The four major packers all call on Scott Keeling, owner of Keeling Cattle Feeders in Hereford, Texas; and sometimes he’ll sell to a local plant that primarily handles cows and bulls. With his own cattle, Keeling sells mostly on a grid through Consolidated Beef Producers, a marketing co-op in the Panhandle. With his customers, he’ll advise them individually on choosing between the grid and the cash market. “We talk to them, and I try to explain to them whether their cattle would do better on the grid or not,” he says.
It’s not uncommon for Keeling to partner with customers and make feeding a joint venture. “If you owned 100 head on your family farm and you'd like to feed them but you couldn't feed them all, we could finance half of them for you and we'll buy the other half,” he says. “That'll give you money back and you can buy another 100 head for your farm.”
If they’re interested, Keeling also will work with his customers on risk-management strategies, such as getting a packer contract, to offer them some protection against downside markets.
All of these efforts help him and his customers do the best they can with today’s unforgiving cattle-feeding margins.