Connected To The Land Ep. 19: WB Cattle Company (Brian Larson)
Connected To The Land Ep. 19: WB Cattle Company (Brian Larson) In this episode of Connected To The Land with...
Connected To The Land Ep. 19: WB Cattle Company (Brian Larson)
In this episode of Connected To The Land with 4Rivers Equipment, host Fred Eichler talks with Brian Larson about his small cattle operation, his time on the board for the Colorado Farm Show, and his position as a salesman for 4Rivers Equipment in Greeley, Colorado.
Connected to the land with 4Rivers Equipment and John Deere.
Fred Eichler: Welcome to the 4Rivers podcast. We are your working partner and we mean it. Well, I am here today with Brian Larson, of WB Cattle Company, and one, his other positions is at 4Rivers, and he’s also been the Chairman for the Colorado Farm Show. So Brian, you do a little bit of everything. And we’ve known each other for a few years when I first met you over at my place, when we were doing a 4Rivers event, but if you would… First, tell me about what you do at 4Rivers?
Brian Larson: I’m a salesman out of the Greely store. I started my career with… Back then, it would have been By-State machinery in October of 1985, and I have been through the By-State years, the Colorado equipment years, and now the 4Rivers. So…
JD: So you’ve seen a little bit of everything?
BL: A little bit of everything.
JD: Has it blown you away, how much technology has changed? Look at what you don’t… Look at what kind of equipment you guys were selling known to be back then until now.
BL: Yeah, I remember selling the 44-40s for 32.08. And now we have options on tractors that cost that much. So it’s… Things have changed.
JD: Oh, unbelievable. And one of the things I think for me is, and yourself included, a lot of the people that I’ve met at 4Rivers, there’s a lot of outdoorsman, outdoors women, both men and women that farm that ranch, sit… You know what I mean? Do a lot to do with the outdoors, whether it’s farming or field to-table type life style stuff, and I love that 4Rivers supports that. It seems to support it with everybody and… A matter of fact one of the guys I was talking with yesterday, he runs a sheep operation and they let him travel around and you know what I mean? Compete and do his competitions with his daughter. So how have you juggled all that stuff? That’s a lot going on.
BL: It’s a lot of weekends and a lot of nights. For me, it’s therapy. It helps take your mind off of your day-to-day job and you can go home and think about something different, and do something different, but it does take a lot of time.
JD: Now, you were… Tell me a little bit about the Colorado Farm Show, ’cause you were the… You were the past Chairman on that deal. Tell me a little bit about your work there and what you did, and what you enjoyed about that?
BL: The Colorado Farm Show has been going on for… I think this is our 63rd year. I was the chairman of the farm show in 2018 and 2019. I’m currently in the pasture position. I have one more year and then I’ll be off the board. I have volunteered for the farm show since probably clear back in the late ’80s, and I’ve either been a volunteer and/or work the booth for the John Deere dealers.
0:03:00.1 JD: I like that you’re involved with a little bit of everything, but besides all that, you’ve got WB Cattle. So you’re running a cow-calf operation?
0:03:05.4 BL: I run a small cow-calf operation with a local farmer. I do most of the livestock end of it, he grows the feed. So, it’s worked out pretty good.
0:03:16.9 JD: That’s awesome. Now, what does WB Cattle Company stand for?
0:03:19.7 BL: Wayne and Brian.
0:03:20.7 JD: I got you. And who’s Wayne?
0:03:22.0 BL: Wayne Sameshima.
0:03:23.2 JD: Oh, okay.
0:03:23.9 BL: Yeah. He’s local farm wrap it all.
0:03:25.3 JD: Plenty years, and you guys just been working together for a while?
0:03:28.4 BL: He approached me, it’s probably been 16 years ago. He wanted to grow more hay in his operation and wanted a place to dump the hay that we couldn’t. He couldn’t market. And I said, “Well… ” he, took him a while to talk me into it, but he finally got me talked into it, we’ve been doing it ever since.
