When it comes to selling beef on the farm, there are a lot of different ways to achieve success and profit. Three of those approaches were presented as part of a “Making Beef Profitable for the Farm” panel discussion at 96th Annual Greene County Ag Production Conference held at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center, held March 7, 2019.

Direct marketing may be one of the oldest forms of value-added agriculture but in today’s economy, it has increased importance as producers seek ways to put more of the consumer dollar in their pocket.

“Direct marketing requires a different kind of thinking. Producers are dealing direct with their customer rather than a sale barn or an elevator. That means having consistent and reliable quality and quantity are important to maintain the relationship and generate repeat sales,” said David Burton, a county engagement and community development specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “There is a lot of interest in the subject with nearly 100 people registered for this one event.”

Speakers for the 96th Ag Production Conference included a presentation on farm succession by Wesley Tucker, an agriculture business specialist with MU Extension and a  discussion focused on “Making Local Foods  Profitable for the Farm.” Kelly McGowan, horticulture specialist with MU Extension, moderated the panel discussion.

Middleton all-natural meats

David Middleton, who owns Middleton All-Natural Meats in Mt. Vernon with his wife Cherri, sells pork, beef, and chickens off the farm. He began when he discovered he could make more profit by processing and selling his beef direct to customers instead of at the livestock barn.

“We sell direct off the farm. We don’t like to ship product, but we do deliver to Springfield. What we sell has changed over time based on customer demand and input,” said Middleton. “I would say that discovering our niche was our largest challenge, but processing is our biggest headache.”

Middleton says there is a shortage of USDA processing in the region, which means he has to plan ahead to meet seasonal demand for various cuts of beef.

“Our customers keep coming back because of quality and because we produce a product – like ham and bacon with no nitrate – that they want,” said Middleton.

Clearwater farms

Joann Pipkin and her husband Jim raise registered Angus with Jim’s parents at Clearwater Angus Farm west of Springfield. The farm has been in the Angus business since 1933, and they have a strong reputation for selling high-quality bulls.

The Pipkins also process and sell beef from Angus yearling bulls off the farm that is grass raised and grain finished. They sell more ground beef than anything but will also sell a variety of individual cuts as well as a half or quarter beef.

“Selling beef out of the freezer, is a sideline business for us,” said Pipkin. “We market the business strictly by word of mouth. Our meat is state inspected and it carries our label. This has become a nice outlet for us that provides additional income and a market for animals that don’t make the cut for quality breeding stock.”

Processing is also a challenge for Pipkin, especially in the fall when deer season shuts some processors down yet many families want to buy a half of beef for the holidays.

Freezer space and time management are the biggest obstacles for selling off the farm for Pipkin.

“I would like to see us continue to grow this side of the business. Diversifying is important, and I do think it is a key to bringing the next generation back to the farm,” said Pipkin.

Blue silo beef

Kassi Glassman and her husband Ian raise registered Simmental cattle for sale as show heifers and steers.  The cattle that are not show quality go back into the herd as replacement females or they go into their beef program. The majority of the cattle in the beef program are steers.

Blue Silo Beef has been operational for two years. Their beef is sold at area Farmer’s Markets or can be ordered online and picked up at their farm.

“This gives us a second stream of income. We have diversified so both of us can stay on the farm we love,” said Glassman. “We are in the infancy of our business. But, I do know that there is not just one way to do direct beef marketing. There are a lot of mouths to feed, and there is a high demand for local beef. People want to buy from someone they know and can trust.”

Glassman is also trying to work with local restaurants too. Seasonal demands for various cuts of meat and the need for inventory have been the biggest lesson learned during the first year.

“Farmer’s Markets help to build our customer base and we need that as a new business,” said Glassman. “There is a great local food market in Springfield and right now I am pretty focused on learning that business and getting in on that portion of the market but it takes time.”

Panelists discussed pricing and marketing strategies, how to find a meat processor and the satisfaction of dealing direct with customers. A video of the panel discussions is available online at www.youtube.com/MUExtension417.

University of Missouri Extension has a variety of community development and livestock specialists that can help farms begin selling off the farm. Publications are also available online at http://extension.missouri.edu.

Dr. Pam Duitsman, community development specialist with MU Extension, has experience working in local foods and is located at the Christian County Extension office, 417-581-3558.

Another good contact would be any of the MU Extension livestock field specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Lawrence County, (417) 466-3102; Andy McCorkill in Dallas County at (417) 345-7551; Dr. Randy Wiedmeier, in Ozark County at (417) 679-3525; Elizabeth Picking in Howell County at (417) 256-2391 or Dr. Patrick Davis in Cedar County at (417) 276-3313.