The Unintended Cattleman
You can take the boy off the farm but you can never completely get the farm out of the boy — even after almost 40 years.
The 1990s were a decade of change in David Hazelrigg’s life.
In 1963 he left the dairy farm and home of his parents in Dallas County and headed for Kansas City, Mo. Less than ten years later he was back in southwest Missouri and working at his lifelong trade in the automotive repair business. But two big things happened in the 90s: he started his own business and he bought 80 acres in northwest Greene County near Ash Grove, Mo.
“I’m not sure why,” David begins to reminisce, “I always had a lot of connections with farm people… but never had any inkling of doing this,” as he gestured and looked outside.
"This" he referred to, is running “a couple hundred Angus,” on 240 acres split up between the first 80 he bought and the 160 which he referred to more than once as “here at the house.”
“I got started cleaning that 80 acres up, lost touch with reality and enjoyed it. I fenced it, cross-fenced it and got four cows which ran into 60 cows.”
He planned on getting into Herefords but a friend from Galena convinced him to “‘get something that is going to make you some money.’ I just paid attention and I don’t regret that.”
David’s methods are simple: He buys commercial feed, weans at six months, creep-feeds all his calves, covers with his own bulls (each of which is named Fred, for some reason) and puts up all his own hay.
“A little hard work will go a long way,” David advised.
Marketing is a weak spot. “I don’t have time,” he acknowledged. For now he uses the sale barn.
His input costs are pretty high. “I’m glad I work in town. Without my day job, I wouldn’t make it.” Hazelrigg Automotive in southwest Springfield is where David spends almost 12 hours of each working weekday.
David continues, “In the last few days that feed truck has backed up here two times. That cost me $2,200. That’s about three calves. You do that very long and those three become six, then nine. Pretty soon that’s a lot of calves you got to sell to pay the feed bill.”
He’s trying to bring those costs in line. David just moved some cows to a pasture where they get nothing but minerals, hay and the grass they can find. It’s an experiment to see how those cows do with less. Access to minerals for all his cows is one thing he won’t change.
He also started a nine-acre plot of alfalfa. He’s considering buying his other hay this year instead of putting up the more than 1,000 round bales plus a couple thousand square bales in 2008. “I’m not sure you can’t buy good quality hay for a comparable price to putting it up for yourself.”
For someone so young in the business, David’s track record is pretty good. “I’m running about a 97 percent calving ratio right now.”
He’s looking at trying a cross, possibly a Limousin bull with his Angus cows. “If it’s the right cross, it’ll put on poundage quicker than anything.”
David’s not hopeful about 2009, but next year? “I see cattle prices going back up, grain not going back down; but stable. I’m optimistic for 2010.”
David said people in town can’t imagine how he came to farm how he does now. There was no plan. "But at this stage of my life, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. If I had it do over, I’d start sooner and with more land.” He said he'd like all his land to be in one place.
“I’d rather spend it leaning up against the fence out here.”