By Debra Davis
Improving herd genetics, new selling opportunities and niche marketing were among discoveries on the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Beef Tour through Mississippi June 4-7.
About 50 Alabama farmers visited purebred seedstock farms, a new dairy, the Mississippi State University beef unit and meats lab and progressive stocker operations utilizing buying stations, where farmers direct market cattle to stocker buyers.
“My favorite part of the tour was learning how a lot of Mississippi farmers sell their stocker calves through the buying stations,” said Choctaw County’s Jeff Lassiter. “I live only 10 miles from the Mississippi state line and had no idea there were so many feeder calves in Mississippi. The buying stations give producers another selling option besides taking calves to a stockyard.”
Learning about Mississippi’s buying stations was also a favorite aspect of the trip for Autauga County Farmers Federation President Van Smith.
“I think buying stations are something we need in Alabama, and I think they’d be very successful,” Smith said. “It would be particularly helpful to our small producers, and the buying stations benefit from having farm-fresh cattle.”
Buying point operators in Mississippi explained how cattle shrink (lose weight) when subjected to stresses such as hauling or standing in a stockyard for several hours before auction. At buying stations, cattle are weighed and sorted upon arrival, and farmers are offered a price. If an agreement is reached, farmers are paid immediately, and no commission or yard fees are deducted.
Buying point operators claim shrink can cost farmers as much as $50 per head on a typical 550-pound feeder calf.
Smith said the tour included several stops where cattle were the sole source of income for the farm.
“That’s encouraging,” Smith said. “You’ll often hear that a farm can’t make it on cattle alone, but several in Mississippi are proving it can be done.”
The tour also included a stop at Remington-Lott Farms near Jackson and the farm’s local beef retail store. The farm’s vacuum-packed beef fetches a premium price, with ribeye steaks at $22.99 a pound and ground beef for $6.99 a pound.
Federation Beef Division Director Brady Ragland said he enjoyed interacting with Mississippi producers and learning things that could be applied on Alabama farms.
“Other highlights for me were seeing real-world producers who make their living in the cattle business,” Ragland said. “Some of the operations we saw are running 25,000-30,000 head of stocker cattle a year, and they’re doing innovative things to make it work.”