There is a Difference in Cattle Feeders: The Cactus Feeders Way
"When our people drive through that gate in the morning, I want them thinking like owners."
Cattle feeders are a special breed. Caring for cattle takes a person who understands that we are not building cars or making widgets; that cattle feeding is a biological process. At Cactus, our Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) makes each employee an owner of the company. Now, people ask "why go to all the time and trouble to give away part of the company to the employees? What do you get in return?" The reward is when those employees drive through that gate in the morning, they're thinking, "I am an owner." When they think and act like owners, they take care of the cattle as if they owned them — that's what makes Cactus Feeders successful day in and day out. It only takes concrete and steel to build a feedyard, but it only works when you have the right people running them. That's the secret to what has made cactus a success, and what will continue to make us successful tomorrow.
"Take care of the cattle first."
Cattle feeding is unique because we are not dealing with something you can produce and put on a shelf or in a warehouse. With cattle, you are dealing with a live animal, producing beef; ultimately you are raising someone's steak dinner. That means first and foremost you have to be concerned with the quality of the product, the way in which you care and feed cattle. Caring for the cattle is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week process. Cattle are dependent on us for their welfare. In short, the cattle come first. I tell all our people, even if it means working long hours or weekends or holidays, the cattle come first.
"You can tell a lot about an operation before you even see the cattle."
At Cactus Feeders, we spend a lot of time and money taking care of the pens, the facilities and the equipment. Now, why do we do that? Not because it's the easiest way or because it costs less, but because we want to provide an environment where our cattle can perform well. It's paying attention to the small details — the pen conditions, using mounds, dust control, having the right equipment to mix and deliver feed — that pays off in better cattle performance. I've always said you can tell an awful lot about a feedyard before you even see the cattle by looking at the equipment and the facilities, by looking at the way they treat the cattle and how the employees take care of the place. And by the way, it's also better for the employees — to have a clean place to work with the right tools for getting the job done.
The Cattle Business
"I'm proud to be part of a business where a handshake still gets the deal done and your word is your bond."
The cattle business was built by cattle feeders with strong ties to the land and to each other. It remains a business where your handshake and your word are your contract. Cactus Feeders owns feedyards, but we also have ranches — stocker and cow-calf operations — because as a company we can never get away from being cattle producers. Cactus Feeders will always be in the cattle business and we will always feed our own cattle alongside those of our customers. You can't ask a customer to trust you with his cattle if you're not willing to do the same. We want our customers to know that they are doing business with cattlemen, people that understand owning, raising and feeding cattle. People they can trust with their handshake.
"If you give your partner just a little better deal than your own — that's the way to build a relationship."
It's easy to find someone to do business with, but if you want to build a long-term relationship, you better have a partner not just a customer. That's why Cactus Feeders partners with our customers, [link to /cattle-partnerships] we want them to know that we have just as much at stake as they do in seeing the cattle do well. You can't be afraid to give the other guy just a little better deal than your own, because if he knows that you're in it for the long haul, with his interest in mind, that's where the partnership pays off for both of you. That extends to all parts of the business, not just cattle feeder customers. Whether it's buying grain or value-based marketing; if you want it to pay off in the long run, build a partnership.
"If you're going to go to all that time and effort to raise, feed and finish an animal, get paid for what you produce."
It's hard to understood why cattlemen spend all our time and effort caring for an animal, putting in the hours and hard work required and then when it comes time to sell, we take what the packer gives us. Just sit in any sale barn and listen to the way they sell cattle. …"What'll ya give?" That applies to the feedyard business as well, taking the live average price for all our cattle. And it made us as an industry extremely uncompetitive as well. We were producing a lot of below-average cattle and getting paid average price — dragging the good cattle down as a result. That's why I have always looked for ways to get paid for what you produce. It only makes sense for the better cattle, and cattle producers, to get better money for what they sell. Our value-based marketing agreements, better known as "the formula," give us the ability to do this. Now, the other thing I've told people is that the formula is not perfect and it's only the first step in receiving true value for what you produce. Cactus will continue to promote value-based marketing and continue to look for ways to reward better cattle producers with better prices.
"These truths all add up to a difference in cattle feeders. This is the Cactus Feeders Way."
― Paul Engler, founder Cactus Feeders