Raising grass-fed beef, says Will Harris, is not a get-rich-quick proposition. But he quickly adds, "No surprise there-the cattle business is not a get-rich-quick proposition."Harris has seen the cattle business both from the conventional side and from the birth-to-table, pasture-raised end. His farm, White Oak Pastures, has been in the family for 143 years; he says that helped him when he made the decision in the mid-90s to transition into grass finishing. "I have the advantage of raising cattle on the same farm that I was raised on," he says, "and that my father and his father were raised on, so the old ways had not left us completely...we did some things, and knew some things, that relied heavily on that historical data."
An old saying holds that anyone, no matter what their background, can grow up to be President. They’re usually talking about President of the United States—and perhaps last year’s election is proof—but the saying also applies to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Consider Gary Voogt, of Marne, Mich. “My father was a factory worker—a tool and die worker,” reflects Voogt, who became head of the NCBA at this year’s annual convention in Phoenix. “My mother was in charge of the house. She never worked; she raised five kids.” And they didn’t live on a farm. It wasn’t until after Voogt graduated from Michigan Tech with a B.S. in Civil Engineering that he got involved in production agriculture, although he’d had some exposure to farming.
“Feeding cattle is a risky business,” says Rodney Shepherd and Shelmer Blackburn, Jr., owners of North Wilkesboro, NC-based Champion Cattle Company.“There are so many uncertainties we face everyday that impact performance and profits. Depressed cattle prices, rising feed prices and everyday health issues are some of the variables that affect all cattlemen,” they note. Located in Wilkes County in the northwest foothills of North Carolina, Champion Cattle Company was the result of the brainstorming of two individuals from different backgrounds who shared the common desire to profit from producing pounds of quality beef.