When Scott Keeling bought his feedyard in Hereford, Texas, the yard’s capacity was 5,500 head; today, it’s 17,000 head. “We didn't do that all at once,” Keeling says. “We purchased some land next to it, and we started doing some little additions in a few alleys in 1987. At that time, I was also leasing another yard, on the other side of Hereford. We knew that when that lease was up, we'd turn it back over and we'd start expanding here.”
Having the other yard during that period helped Keeling develop a customer base and grow his numbers gradually at his new yard. We had 5,000 cattle and all of a sudden we jumped to 10,000—if we didn’t have the customer base to fill it up, and had to do it out of our own pocket, then it’d be a little more of a stretch.”
As his numbers grew over the years, Keeling had to adjust his business model to accommodate a changing industry. He started out feeding about 75 percent customer-owned cattle, 25 percent his own. Now those numbers are almost inverted; he owns about 60 percent of the cattle, taking on more risk and expense himself feeding those cattle today.