Whether you’re marketing petroleum products or raising cattle, the key to success is staying competitive.
That, Jim Woods would tell you, is a matter of knowing what customers want, which product can best fill their needs and how to provide it most efficiently.
“You have to find what produces the most in the least amount of time with the least investment,” said Jim, who has owned and operated a distributorship for finished oil products for more than 40 years and been in the cattle business even longer.
At 19, Jim was working for Sun Oil Company in Tulsa, Okla., when he began his first venture into cattle, leasing land on which he could raise bottle calves.
“I jumped in slow,” he said of his entrepreneurship. “I’d buy calves when they were two or three days old for $2 or $2.50 apiece and take them home and raise them on the bottle. When they got to be about 400 pounds, I’d sell them.”
Jim worked his way through several jobs at the oil company, learning all the way, and eventually purchased a Sun distributorship at Miami, Okla., when he was 32. Jim Woods Marketing now supplies gas to convenience stores, schools and cities in the four-state area.
But he never gave up his animals. These days, he shares the operation of the oil company with his brother, who works in the Oklahoma office. With the advantage of modern technology, Jim works from his home in Missouri, where he has lived for the past six years and where runs a small herd of beef cattle.
“I’ve always enjoyed cattle,” he said. “I think it’s the new life and the challenge of growing something, watching it producing and multiplying.”
Like his career in the oil business, Jim’s goal as a beef producer always has been to improve and develop the most efficient operation possible. Often, that has meant change, including the types of animals in his herd.
“I’ve probably raised 15 breeds of cattle during my lifetime,” Jim said.
He has never been more satisfied with the performance of any breed than the registered Gelbvieh that range the pastures on the 150 acres he and his brother own near Granby, Mo.
“I like them for their mothering ability, because their disposition is as good or better than any cattle I’ve ever raised, and calves when they wean off weigh 65 to 80 percent of their mothers’ weight at 205 days,” Jim said. “At a little less than seven months, they weigh 650 to 830 pounds.”
In addition, Gelbvieh are noted in the industry for feed efficiency and lean, quality carcasses. Female traits include excellent milk production, fertility and calving ease. Taken all together, that translates to the cost efficiency and marketability Jim is looking for in a herd.
One of the oldest Continental breeds, Gelbvieh orginated in Bavaria and were first imported into the United States in 1971. Jim bought his first about five years ago and has been a fan ever since. Currently, he runs about 30 head, but plans to increase his herd with the purchase of a couple of bulls in March, as well as the addition of more females.
Jim sometimes keeps some calves from his females, but in these first years has concentrated on building the quality of his herd through purchases of heifers from the top 10 bloodlines in the National Gelbvieh Association. That strategy is paying off.
“I have some super fine bloodline heifers down there now,” he said.
Jim said that other than care in breeding, he doesn’t have any specific methods for keeping his herd healthy, happy and improving.
“Just good care, a good program of medicine and a good balanced diet,” he suggested.
A member of the 4-State Gelbvieh Association as well as the National Gelbvieh Association, Jim sells primarily by private treaty, sometimes offering animals at registered Gelbvieh sales.
Although his is a small operation, Jim’s farm still is viable and proof that smaller farms can be competitive and successful — because he knows his customers and his product and how to provide it.
“You always have to look at the bottom line,” he said. “ We raise as good animals as anyone — or better — and still make money— and enjoy it.”