Worland youth feeds, markets beef
Worland – What began as a suggestion from his father three years ago has now turned into a beef business for 13-year-old Blake Hefeneider, who finishes cattle in conjunction with his family’s feedlot operation near Worland.
“Three years ago my dad talked to me about the idea and mentioned I should think about starting a cattle business,” says Blake of his operation. “We have a friend who’s a cattle trader, and he had a few to sell, so that’s how I got into it.”
Blake says he generally buys three or four to finish at a time, but has bought as many as 10.
“The money to buy the first group came from what I’d earned from my 4-H projects,” explains Blake. “Now I can make enough profit on them to buy the next group and have profit left over.”
Currently between groups, Blake expects to purchase half a dozen more calves in the near future. “I look for healthy calves with a deep body. A lot of times I’ll hear somebody has cattle for sale, and I’ll buy them right there because I know who I’m talking to and what kind of cattle they have.”
The calves are raised with corresponding groups in the feedlot, which he says is operated by two uncles, his grandpa and his dad, John Hefeneider.
“Whichever pens his calves are in within the feedlot, those are the cattle he looks after,” says John of Blake’s responsibilities. John and Blake trade labor on the farm or in the feedlot in exchange for feed costs.
Of his part in Blake’s business, John says, “I just advise him. He does the rest.”
“I ride the bus out to the feedlot every day after school, and I spend as much time working out here as I can,” says Blake. “Every chance I get I’m out here.” In addition to running the skidsteer every afternoon, pushing forage back within reach of the cattle, he helps irrigate and put up hay in the summer, in which his part is raking. The farm also produces silage and malt barley.
“He helps out in every area of our operation,” says John.
“My mom works for the school system, so she put an ad out and my dad talks to a lot of people,” Blake says of marketing his beef, explaining most of his customers are teachers and family friends. “Right now I don’t have any fat, and I already have two people on my list, so I usually have a pretty good idea of how many to buy at a time.”
He says he usually sells wholes or halves, and he delivers the beef to his customers’ local packinghouses, usually in Worland or Thermopolis.
In addition to his beef business, Blake shows pigs through 4-H and enjoys his dirt bike hobby.
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.