Performance Blenders helps customers hit quality target
By Steve Suther
Virtual cattle feeders or solution providers, call them anything, but the company name is Performance Blenders LLC, of Jackson, Mo.
Gerry and his son Geoff Shinn started the unique company in 1998 and became a licensed Certified Angus Beef LLC partner in 2010. Performance Blenders won a CAB Quality Focus Award for 2012.
"We were just starting down a road and had no idea where it was going," Gerry says of the early days when they branched into custom milling and adding value to customer cattle. "The more I worked on it, the more I thought we could keep following that road."
Last year they added a new lane by hiring 40-year Southeast Missouri Extension cattle veteran Roger Eakins to expand the feeder program that bundles more than 1,000 cattle a year into a cooperating Kansas finishing yard.
Their goal is to boost producer profits by ramping up quality and marketing cattle for premiums. They've scored a success, earning the 2012 CAB Quality Focus Award for yards with less than 15,000-head capacity. And they have a lot less capacity--only enough to fill a semi-trailer.
The team fields calls from a customer base of 130 small, local farmer-feeders and helps sort out finished cattle. Those will be delivered to the Performance Blenders processing barn every week or two, timed to join a mixed-ownership load to market on the U.S. Premium Beef grid at National Beef Packing plants in Liberal and Dodge City, Kan.
Nobody can use the excuse, "we are too small to worry about carcass value differences," Geoff says. "That's just not true around here."
There have been more than 350 loads since 2000, but a representative 507 head enrolled with CAB in the last year achieved 84 percent CAB or Prime--including more than 22 percent CAB Prime. In their first year, 70 percent of the cattle were black but today, 90 percent are black and mostly high-percentage Angus.
There's a lot going on, and the company name doesn't quite say it all.
"We still have some people ask if we sell some kind of 'performance blender,'" says Geoff.
Eakins remembers one of his first serious discussions with Gerry in 1998.
"He asked if there was anything I could do that would help producers market cattle, and how could that fit with the Show-Me Select Heifer Program," he says. "So we just got in the truck and started riding around and talking to see who would be interested in sending finished cattle to U.S. Premium Beef."
As the university's beef agenda expanded to artificial insemination protocols, local cattlemen were early adopters. The results show in Geoff's detailed records on 13,500 cattle, which can be sorted by any variable in five minutes.
That's how they know, for example, that one of their first customers, Keith and Elmer Koenig, Burfordville, Mo., moved up from 32 percent to 78 percent CAB and Prime in 12 years, while gains and carcass weight stayed the same for the 50-cow operation.
Rick Aufdenberg, Jackson, Mo., hauled fat cattle to auction for 20 years before trying the new program in 2001.
"We found out the Primes were worth $350 per head more than average," he says. "I got into some registered Angus and started using AI to breed for growth and carcass traits." His early consignments were 25 percent Select but last year, out of 245 head, all but 15 were CAB or Prime. Data sharing with sources helps explain that quality trend.
Performance Blenders customers aim for harvest at 12 months and one recent 1,450-lb. steer out of a Show-Me Select heifer was a day over a year and Prime. "That's straight Angus," Eakins says. "It can be done."
Gerry and Jane Shinn accepted the award while attending the CAB Annual Conference, at Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Sept. 19 to 21.