Waukon Feed Ranch pays for corn, keeps profits local

The Waukon Feed Ranch has made a concerted effort to not only keep prices competitive, but also offer convenient hours for farmers that include late nights and Sundays. ~ Clay Schuldt/The Caledonia Argus
The Waukon Feed Ranch has made a concerted effort to not only keep prices competitive, but also offer convenient hours for farmers that include late nights and Sundays.
~ Clay Schuldt/The Caledonia Argus

By Clay Schuldt
Special to the Caledonia Argus

With the summer drought crushing farms not too far from Houston County, many corn farmers are experiencing low yielding crops. In that light, it is important that farmers be able to get top dollar for the corn they do produce.

The Waukon Feed Ranch might offer a local solution.

Located in northern Iowa, the Waukon Feed Ranch is surrounded by cornfields, but the company is willing to buy even more corn from Minnesota.

“We need about three million bushels a year,” explained General Manager Brad Herman. “Most of the corn we purchased is used by the hogs or goes to ethanol plants.”

Herman estimated that over 300 individuals sell grain to the Feed Ranch. The lion share of sales is corn, but the ranch handles soy beans and oats as well.

The Waukon Feed Ranch advertises that, “When a customer receives a quote from us you can rest assured we have checked all of the markets and are putting out the best bid possible.”

The Feed Ranch assures the best price by collecting prices from every ethanol plant and river terminal within a 100 mile radius.

The cost of transportation is subtracted, and the highest net bid becomes the companies bid for grains. It is the company’s low transportation cost that allow them to offer competitive prices.

Grain trucks are never empty for long as Herman explains. “The truck is always full going down and back.”

Waukon’s location near the Mississippi also plays a factor. “It’s a function of grain that it wants to flow north to south,” Grain Merchant Todd Moon said.

The Mississippi is divided up into different “pools” and that means the barge freight is higher in certain pools.

Currently, corn’s price is higher the farther south an individual travels. The Feed Ranch bases its price off Cedar Rapid’s markets.  Waukon is able to keep its shipping cost down due to lower freight rates and is able to pass the savings on to the farmers.

In addition to offering some of best prices on corn, The Waukon Feed Ranch has established an operation that works with farmers’ schedule. Open until 10 p.m. every day, even on Sundays and holidays, The Feed Ranch’s policy is when farmers want to sell corn they should be able do business.

Over the last five years the Feed Ranch has been gradually expanding the operation by building new storage bins, truck washing, fertilizer plant, shop and office facilities a mile outside of Waukon.  In addition, a new feed mill will be built within the next few years to replace the old one inside Waukon. These new facilities allow better access for farmers who need to unload their supplies. “We can unload a semi load of corn in three minutes,” brags Herman. This means long waiting lines are a thing of the past.

More than anything, the new facilities were built to reflect the current demand of farming.  Farmers today are able to supply a larger amount of corn than in the past and that product needs to be stored.

Further down the line a biofuel fueling station will be established on site.  “A lot of the farmers like to use ethanol because they are putting their corn products into ethanol, and it gives them an opportunity to buy products they helped to produce,” Herman said.

It is important to note that the Waukon Feed Ranch strives to keep all profits local.

“Bushels sold to Waukon Feed Ranch go to feed animals fed by local farmers, and that corn turns repeatedly in the local economy,” Moon said.

Every single bushel of corn sold to the Feed Ranch has an immediate and lasting effect. When corn is sold locally it helps the neighbors and brings more income from outside areas such as Chicago, Memphis or Dallas.

The Feed Ranch estimates that over 200 employees directly earn their livelihood in these animal feeding operations in Southeast Minnesota and Northeast Iowa.  The cumulative investments in these operations pay huge sums in property taxes, which reduces the load when funding schools, roads, fire and police.

While the Waukon Feed Ranch expands its business the focus has become more on the local community.

“We were getting tired of shipping corn down the river,” Herman said. “We wanted it to stay in the community and let it turn in the community, and that is what we have succeeded in doing. That was our ultimately goal, and it continues to be our goal.”