0:03:44.8 JD: That’s awesome. Now, you guys, you got… Either you guys have any kids that help out with that operation or any employees, or is it mostly you and him?
0:03:50.9 BL: It’s mainly Wayne and I, and then he does have two boys that hopefully they wanna take it over some day.
0:04:00.3 JD: That’s always a good thing. Now, what are you guys run on, reds or blacks or?
0:04:04.7 BL: We have primarily blacks. We do have a few Red Angus cattle that we picked up out of… We used to have cattle in Nebraska that we ran on shares with my brother and we brought them back two years ago, so…
0:04:17.5 JD: Got you.
0:04:18.3 BL: It’s where the red ones came from.
0:04:20.4 JD: I don’t know about you, but it used to be… It seemed like in the market, straight blacks or straight reds just seemed to sell better. But it seems to me right now, we run Charolais, we cross with Charolais a lot, so we get those smokey and different colored calf’s. It seems to me in the market, everything’s selling good, you know what I mean? Now, prices aren’t as high as they used to be, but as far as… I don’t see huge a difference between your blacks, your reds, your smokey cows that you’re crossing. What’s your opinion on that?
0:04:45.6 BL: There’re certain sale, sale markets that if you want all black cattle, you go to those sales, but it seems like the State of Colorado is for pretty mixed, mixed market. Like you say, you can get the blacks, reds, smokey, the Charolais crosses, black simmentals. That’s…
0:05:02.5 JD: Yup. Limousin, anything. There’s a little bit of everything out there, but it seems to me… I don’t see a huge difference in the price you guys are getting for them in the auctions. Where do you guys sell yours out of? I go down to Winners Livestock Auction.
0:05:16.2 BL: I’ve actually got two local feedlots here, small feedlots that one of them buys all the steers and another one buys all the Heifer calf’s, so.
0:05:24.3 JD: Oh, that’s awesome. So you sell direct, you don’t have to pay the commission like I do. [laughter] Yup, that’s a good plus. Where do you see the cattle market going, just out of curiosity? You’ve been in the game for a while? Where do you see that?
0:05:38.2 BL: I think the feeder market will be strong this fall. I think the cow market’s gonna suffer a little bit just ’cause of the drought going on, there’s gonna be a lot of liquidation. And so it’ll put a little stress on the cow market, but I think the feeder market will stay pretty strong.
0:05:52.3 JD: It always boggles my mind when it seems like we weren’t getting that much for calf’s the last few years, you know, they’re calf’s. And then you go into the grocery store and you see Hamburger, 4 or $5 a pound, and I’m like, “Wait a minute. How does that work out?”
0:06:04.3 BL: Yeah. My wife does all the shopping, so actually I braise my own, so. And to be honest with you I haven’t paid that much attention to what the meat market is.
0:06:14.7 JD: Oh, it’s crazy. I mean to buy burgers, steak, anything, it’s through the roof, but the end producers aren’t really seeing it, so COVID, I think put a big scare into people. There’s grocery stores just didn’t have as much stuff in there, it seems like… And it basically, it’s exactly what you guys are doing at 4Rivers, more people are trying to learn about that field to table lifestyle, and there seems to be a renewed interest in how do I raise chickens to get my own eggs, you know even something as simple as that, somebody that maybe doesn’t even have any acres, but they can throw a few chickens in, or how do I raise a garden? How do I can vegetables? Maybe I get a calf and feed it out, so I mean… Have you noticed that in your years at 4Rivers and the people that you’re interacting with?
0:07:00.5 BL: Yeah I know one just on a personal… The small slaughter houses, I mean they’re on a waiting list they’re year out, year and a half out, you get on a list and you wait… Fortunately, I’ve been with the same same place for years, so I’m on their list, but it is tough to get anything slaughtered right now.
