Editor’s note: BEEF magazine’s serialization of Kenneth Eng’s industry history and personal memoir, entitled “Started Small & Just Got Lucky,” continues with the consulting nutritionist’s thoughts and recollections on the decade of the 1990s. The book debuts later this month at the Dr. Kenneth & Caroline McDonald Eng Foundation research symposium, set for Sept. 18-19 in San Antonio, TX, click here for more information on the symposium and ordering the book.


CHAPTER 25: The 1990s – Building a yearling business and downsizing

In 1990, my wife Caroline was becoming more involved in my business and we decided to concentrate on running yearlings. We usually ran 8,000 to 10,000 each year in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. We bought small calves (3 to 4 weights) and backgrounded them at Mason County Feeders in Texas and other yards nearby. We grazed them on either wheat pasture or summer grass.

Donny Stockbridge from Mason Cattle Company bought a lot of my calves, and while they weren’t the prettiest, they had a good outcome. We fed the “tail end” we didn’t sell as yearlings. Normally, we fed a couple of thousand head. Although our feedlot cattle were the “plainer” end, they performed well. I delivered a lot of them on the fat futures until they got picky about how cattle looked. Their yield and grade was great, but they didn’t fit the picture of what some thought a deliverable animal should look like.

Delivering cattle on the futures could be aggravating. We delivered one group to the packing plant at Dumas, TX, and they cut out an outstanding steer and called it a bull. It had a Mexican brand, so I knew it shouldn’t be a bull and I told the grader he just had a big cod full of fat. The grader told me how ignorant I was, and I could see I might win the battle, but lose the war. I said, “Go ahead and kill him separately, but if you would, send me the testicles.” There were none. The funny part of this story is they screwed up on the carcass weight and the animal yielded 75% and brought a big premium. Once again, it’s not a perfect world, but it’s good to be lucky.

Our main bank was Farm Credit West in Paso Robles, CA, and occasionally the bankers would come to check the pasture cattle. This was a bigger chore than they thought.

The banker, John Goldsmith, would always tell Caroline, “If you wanted to screw us, you could figure a way so I don’t know why I bother looking.”

Caroline said, “John you’re right, but we’d never mistreat you,” and that was the end of that story.

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We sold a lot of our cattle on the Superior Video held every other Friday in Fort Worth in the old stockyards district. Caroline and I both loved the area. She loved it especially because there was a Leddy’s western store next door. John Goldsmith and Bob Cox from California Farm Credit went with us to one of the videos where we had several lots of cattle for sale. We stayed and ate at the Stockyards Hotel, which is a real treat, if you’ve never done it. Also the White Elephant Saloon across the street can be pretty entertaining and just as western as it was in the old trail driver days.

The next day at the video, it occurred to Goldsmith this was a good way to check our inventory figures. John said, “I don’t need to go to the pastures, I’ll just go to the video at Fort Worth to get your inventory.” John liked eating and sleeping at the Stockyards Hotel and partying at the White Elephant better than bumping across country in a pickup.