A cattleman's heart, a banker's mind
By Doug Rich
A strong work ethic and a banker’s mind has been a profitable combination for Danny Biglieni. The southwest Missouri cattleman has operated a very successful backgrounding operation for the last 15 years.
Biglieni attributes his work ethic to his grandparents and his 29 years working for a local bank with his money management skills. He went to work for the bank the day after he graduated from high school and over the next 29 years he learned a lot about the business of lending and managing money.
“It was never my goal to stay in the bank for 29 years but it did support my farming habit,” Biglieni said.
About the time Biglieni started backgrounding cattle he also had a small herd of registered Polled Hereford cattle. Biglieni thought he would never get rid of that herd of cattle but after comparing the returns from the cow herd with the returns from his backgrounding operation he could not wait to sell them. On a yearly basis he could run four steers for every cow.
“I could not get rid of those Hereford cows quick enough once I saw where there was some money to be made,” Biglieni said.
Typically, Biglieni buys lightweight heifers weighing 400 pounds and steers weighing 500 to 700 pounds with the goal of putting 250 to 400 pounds on them before they are sold. He does not usually buy anything that needs major attention but if he is low on numbers he will buy a steer that needs a little tender loving care or a bull calf that needs to be cut. He looks for cattle he can make better and turn a profit. Nearly all of the cattle are purchased through the Joplin Regional Stockyard where Biglieni worked as a field man for several years. Biglieni goes to the sale every Monday even if he does not plan to buy anything. He said it helps to visit with other cattlemen and find out what is happening in other areas that might impact his operation.
Hide color is not a big concern for Biglieni. His preference is Charolais-cross cattle. The only reason he runs mostly black cattle is that most of the cattle today in his region are black.
“I want to deliver a load of cattle that are uniform in weight, condition, quality and hair coat because that will make the buyer want to come back and make him willing to pay what they are worth,” Biglieni said.
With the price of cattle today Biglieni switched back to buying mostly lightweight heifers. He does not have to put as much weight on them and he can run a few more per acre. This spring he started 160 heifers on 50 acres.
“There is still a good margin even with the price of cattle right now,” Biglieni said. “That is why I am buying these little heifers,” Biglieni said. “These little heifers are easy to start right now, the condition is right on them, the fall calf crop is coming in right now so the have not been picked over, and I can hedge them on the board to pencil out and lock in a pretty good profit. Assuming that the price of corn does not go crazy and the drought does not hit again.”
Biglieni said he could use a good pond filling rain this summer or he will be in trouble.
All of the calves are started at the home place and stay there for two to four weeks before being turned out into larger pastures. Biglieni wants to make sure they are bunk broke and they are healthy. These calves get nearly the same ration as the calves on pasture with the addition of some soy hull pellets for more fiber.
The standard ration Biglieni uses contains corn silage, soy hull pellets, cotton hull pellets, distillers grains, corn gluten pellets and a little molasses. He might increase the amount of corn because it is the cheapest ingredient in the ration right now.
One of the keys to success with young, lightweight calves, according to Biglieni, is letting his veterinarian work them at the sale barn in Joplin before he brings them home. That process gets the vaccine in the calves quickly and keeps all the stress in one place.
“Then I bring them home and leave them alone,” Biglieni said.
At home Biglieni turns the new cattle out into rectangle-shaped pens rather than square pens. He said cattle tend to mill around in a circle in the square pens and have trouble settling down. Cattle in a rectangle pen run back and forth a couple of times and then settle down. He does not like to leave new calves in the same pen for several days after they arrive. He likes to give them something new by turning them into a new pen every day, if possible. The cattle don’t get bored and seem to do better this way.
Cattle on pasture are moved on a regular basis. Biglieni said it is not intensive grazing but he does have a rotation plan for each set of cattle. He tries to have three pastures to rotate through with each group of calves.
Applying what he learned in the banking business to his backgrounding venture has paid dividends for Danny Biglieni.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.