0:07:20.7 JD: I’m glad you brought that up because I’ve never seen it that bad. I tried to go get a pig butchered… Do you know what I mean? We were gonna make some of our own bacon and all that good stuff, and I was like, “You gotta be kidding me.” It was like you said a huge waiting list because so many people are realizing it’s way less expensive, instead of going to a grocery store is buying a calf or having somebody feed it out or buying one take it to the butcher store themselves. Is that what you’re seeing too?
0:07:47.2 BL: Yeah. It’s very, very tough. Even the new ones that opened up, they’re instantly booked very… They build a couple of north up in Wyoming last year, and I mean within a week they were booked up, ready to… Ready to go. And it was just you didn’t even get a chance to hardly make the phone call, so.
0:08:05.9 JD: Yeah, slaughter house is the way to go right now. It’s funny how things change and then you wonder, “Is there gonna… Are we gonna be over it? Is it gonna be too much here in another couple of years?” It’s so hard to say what that market does, ’cause for a long time, everything seemed to run just fine, but right now they’re not getting the grocery stores stocked up with everything they need to… They need to do. So you’re selling yours direct, what’s in 4Rivers and with your position and sales, what’s one of your favorite things to sell, like what do you… What’s in your wheelhouse, is it you know…
0:08:38.7 BL: Well, I’d have to say the forage harvesters with the combines, the harvest equipment.
0:08:43.3 JD: Yes, sir.
0:08:44.6 BL: Just like yesterday I was up rode with a customer in a combine, he was running 3680 combines twelfth row heads, two grain carts, 13 semis, and it was just… They were knocking out a lot of corns.
0:09:00.2 JD: Yeah that’s a big operation. Now, do you enjoy… Do you still go out or are you the guy that kinda trains them on that equipment too, because the changes that you’ve seen over the years with some of that GPS stuff, and that you know what I mean? The smart technology is where you can set it and run it and people are running more efficiently because of 4Rivers going out and a lot of times, just like you said, you were out in the field with these guys watching their operation and it helps you guys figure out what kind of equipment they need as… Are you still out there training guys and showing them how to use this equipment?
0:09:33.7 BL: I’m still a hands-on guy, I do… We do have our technicians that are specialized in different products, but I still like to go out and get my hands dirty and just like yesterday, ride with them, same customer, I’ve helped him in the past to put up hay… If he asked if he’s short of help. I say, “Hey, just call me, I’ll come run the Baylor, I’ll come run the tractor or whatever.” And I enjoy being able to run what I sell.
0:10:00.9 JD: That’s awesome. How do I get that deal? Do I need to call Kent or Ryan?
0:10:03.2 BL: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.
0:10:04.0 JD: What’s going… Yeah, the guys I’m buying it from.
0:10:05.7 BL: Make them work instead of hunt [0:10:06.9] ____.
0:10:07.1 JD: Yeah, exactly, I need to get in on that deal there’s a lot of times I need a hand. But you know all the guys at 4Rivers have done that, and I heard some really neat stories over the last couple of days about people being impacted, like one of the guys said, a woman ran out and got one of the salesmen and just said, “Hey, thank you for giving me my husband back.” And it was in reference to some of the smarter technology allowing him to quit his workday earlier, you know what I mean? He was getting more done, so he was running more efficiently, so he didn’t have to be out as late, so he got to see his kids and got to have dinner with his wife. And in your time, I know you’ve probably got a lot of really cool stories. Or how long have you been working with some of these farmers or ranchers individually, and you probably have a relationship with them. Just like the guy you said, you’d go out and help a little bit. Tell me one of those fun stories for you that… When I say that, that you think of?
0:11:00.8 BL: Well, most of these guys, I pretty much grew up with them, so we’re in our early 60s, and now I’ve started to deal with the second generation, and I know I always make the comment that the second generation, they can’t drive a tractor ’cause they grew up with the auto track. And they’re used to poking a button and the tractor drive straight. They’ve never had to white knuckle it and try to follow a line or a sight a line and drive straight, they’ve never had to do that, so it’s kind of amazing when they do have to drive a tractor just how crooked some of their lines really are.
