Beloit and so she has seen a lot of situations in her career of 40 years in that business. And so she was a tremendous help and so, it’s not an easy process and it’s not a short process. The first thing to do, I think, is talk about it with your own family if you’re going outside the family. And we consulted with our daughters and our son-in-law a lot about moving ahead with this because it’s really… and I’ve told Tanner and LeAnn this, it really wasn’t as much for Marsha and I, as it was for our two daughters because it… the farm is very important to them. Ad they wanted to see it maintained too. (Katie) And that’s great advice too because we have several farms here in the state of Kansas that are probably going through the exact same thing you guys are going through, so I am sure people enjoyed hearing from you and hearing from a positive experience. Join us for more on That’s My Farm.
(Katie) Hi I’m Katie Sawyer and welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m here with Dana Hauck at Pike Trail Cattle Company in Ottawa County, Kansas. Dana, in addition to backgrounding cattle you do some farming and we’re standing in front of one of your dryland corn fields. Talk to me about the crop side of your operation. (Dana) Well, like a lot of other farmers in Kansas, over our lifetime we’ve seen some changes but we’re very diversified. We’re in the Solomon River Valley here so we always grew quite a bit of alfalfa, that’s a good crop for us. Wheat farmers, grain sorghum, forage sorghum. In the last few years with the improvement in genetics and technology we’ve actually grown considerably more corn and beans. So, farming techniques have changed but it’s really fit in good with the cattle operation because we can utilize a lot of those things. There’s feeds that maybe we couldn’t turn into cash any other way. So, it really fits in well. (Katie) And talk to me about what percentage of say the corn that we’re standing in front of, goes directly back into the cattle and what percentage do you guys sell for grain these days? (Dana) Well, that depends on the year of course. But I would say probably 50 percent of these corn crops will probably go in the silo or will be fed as grain. And of course a lot of the alfalfa will go back through the cattle. But also a lot of the alfalfa will be loaded on trucks. The high quality hay that we try and sell as dairy hay and market it that way. (Katie) And by growing your own feed you are able to control a lot of the input costs. Which when you’re feeding cattle is huge when you’re trying to turn a profit. So, how does this benefit the overall operation in terms of being able to grow the crops control a lot of the cost that it takes to grow crops and then move that back into the cattle? (Dana) The way we’ve always looked at is use whatever the market dictates. It’s hard to..there’s nobody that can control what these markets are gonna be and so it varies a lot. If the corn’s more valuable as cash we’ll feed something else. And that’s one thing that’s changed a lot particularly with the advent of using a lot of distillers byproducts and other byproducts and in these backgrounding operations. We’ve been able to start utilizing a lot of stock residue, wheat straw, lower quality feed stuffs, along with the distillers. So, that’s been one of the major changes. But we still… anything that we can grow and turn into beef more efficiently than we can sell at the elevator that’s been a goal. (Katie) Thank you Dana. And join us for more on That’s My Farm.
(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer here with Taner Litton at Pike Trail Cattle Company. Tanner and his wife are the new owners of the backgrounding facility. So, Taner talk to me about your background, kind of where you grew up and then the transition into your ownership role here. (Taner) OK. I was born and raised in Beloit, Kansas, on a similar operation like we have here- farming and cattle with a cow herd. I was at K-State at the time, pursuing an education in secondary ed, being a high school ag ed teacher. And my father and Dana had known each other for years, working together in feed yards and just knowing each other as cattle feeders. And Dana was looking for some young gentleman to come back and take over his operation. And my brother and I were both having hopes and dreams of coming home to the farm, just depending on our stages of life. My brother was pursuing his career with a different corporation. I was more flexible so I was able to come home. My wife and I were then married shortly after we did come home and take on the operation. The main reason why we became owners is trying to get the new generation in, instead of taking ownership in my Dad and Uncle’s operation, my wife and I bought into this one. So, it was a new way for the younger generation to come in without taking from the older generation. (Katie) And like many who are of the younger generation, you understand that taking on an ownership role is a rewarding but also a risky venture because just of the capital intensity and the time and just everything it takes to run a business. So, talk to me a little bit about kind of what you’ve done in terms of transitioning into this role and kind of what it takes on your half to become an owner in this type of a facility. (Taner) The money is tremendous. That was the biggest thing. That is where my Father and my Uncle both came in huge. Dana made it very apparent that he didn’t want to be a banker, which is understandable. So, they were able to come in and give me support so my bank was confident enough to loan us the money. And also the biggest thing was the feedyard was full. When the feedyard’s full when we took ownership, we were able to make some payments with just off the yardage and really get the ball rolling. So that was the main thing and then like I said, just having the family around to help support us. (Katie) So Taner, talk to me about the science of backgrounding and feeding background cattle because it’s different than fattening cattle. (Taner) That’s right. Our job here is to make them get up to where they can handle the higher energy rations and stuff. So, a lot of our rations are higher roughage, less energy and it let’s the cattle grow, grow into themselves, develop more frame to when they go to a feedyard they can be a lot more productive and the feeding efficiency is a lot greater. (Katie) What pounds are you getting them in at and what weight are you moving out at? (Taner) Most customers will get them to us around 400-600 pounds and we usually keep them here around 120 days which takes them… can get them up to 800-900 pounds just kind of depending on what program they are when they came in and how well we get along with them. (Katie) Wonderful. Thank you Taner. Join us for more on That’s My Farm.
(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer here with Taner Litton on Pike Trail Cattle Company. Tanner now that you’ve moved into your ownership what changes have you already made and do you kind of look to be making at the facilities? (Tanner) Here at the feedlot we’re always trying to improve, improve our facilities, make them more functionable and less stressful on the cattle and on the operators. So, we keep adding new alleys, more pens because our customers, they buy value. So, every time they come in we sort, we do a lot of sorting for our customers, added new working facilities like I said, for less stress on the cattle and to make it a lot more user friendly is what we’re really working on here at the feed yard. (Katie) And on the crop side I know you’ve kind of started to move a little more out of the alfalfa production. So, talk to me about what your plans are and what you’ve been doing with the crop rotations and the crop management practices. (Taner) The operation I came from with my Father and Uncle was no till. So we’ve really started transition into no till. We’re in about our fourth year on the no till side of things. So, things are really starting to take off there. We’re mainly grains. We don’t run a lot through here with the dry distillers or the wet distillers. So, we try to do a grain crop which really helps balance out the cattle feeding and the grains, they kind of work well together. (Katie) So as you and your wife get more established here you move forward in this facility and this ownership role, what do you see as far as future changes, future hopes, dreams, market pressures, coming one way or another that might force you to kind of re-look at some things? (Taner) Yeah, we want to stay diversified. That’s our biggest thing is maybe look at a cow herd eventually or something along those lines. But we want to continue growing. Added expenses, living expenses, this farm’s got to keep getting larger to be more efficient. So, we’re always striving to be as efficient as we can. Keep growing as long as our productivity and our quality of work stays up there. We’re trying to grow it into a good sized family farm to support the next generation if they want to come back. (Katie) Wonderful. Thank you Taner. Thank you for talking to us today. And thank you all for joining us on That’s My Farm. We’ll see you next week.
Closed Captioning brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.