COLLEGE STATION — It may be said a lot, but the small producer can diversify and survive in a world of multi-million dollar agricultural corporations, according to one cattle producer from Garden City, Kan.
“I’m a champion of the little guy,” said Lee Reeve of Reeve Cattle Co. “We function in a world of the big guys as a little guy,” he told the more than 400 faculty members at a recent Texas A&M University System Agriculture Program Conference.
“When a market is gone, it’s gone, but you can go on to another business, another alternative,” he said.
His family is proof of that. They’ll try a business, and if it doesn’t make money, then they’ll try something else. They utilize integrated management as well, using by-products from one sideline to enhance another.
Reeve’s grandfather homesteaded land in Kansas about the turn of the century, beginning in the cattle business. When water became more available through irrigation technology, the family took advantage of a growing alfalfa market.
“Water is very important in Kansas, (but) it has no value until you do something with it. You’re not going to use it on a crop you’re going to lose money on,” Reeve said.
The family then diversified into a cattle feeding business in 1965, an operation that has grown to 32,000 head. Manure from the feedyard is used as fertilizer on their 4,500 acres of cropland.
An ethanol plant added next to the feedyard utilizes grain grown on the farm. The ethanol is shipped out by rail and truck for use as an octane enhancement, and its by-products are fed to the cattle in the feedyard.
The cooling water from the ethanol plant is used to raise talapia, an edible fish. Most are sold live locally. The family also operates its own cattle feed research center.
Reeve chairs the Alternative Agricultural Research Commercialization Center in Washington, D.C., which has helped such projects as the kenaf plant in the Rio Grande Valley get started. The center explores non-food uses of agricultural products, helping even more little guys stay in business, Reeve said.