Cattle ranch grows to fit customers' needs

Doug Warnock

By DOUG WARNOCK

For the Capital Press

Good management and marketing, creativity and hard work have paid off for the Yon family, which operates an Angus cattle ranch near Ridge Springs, S.C.

The Yon ranch was one of several I visited on an animal science tour in July. The tour was part of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents' Annual Meeting, hosted by South Carolina Extension Educators and Clemson University.

As a young married couple with three small children, Kevin and Lydia Yon started with 100 cows on 100 acres of leased land. Today, they run over 700 Angus and Angus-Simmental cross cows on 2,500 acres and keep seven people busy full time and three others part time. The family operation includes their two sons, Drake and Corbin, and daughter-in-law Sally. Kevin and Lydia have spent 30 years building their Angus herd.

They specialize in selling functional breeding cattle to other beef producers through two sales each year held in their own sales arena. They conduct a performance-tested bull sale on the third Saturday of February and a bull and female sale on the first Saturday of November. Yon bulls are sold to beef producers in eight states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest.

The Yons' cattle-breeding program involves synchronizing estrous and artificially inseminating the cows, then using a pickup bull. They also transfer embryos from the purebred cows to commercial cows to increase the production of high-performing cattle from the available genetics. Performance data are collected and recorded on the herd.

"While production factors are of high value, the temperament of the cattle is also important," Kevin said. "In addition, we select breeding cattle on the basis of good feet and legs." The Yons stand behind the bulls they sell and replace any that don't meet expectations.

Innovation is shown in their utilization of low-cost commodity byproducts to supplement their pasture. Various crop residues, such as wheat straw, peanut hay and grocery waste are used as cattle feed. They use waste fruit and vegetables from a local Walmart store, which are chopped and mixed with straw to obtain an 18 percent dry matter feed.

The cattle operation is the Yon family's major focus, but their sideline business is the sale of livestock feed and feed supplements, vitamins and minerals, crop seeds and fencing materials.

The feed and seed store is operated on a self-service honor system. When the Yons and their employees are all busy and away from the store, customers are able to come by, select their merchandise and leave a list of their purchases for later billing. Neighbors and friends appreciate the store and are always reliable in paying for their purchases.

The Yon family is not only successful as an agricultural business, but also proactive in conservation programs and environmental issues. They provide an excellent example of what hardworking people in agriculture can accomplish, while enjoying their way of life.

Doug Warnock, retired from Washington State University Extension, lives on a ranch in the Touchet River Valley where he consults and writes on ranch management.

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