0:11:38.6 JD: That’s funny you say that about the second generation because I didn’t grow up farming, I came by it just… I’d worked with a bunch of guys. I did some cowboy work on a couple of ranches and I was like, “Man, I really wanna… ” I wasn’t the smartest guy in the world, ’cause I thought, ” Boy, I think farming would be awesome.” Well, it’s a whole lot of work and it really should be called fixing not farming, ’cause I realized whether it’s anything I have at some point, you know [laughter].. I’m gonna have some issues but I can’t drive a straight line to save my life. It’s unreal, and even when I think I’m doing amazing, and I’ll look back behind me, I’m like, I’ve got that you already started, and then it just goes the whole way across the field. [laughter]
0:12:17.6 BL: I know we hardly sell markers on anything anymore but when they first came out with the guidance systems everybody was running on the RTK. The sub-inch accuracy level, and the electricity went out, and so all the base stations went down, and I know one farmer had two of his planter tractors come back to the yard, and they still had markers. And Mike says, “Why did you quit planting?” And he said, “Well, electricity is off, the base stations down,” and he goes, “You still have markers.” [laughter]
0:12:49.6 JD: You can still go out there and get it done. That’s funny that you say that, working with the second generation. And it’s funny, those older tractors. The first one I ever bought used was an old 4020, and it was just a different… Man, you felt like you were doing… You put that gear, you knew you were putting it in gear. Everything was metal. You couldn’t break anything. Now, I mean, they’re amazing, and the technology definitely helps you run better and more efficiently, and the new balers now, they give you the average weight, they’ll give you the moisture on the outside of the bale chamber. They’re unbelievable. And average weight… And so that’s helped our place run more efficiently, and helped my boys with that stuff. But the same time, it’s like, man, sometimes I miss some of that old steel heavy… It’s not as efficient. The boys don’t like it. But I kinda… I’m like, “Man, I kinda miss some of that stuff.”
0:13:42.3 BL: Yeah, no, it’s… The technology, it’s what’s coming down the road still, is probably… It’ll still surprise us, what we can still do with the… The technology is unreal.
0:13:54.8 JD: That’s like the trucks any more, though. I’m that guy that’s still likes hopping in my old Jeep, and it doesn’t have the reverse camera and all that other stuff, but the technology, like you said, today, is unbelievable how much money… How much money it could save people. And one of the things that… In talking to some of the other guys at 4Rivers, I didn’t realize you guys could retrofit a lot of those older machines. You guys can get a lot of those older machines set up with this newer technology and help guys out on all kinds of stuff. Are you finding yourself upgrading, once guys have that big investment, no matter what it is, you know? And they’re taking and upgrading it with newer equipment to run more efficiently?
0:14:37.4 BL: Yeah, big or small. You see a lot of guys that… I don’t know, I just had a guy in the store yesterday that who was gonna put a system on a older tractor, and yeah, so we can go… Just about if it has a 12-volt system, you can almost put a guidance system on it, so.
0:14:53.3 JD: I think that’s important for a lot of people to realize, ’cause I didn’t realize… Honestly, I just assumed that had to be a newer tractor thing. But watching and seeing some of the stuff they’re doing, man, you can retrofit a lot of that stuff, and it’s beneficial for a lot of guys, I think, once you have that investment. Sometimes it’s nice to go, “Do I wanna buy a brand new one?” And that’s certainly an option, and I’ve done both where I went, “Okay, I’m gonna buy something new.” But if I don’t wanna buy two new tractors, or three new tractors, I may buy one and then retrofit something else to make it still run efficiently.
0:15:22.5 BL: It makes even the older equipment still, makes it very, very usable, and like I said, they can still get a lot of the solutions that we have today on the newer equipment, they can make the older equipment more productive than it used to be, so.
