The Steers: A COVID-19 Story
My 33rd birthday is one I won't soon forget. Ian & I snuck in an unplanned, early birthday dinner out in SGF on March 13.
And then the tidal wave hit us.
As COVID-19 began impacting the Ozarks, the size and amount of orders that flooded in astounded me. Loyal grocery store shoppers were turning to our local beef when the store shelves were empty. It didn't take long for us to realize that we needed to take some action or our shelves would be empty, too.
We've always made it a priority to have a full inventory of beef cuts throughout the year our customers could rely on. But, "stocking the shelf" with beef is the result of a two year long process, from birth to slaughter. We couldn't just "make more."
Looking at the "inventory" in the field, we realized at the current pace, our freezers would be empty by May and our next animals wouldn't be ready until nearly July 1. In no way could we speed up the rate of gain on these animals.
We could sit on our hands until our cattle were ready for slaughter. With the cattle markets tanking, we needed Blue Silo to continue to stay in business to support us - neither Ian nor I work outside jobs.
We had to think outside the box for a creative solution. The solution we found was in Texas.
Around that same time - mid March - we started hearing reports of livestock shows in Texas cancelling. From the large "majors" to the smaller county shows, thousands of 4-H & FFA exhibitors left with finished steers they've fed & worked with for the last year and no place to show or sell them at.
Now, you have to understand, Ian & I met as teenagers showing cattle, we both grew up in that industry. In fact, we still raise and sell show heifers to 4-H & FFA exhibitors. We understood the hardship this created for exhibitors & their families on top of the COVID-19 effects we all are feeling.
Why not process & eat the beef themselves? Many of the families wouldn't have the resources to slaughter and house a whole beef. Why not sell the steers? Prices had tanked and there's not a demand at a local sale barn for "finished" steers anyway. They needed to be sold directly to a big packing house. Depending on location, a packing house could be over 8 hours away.
It was Ian who had the idea.
Reaching out to some contacts in the area, he found a group of exhibitors with steers we could purchase, located north of Dallas. He hooked on the "big" trailer and made the trip down with checkbook in hand. We were able to purchase 14 head of finished steers, weighing in at over 1200 lbs each, directly paying the exhibitors a premium over market price.
Those 14 steers are now here on the ranch enjoying their fill of spring grass and clover.
Those 14 steers represent a commitment to you, our customer. With them, we ensure our shelves will remain stocked until our born-and-fed-here animals are ready.
Those 14 steers were hand-fed daily and well cared for so we know the resulting beef cuts will be the same quality and taste as the beef we raise. The beef will be slaughtered and packaged at our usual local butcher shop. We want to have the shelves stocked, yes, but I don't ever want to sacrifice quality.
So, if you come out to the Farm Store, make sure to ask where "the steers" are. Their pasture is nestled right up to the road and house, they may even come up and say hello.