Livestock hauler, marketer credits 4-H for giving her job skills
HUSTISFORD – Livestock hauler and marketer Becky Doman uses her 4-H market livestock judging experience to get farmers the best prices for their animals.
Doman is among the 413,500 people employed in Wisconsin’s $88 billion agriculture business. According to FFA New Horizons, the top jobs include drone technologists, hydrologists, agriculture communicators, food scientists and precision agriculture technologists.
4-H offers youth an opportunity to explore many areas of interest by offering youth the opportunity to choose projects that interest them and explore them further. 4-H also provides youth with valuable contacts and resources that help them in their future endeavors.
Doman, an enthusiastic supporter of the 4-H program, offered up her insights on her career as the owner of a livestock hauling and marketing business during a tour in which Dodge County 4-H members learned about a variety of careers, and how 4-H helped prepare workers for their chosen careers.
The Watertown woman is a familiar face to the youth because of her prior experience showing livestock and her continued involvement as a youth livestock volunteer. She described for the youth the preparation and risks involved in running a cattle hauling and marketing business.
She says it’s not only her investment in a cattle trailer and truck, but also in licensing and bonding and insurance that is needed before even starting out.
She will truck cattle seven days a week but markets are open five days so usually she has weekends off.
Her phone begins ringing at 4 a.m. and she begins the effort to put together loads and plan marketing strategies. If she has requests to haul too many in a day she will decide on priorities.
She takes the animals to wherever she feels she can get the best deal for the farmer travelling hundreds of miles to wherever she feels will be the best market.
“This is no job if you are a planner,” she says. “Plans can change quickly and I need to make decisions and move.”
By looking closely at the animal she can determine if they will get the best price with grade and yield or on the hoof. She credits her experience in 4-H livestock and meat judging for her ability to handle this task.
“And it can be difficult as a woman to get started, too,” she says.
Her contacts with farmers who knew her from showing and judging events in their youth have been very helpful.
“Mostly it just takes time,” she says. “I started with a few and built trust. Now it’s word-of-mouth. My best advertising is those I have helped to get a better price for their animals.”
She not only hauls cattle for area farmers but she also finds the best market for them. Most of the animals she hauls are dairy cattle that are being culled out of the herd for one reason or another – usually low production. They may still produce enough, however, to be purchased by another dairy farmer who is low on animals. They may also be sold for hamburger.
She says, “I don’t just pick up their animals. I try to educate them on their options for where to sell each animal.”
Sometimes she even delays selling an animal she picks up.
She offered the example of a time she picked up some calves to haul to market but the market was very low that day and the farmer would have ended up paying more for hauling than he got for the animal.
She took them back to her farm, fed them at night and again in the morning. The next day she tried again and the market was up so she sold them, bringing a much better price to the farmer.
While some farmers own their own cattle trailers and could haul their own animals to market, she says sometimes it is more beneficial to them to group their animals with other similar animals and let her market them as a group.
“It gives me more bargaining power if I have a group of similar animals and not just one,” she says.
Doman stresses, “It is important for me to watch out for the farmer because if the farmer fails, so do the cattle truckers, milk haulers, service people and suppliers. I must do my part to help them do the best so they can stay in business.”
She notes, “The worst job I have is when a guy must go out of business and I load his cows. We both shed tears as we load them. Thankfully I only had to do that a couple of times but that is very hard.”
She also deals in feeder cattle, going to the video auction in Lancaster and grouping together animals for buyers in her area according to what she knows they are looking for. She draws on her years of showing and judging livestock to help with her decisions.
No matter what kind of animal she is dealing with she must keep careful records and ear tag information according to her license with the Department of Agriculture.
She has an agricultural marketing and business degree from South Dakota University but she says, “I really credit growing up on a farm and my livestock and meat judging experiences. Because of that I can tell the quality and amount of meat on an animal and then find the best way to market it.”
She concludes, “I can assure you without 4-H I wouldn’t have the skills to do this sort of thing.”
National 4‑H Week is October 6 – 12 and the theme is Inspire Kids to Do. Check it out at your local UW-Extension office.