Off-Farm Income


Today's guest, Laney Jones, and I have a few things in common.  First, we are both fans of the Montana State Bobcats!  Second, we enjoy raising cattle.  And third, we direct market our beef to customers who are willing to pay a premium to purchase beef directly from the producer.

And, like me and every other beef producer who direct markets, Laney encountered an issue with the quantity, or lack of quantity, that some customers wanted to purchase.  To explain where I am coming from, butchers break beeves down into 1/2's, and they butcher half of the beef at a time.  That means that if a customer purchases either a whole or half beef they can tell the butcher exactly how they want it cut up because the butcher is able to apply their instructions to each half they are buying and make it how they like it.

When a customer asks to purchase just a 1/4 of beef, that means that they are purchasing a 1/2 of a 1/2.  When this happens, a producer like myself has to pair up the customer purchase 1/4 beef with another 1/4 beef, and those two customers have to agree on how the meat will be cut up.  Because they are splitting a half, all the cuts from that half will be done exactly the same way, so they have to come agreement on things like the thickness of steaks ahead of time.  This can be a real hassle for the producer and the butcher when it is time to cut the meat up and divvy it out.

Laney lives in Montana, which is a really traditional beef-producing state.  So, this is a problem that direct marketers have basically just accepted as something that will always be there, because what else can be done?  But Laney was different.  She saw this problem, even having customers that wanted to purchase quantities as small as 1/8 of beef, and she set out to solve it.  That is when Laney stumbled upon Miniature Angus Cattle.

Laney purchased some "mini's" to put her idea to the test, and she direct marketed them through her uncle in Bozeman.  When it came time to butcher the steers she found that their finished live weights were just above the hanging weight of a traditional steer.  This meant that her customers who used to want a 1/4 beef could now purchase a full 1/2 of one of her steers.  This took all the complications out of the butchering process.

The prospect of raising and direct marketing beef has really helped Laney discover a passion for entrepreneurship.  She has steadily grown her operation, and this year she is direct marketing 19 head (3 in May and 16 in the fall).  She told me that she plans on going to college when she finishes high school, but she is going to be looking for a way to come home and continue with her direct marketed beef operation.  If she can find a way to do this for her full-time living, that is exactly what she wants to do.