Even an inherited ranch doesn’t come with a guarantee of success, and for anyone wishing to build a cattle business “from scratch,” the challenges can be daunting. But with some creativity, motivation and a little help from friends, beef production offers opportunities even for beginning entrepreneurs.
click image to zoom Todd Inglee lives in Arvada, Colo., a suburb of Denver, with his wife Kim and three young children. From there, he operates Ralston Valley Beef, running cattle on nearby leased properties and selling beef to consumers hungry for locally produced foods.
Inglee’s story shows there are opportunities for young people to become involved in beef production without inheriting a ranch or cow herd. It also illustrates the value of experience. Inglee believes his years of employment with trade associations and private industry, and the contacts and networks he developed along the way, served as invaluable preparation for his entry into the beef business.
Inglee began working for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in 1994, soon after college graduation. His next job took him to NCBA, followed by employment with eMerge Interactive, a company that pioneered traceability and data-management technology for beef cattle, and at Colorado Serum, an animal health company. Beginning with his time at CCA, Inglee had the opportunity to meet and become familiar with leaders and innovators from across the beef business in Colorado and nationally. One of his early contacts at CCA was Colorado rancher Harold Yoder.
Yoder encouraged Inglee to become involved in beef production and eventually helped him secure financing to purchase his first cow herd. Yoder, Inglee says, became his “cattle mentor” and has helped guide his career since then, as well as assisting others to get started in the business. Over time, Inglee and Yoder partnered on numerous cow-calf and yearling enterprises, and Inglee says he benefitted greatly from Yoder’s knowledge and experience.
In his “day jobs,” meanwhile, at CCA, NCBA, eMerge and Colorado Serum, he developed personal networks and learned from experts across the industry. But over his years working for associations and allied industry, Inglee says he persistently felt drawn to the production side of the beef business, and he and his wife eventually decided to chase their dream.
The Inglees had been custom-slaughtering a few finished cattle to sell sides or quarters of beef to family and friends in the local area, and decided to expand the concept and market their beef more broadly. Their situation provided a unique opportunity, as the family’s suburban location offers ready networks and contacts with local markets and consumers. At the same time, they have access to grazing land in multiple nearby locations.