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The FORT with Chris Powers

Oct 14, 2020

Chris sits down with his longtime friend Rayne Austin, the VP of Stronghold Resource Partners, to do a deep dive into the Cattle Business. Rayne walks Chris through the multiple phases of the life cycle for cattle, how each phase makes money, the "Big 4" packers, and how COVID-19 exposed a major bottleneck in the industry. Enjoy! 

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(03:46) - Rayne’s Background

(05:43) - What are the phases of a cow's life and how do you move from one to the next?

(08:42) - Do the calves only live off of their mother’s milk or are they consuming feed in the first phase?

(09:52) - Do cows sell for less if they haven’t been weened?

(10:14) - How much money are people trying to get from selling in the calf/cow phase?

(10:57) - How do you transfer 10,000 calves to the stockyard?

(12:05) - How many calves fit in a truckload?

(12:24) -  What’s the purpose of the stockyard?

(14:00) - How big are you trying to get the cows to become in the stock phase?

(14:20) - What’s the pricing model for cattle?

(16:40) - What do cows look like at the end of the stocker phase? What happens when they move to the feed yard?

(17:50) - How long do they stay in the feed yard?

(18:06) - Where does all that feed come from?

(18:41) - Do they go to slaughter from the feed yard?

(19:05) - Why don’t folks complete all three phases under one roof?

(20:22) - What are the biggest risks in the industry?

(21:33 ) - What are the biggest upsides to the business?

(22:31) - Why were the packing houses doing well but not the cattle ranchers during COVID?

(24:08) - What happens when you have cattle ready to leave the feed yard but packers not willing to take them?

(25:28) - Can a cow get ‘too big’ to where it affects the meat?

(26:19) - How is veal made?

(27:25) - Rayne’s Experience Working at the Largest Virtual Auctioneering House

(29:34) - Does everyone buy in the business hedge or is it case by case?

(30:41) - Why are calves who haven’t been weened high risk?

(31:36) - Why do some people hedge and some don’t?

(33:04) - How is the majority of this business made up from an ownership perspective?

(37:39) - Does the climate and location of feed yards change what the cow will look like?

(39:56) - Are the majority of these legacy companies just growing to a point where the barrier to entry is more difficult?

(41:41) - What’s the day to day like for someone like your grandfather working in the field 7 days a week?

(44:35) - How many cattle are there per acre in America?

(45:30) - How many cattle are there in America?

(46:23) - Who’s the largest cattle rancher in the country?

(46:56) - Have genetics improved vastly over time?

(48:06) - What about cattle genetics has improved?

(48:58) - What’s the rating system for cattle?

(51:06) - Why would someone go through you for doing deals?

(52:22) - What’s a shrink and slide?

(54:28) - Why do cuts like Wagyu and Kobe sell for so much more? What about grass-fed beef?

(55:50) - Why are Midland steaks so much better than other companies?

(57:00) - How long does a cow live and how often can they give birth?

(58:58) - What are the different breeds of cattle?

(1:01:02) - Is the fake meat industry putting a dent into the business?

(1:02:27) - The Cow Fart Narrative

(1:04:06) - Are there other false narratives that folks should know about in the cattle industry?

(1:05:03) - How has technology progressed in this industry to create better margins?

(1:07:44) - Have numbers shown that people will pay more for the meat of a cow that’s lived a ‘better life’?

(1:09:03) - 1031-ing in the Cattle Business

(1:11:02) - The JBS Cattle Company

(1:11:31) - Who are the Big 4 in Cattle?

(1:11:58) - What did the government do for cattle ranchers during COVID?

(1:13:10) - How far out can you hedge?

(1:14:26) - Since you’ve been around, what’s been the best year to be in this business?

(1:15:58) - Do the major packers dominate the industry or does it revolve around the cattle rancher?

(1:16:35) - How would you value a cattle operation?

(1:18:44) - The U.S. Beef Trade Deal with China

(1:19:49) - If you had 100 million dollars and you had to invest in the cattle business, where would you put it?

(1:21:45) - What is a day like for a ranch hand?

(1:24:01) - What does it cost to lease land to put your cattle on?

(1:26:25) - We’ve found ways to make food for cheaper and less. At what point have we gone too far and we’re just making bad beef?

(1:28:02) - Do cattle ranchers pay insurance on the cattle?

(1:29:58) - How far are we from a point in time where there are not enough people in the industry?

(1:30:42) - What’s your favorite cut of beef?

(1:31:01) - What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The FORT with Chris Powers is produced by Straight Up Podcasts