My red Ford Focus looked out of place at the Richmond, Kentucky auction barn. Surrounded by pickups and trailers, my Ohio tags were a long way from home and looked it. But when I walked through the doors of the salebarn restaurant, I was greeted like family.
It was clear I wasn’t a regular, but Billy and Scott Turpin waved me over to their table. They insisted we order lunch before we talking cattle over a checkered tablecloth in the hometown haunt.
The father and son can only be described as good ‘ol Kentucky boys. Passionate about their farm and family, they are commercial cattlemen with deep tobacco farming roots. On the drive from Richmond to what they call their ‘main farm’ they pointed out where they had gone to school, told stories of their grandfathers and memories of what the farm had been before today.
The Angus cowherd, once secondary to the cash crop and their vocational ag teaching careers, have now become Billy and Scott’s sole focus. Pulling into the drive, I saw a familiar sight for the state of Kentucky — a traditional big black tobacco barn. Today it serves as their headquarters. Inside hang pictures of their successful land judging teams, Billy judging at the North American as well as relics from the time when they regularly harvested tobacco. Though you can see what it once was, they’ve added updates to better serve its new purpose. Next to where the tobacco plants once hung to dry is a warming room that serves as a haven on days when a newborn calf needs to be sheltered from Mother Nature.
Like most in the cattle business, they sell by the pound, but have always focused on ways to provide added value. Their goal is to be a supplier of a premium product, with their sights set on the Certified Angus Beef® brand.
There is a place for commodity cattle,” Billy says. “But there’s a place for upper-end cattle too.”
Scott explains, “We’d rather be on the premium end than the commodity end.”
However, feeding cattle and getting carcass data has never been in the cards from a cash-flow perspective. The father and son have worked on choices that pay off at the ranch level, including an emphasis on selecting for Angus bulls with optimum Angus Dollar Value indexes including $B and $W, investing in developing quality forages and health programs.
But so far, they’ve only been able to hope that it’s working for the consumer, too.
“If you’re going to invest in good, high-quality genetics, you should be able to get some of that value,” says Scott. “I know there’s a lot of value in these cattle that we never see.”
Cattle buyers sent signals that always seemed positive, but this year they retained ownership on a few, wanting the data to tell them the truth. Partnering with other local Angus producers, they sent a partial load to Pratt Feeders in Kansas and soon hope to discover the results.
“We want to be able to capture the true value of the genetics we’ve invested in,” Billy says. “And to do that, we need to hang them on the rail and see what they’re worth.”
On the Turpin farm, time tells a story. It’s one where the family hasn’t been afraid to make changes to do what makes sense for profitability. Time will tell what decisions are working and which aren’t, but they know the numbers will indicate what needs to happen next.
Until Next Time,