0:15:38.0 JD: Right, and that’s what it’s all about, really. I mean, bottom line, as margins get smaller and smaller, if you can run more efficiently and save guys money. And I think that’s one thing that’s always impressed me about 4Rivers is between soil tests and consultants going out and not trying to oversell guys, I’ve been blown away. You guys are… I’ve gone to car dealerships that they’re like, “Oh, this is what you need” And you guys go out and go, “Oh, you don’t really, you could probably get away with a smaller tractor than you thought you needed, because this is what you need to pull your stuff,” or… Even when my wife got that cut tractor, they were like, “Well, what are you using? What are you doing?” And she went through and went, “Well, this is… I’m gonna be using it most of the time,” and they helped set her up with the implements that she needed. And that’s gotta be kind of fun, because I know they don’t put pressure on you guys to really upsell people, get them fitted in what they need.
0:16:25.1 BL: Yeah, I think we do a very good job of… Well, I think, for one thing, most of the employees have some type of an ag background, so we can relate with our customers, what their needs are or what they don’t need, what they do need. We try to… It’s more of a… It’s your association with your customer, how you know them, you know their operations.
0:16:50.4 JD: See, now I think you just hit on a huge subject right there.
0:16:53.8 BL: No, you know, you’ve seen them develop. You know what direction they’re going. So you kinda grow with them. And so you get a… And then you get a good mix. It takes everything, the big and the small to make it all work, so.
0:17:08.3 JD: Yeah. I think that’s a key factor in what makes 4Rivers successful, and that’s why I tell guys it’s nice to work with, whether it’s sales people or somebody that’s gonna come out and give you some instruction, when you know they’ve been out in the field, or they’ve been in your shoes, or they’ve done this, or they’ve scratched for… “Man, I gotta make a little money on this. What’s the best way or the most efficient way?” And that’s one thing I love about how many people that I’ve met here that like you said, or like yourself, you know what I mean, with your cattle operation, that are into the cattle, into the farming, into that field-to-table lifestyle, and they can help relate to all their customers.
0:17:42.3 BL: Yes, it’s been… Every day is a new day. You learn something new every day. And like I said, as long as I’ve been doing this, you still… Every day you learn something new.
0:17:53.4 JD: I loved your analogy. When you started, you said you sold tractors for 32… What’d you say, 32,000, and now you sell…
0:18:00.4 BL: 4440s, or I sold the last two that the dealership in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming had for $32,800.
0:18:06.8 JD: And now you sell…
0:18:08.8 BL: And now options on some equipment is that much.
0:18:11.9 JD: [chuckle] It’s unreal, like you said, the changes that you’ve seen through, it’s just unbelievable. And it’s the same with vehicles too, as that technology comes through, but… I gotta ask you one other question in closing, and it’s something I’d like to ask some of the guys that run stuff. What is your absolute… If you had to pick one, what’s your favorite piece of equipment to run? It could be a Dozer. Just whatever. Skid-steer, it doesn’t matter. It could be an older tractor, a newer tractor, a windrow, whatever. What’s your favorite, if you had to pick one?
0:18:42.3 BL: I’d have to say probably the round baler.
0:18:45.4 JD: Nice. You’re the first person that’s said that.
0:18:47.5 BL: I don’t like swathing, for some reason, but I do enjoy running the baler. Again, maybe it’s something I’ve always grew up with.
0:18:55.9 JD: And the round baler, which is interesting.
0:18:58.4 BL: So I grew up with the round baler. And then just to see them… Seeing the balers progress through the different series, and I just feel comfortable running one and I currently enjoy running one.
0:19:12.3 JD: What’s your favorite round baler, then?
0:19:14.3 BL: Probably the new 560Ms.
0:19:16.4 JD: Oh, no kidding. Pretty impressive?
0:19:18.9 BL: They eat a lot of hay, so.
0:19:20.4 JD: That’s awesome. Well, Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with us today. To me, it’s one of the things that makes 4Rivers, it kind of sets them apart, and I appreciate you taking the time. And good luck with the cow-calf operation, as well as everything you’re doing for 4Rivers.
0:19:33.9 BL: Thank you. I enjoyed it.