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Miesse cattle business spans four decades

Managing editor

Buying and selling cattle is in J.B. Miesse’s blood.

Orville and Clara Miesse made their home west of Marion. Orville worked at sale barns in Marion and Florence and bought and sold cattle for customers.

When J.B. Miesse returned in 1959 to Marion fresh out of the Army, he knew he wanted to return to working the land.

“I had $450 in ‘mustering out’ pay,” Miesse said Monday, which wasn’t enough to start a cattle operation but was enough to have a farm on the south end of Marion.

He farmed, fed cattle, and worked once a week for 30 years at the Herington Sale Barn.

In 1965, he began the operation that is still known today as J Bar Cattle Company, the order-buying business.

Miesse found the best way to buy cattle is to go to the sale barns and see the livestock. He started in Oklahoma and then eventually traveled to Missouri and Arkansas to find the cattle stockmen desire.

The price of cattle is based on the price per pound or in 100-pound increments.

Although cattle prices currently are the highest of Miesse’s long and impressive career at $1.40 per pound or $14 per 100 pounds, “compared to everything else they are not high yet,” he said.

For example, one 750-pound steer costs $1,050 in today’s market.

The lowest price he’s seen was in 1973 when cattle were $10.15 per 100 pounds or $112.50 for a 750-pound steer.

It seems it would have been a buyer’s market but it wasn’t.

“Feed was high at that time,” Miesse said. “Money was hard to come by. It cost a lot to put weight on the cattle.”

A typical trailer or reefer can safely haul 100, 400-pound steers, or approximately $56,000 worth of cargo.

Miesse has purchased cattle from New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, and Wyoming in addition to the three-state area. The largest order to date was 800 head to a single buyer.

A customer will call Miesse with the number and gender of cattle desired. Miesse also contacts specific customers when they typically order cattle.

He prefers purchasing cattle from Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

“They’re thinner cattle so they perform better,” Miesse said. Being lighter, they’re less expensive to purchase and they’ll gain quickly.

The stockman who purchases the cattle will fatten them with grass and grain, hoping to turn a profit when the cattle are sold to processors.

One of Miesse’s experiences that is more memorable was when he purchased 220 head of 600-pound Holsteins at 60 cents per pound.

“I decided to grow them up to 900 pounds and then put them in the feed yard,” Miesse said.

Unfortunately, the cattle didn’t bring any more money and he lost $360 a head in the deal.

“It’s a very up and down business,” Miesse said.

Profits are based on feed supply, availability of cattle, and the market — the cost of processed meat in stores.

“It used to be if a person made $40 per head of profits for a year he was doing good,” Miesse said. “Now if you don’t make $100 per head, you’ll go broke.”

Another big change in the business is that it used to be in the 1950s and 60s that a stockman could make a living with 50 to 100 head of cattle. Now, it requires 800 to 1,500 head, resulting in fewer but larger livestock producers.

Hauling cattle has changed. Miesse used to have a fleet of trucks for the business but now he hires haulers.

“Haulers used to charge $1 per (loaded) mile,” Miesse said. “Now they’re getting $3.80 per mile, and rightfully so.”

Miesse’s son, Scott, took over the business in 2003 when the older Miesse decided to retire. Scott ran the business for three years but decided it wasn’t for him and J.B. resumed his role.

“I’ve been in the business for so long that people know me but I may not know them,” Miesse said.

The 76-year-old appreciates the success of the business over the years.

The key to the success of J Bar Cattle Company has been honesty. Customers know they’ll get a fair shake with Miesse.

After all, he wouldn’t have been in the business all this time if customers didn’t trust him.

Last modified July 20, 2011

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