Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa on April 25, 1974 · Page 12
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Carrol Daily Times Herald from Carroll, Iowa · Page 12

Carroll, Iowa
Issue Date:
Thursday, April 25, 1974
Page 12
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Despite Financial Woes., 2 Iowa Cattle Raisers to Stay in Business By TERRY RYAN Associated Press Writer WEBSTER CITY, Iowa (AP) — Hans Nelson was ankle deep in the feedlot muck helping prod the last of 68 fat steers toward the truck ramp. They were going to the slaughterhouse. "I don't know if we are actually losing that much money on these, but we'll never get wages for raising them," he said. "We're just sort of throwing that in." The Nelson brothers, Harry and Hans, farm 2,200 acres in central Iowa, including the 120 acres their Danish immigrant father started on. They raise corn, soybeans and oats from the flat, black earth, most of it to feed their livestock. They market about 2,000 hogs and 600 cattle a year. "I suppose you could come right out and say we lost money on these cattle that went today," said Harry Nelson a few hours later. "I'm talking the cost of corn at today's prices, I'm talking $2 an hour for our labor, the vet bill, the other bills. We should have had $200 more a head. "But it's a business, "Just because you don't make it on one bunch . . . well, you keep on going." They broke even on the sale of the steers. The Nelson brothers lost money the last three times they sent cattle to market. Their situation is not unusual. During a time of declining slaughterhouse prices, cattle feeders have been caught with animals they paid record high prices for last year and fattened on record-priced grains. The American National Cattlemen's Association estimates the industry has already lost more than $1 billion. Until recently, say some cattlemen, the lower prices they were being paid were not reflected at the supermarkets. After 25 years of farming, the Nelsons have, the money behind them to ride out the hard times now. Some cattle raisers, however, are reconsidering. There are empty pens in the high volume feedlots of Texas and Colorado and many farmers are not putting cattle on feed for delivery next summer and fall. Consumer beef shortages may be the end result, but farmers are feeling tne pinch now. "Nixon was right when he said the farmer never had it so good," said Harry Nelson. "But he forgot to mention that it was '73 that was gbod, not '74. Already we're taking a beating." Harry, 54, and Hans, 47, were sitting in the remodeled kitchen of Harry's farmhouse. Hans lives on another piece of their acreage, nine miles away by dirt road. "The Boss," Harry's wife, Irene, poured the coffee. Like most Iowa farmers, Hans Nelson has an opinion on just where the trouble started: "It all began last year when the government put the ceiling prices on. And it got worse when they took them of f." Shortly before price controls were lifted last summer, market ready cattle were bring-ing 61 l /a cents a pound at the Central Iowa Stockyards in Webster City. They went for 41 cents a pound during the first week of this month. The Nelson brothers bought 68 young heifers last fall for $24,000. They fed them 18 pounds of corn a day, plus protein supplements, and paid the veterinary bill and other expenses. They could have sold the corn-50 bushels an ani- .mal—for as much as $3 a bushel. After putting 600 pounds on each one, they sold the heifers last month for $24,000, exactly what they paid for them originally. "When you add it up, I guess we lost about $9,000 on them," said Harry. "And that's with no allocation for our labor.'' "We are really a bunch of small businesses competing against each other. That's what we are," he went on. "First to the fields, first to get the corn planted, first to get it harvested. This is what makes us what we are." There are flecks of grey in Harry Nelson's black hair. He is a spare, lean man with leathered face and speckled brown eyes that look right at you when he talks. He has four children, three sons who live on the farm and a married daughter who lives away. Harry's wife, Irene, refilled the coffee cups and joined the conversation. "Is it worth it for us to feed these cattle and not make a lot of money? Probably, now, we can say, 'yeah, it is,' " said Irene. "A young farmer who is starting out and he's mortgaged to the teeth at the bank would not look at it the same way." The other people hurting real bad. says Hans, are the feedlot investors. The so-called Wall Street cowboys, they are doctors and lawyers and businessmen who found it profitable in recent years to buy young cattle and have them fattened in commercial feed lots. "I got a brother-in-law, a banker, out in California and he's been getting into cattle. They got feedlots out there that you just buy a pen and hire them fed." Hans explained. "And he's been bragging to ' me about how much money he made. I told him, Must wait, you're going to see the other way one of these times.' Well, he's got a bunch now he's going to lose his button." Hans Nelson looks bigger than his 6 feet, 180 pounds. Big bones, red cheeks, deep-etched lines around the eyes and an inch-high crew cut on top. He and Carroll, his wife, have a son and two daughters. In their latest purchase, the brothers bought 73 fresh heifers weighing 625 pounds each. They will feed them for four months, pay the bills and take them to market at about Times Herald, Carroll, la. Thursday, April 25, 1974 12 1,050 pounds. They remain optimistic. Hans: "We're hoping to make money on them, there's no question of it. We don't do this for the fun of it." Harry: "Sure we have our ups and downs. We've lost money times before. It's just like any business. If things don't get no worse, we'll make out all right on these." To keep things from getting worse, they say, cattle raisers must convince the American housewife to start buying beef again. "They quit eating beef last July when it got so high," said Hans. It was all the publicity it got. They started eating macaroni. The thing is, we got to get them aware that beef is a good buy now and get them back to eating it." Which brought Harry to his favorite subject: imported meat. It set off a round of criticism. What is necessary now, they say, is for cattle raisers to go out and sell their product. Advertise. Hans picked up the packing house sheet. Ten cents an animal had been deducted for promotion and advertising. "Look it here, this is our problem. One critter, 10 cents. People selling milk take a nickel a hundredweight off for advertising. To be even close, we should be taking a dollar a head out, "he said. Harry added, "Up to now, we didn't have to sell our meat. It sold itself." The Nelson brothers apparently believe the housewife can be won back to steaks, roast beef and hamburgers. They are just finishing a new confinement barn where 1,200 head of cattle a year can be fattened for market. With feed bins and drainage pond, it will cost them $70,000. Charge It If You Wish! We accept Master Charge and BankAmericard! If It Doesn't Fit You Can Return It At Waters! I / m if£ra5S££<

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