Shaw Cattle Company: Building A Long-Lasting Operation By Fusing Traditional Methods with Modern Technology

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“Our purpose is to produce for the future generation. I want to grow an empire for my kids,” says Tyler Shaw of Shaw Cattle Company, located in #Agri-Ready Designated Vernon County. Tyler and his wife, Whitney are doing their part to build a long-lasting brand and be responsible stewards of the land. Their hope is to build a family enterprise, that their children, Grady and Lyla, can step right into and that can last for generations to come. 

Shaw Cattle Company is a growing feeder calf operation, located near Walker, Missouri in Agri-Ready Designated Vernon County. The operation is part of a thriving agricultural industry in the region. Agriculture, food, forestry, and related industries power the county’s economic engine, support 4,381 jobs in Vernon County and generate $314.4 million in household income. 

Shaw Cattle Company specializes in ‘backgrounding,’ which means they acquire 400-to-500-pound calves and grow them to 900 to 1,000 pounds before they are sold. After being started at the Walker headquarters, the Shaws utilize both the grow yard and Flint Hills grass to efficiently grow the cattle. The operation, which started feeding cattle owned by others, has now transitioned into a 900 head operation, comprised solely of personal cattle.

Tyler’s journey in cattle production started as a young adult, when he packed his belongings and drove 24 hours west, to work on a cattle ranch in Montana. This experience gave him a true taste of the western rancher’s lifestyle and taught him valuable life lessons and connections that he benefits from to this day. “I am not saying everyone should move to Montana and work, but it was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I think every young person should move away from home, or at least experience things away from home and your parents. There are so many life lessons that come from outside of your comfort zone,” says Tyler about his time in Montana. 

Tyler talks about the humble beginnings of their operation during the historical drought of 2012, “We got our start with a set of drought cows that we bought for $920, I’ll never forget that number, that’s probably the most money I ever have or will make on a set of cows. We ran those cows for many years, and they helped us to build our headquarters in 2012.” That set of cows helped lay the foundation on which the Shaws have built their operation in the years since.

Tyler believes in a “bison-style” grazing system, with 150 to 200 head of yearlings grazing together in rotational patterns. Tyler’s goal is to be a steward of the land, and this grazing style, along with utilizing fertilization, has helped him achieve that goal. “We fertilize our ground to grow silage and we try to maximize the amount of forage that we can get out of the land. To meet our feed needs we still purchase a large amount of forage from other producers,” said Tyler. 

“I prefer black cattle, purebred dogs, and stout horses,” says Tyler, an avid believer in the old school way of handling cattle, still heavily utilizing horses and dogs in his day-to-day operation. He still believes in roping animals to administer individual medications that they need and can be found most days riding horseback through the cattle. He may believe in the old school way of handling cattle, but the business is running on today’s best technological advances. Tyler is not afraid of evolution, and it shows in his operation. “Live and die by the details…you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Tyler, about his beliefs in business. The modern-day software he utilizes allows him to track a multitude of details about every calf that enters the feedlot. He also utilizes LRP (Livestock Risk Protection) frequently, stating, “There is too much volatility for today’s producer, all the factors can come together for a perfect storm anytime. Futures contracting is the only way to mitigate that risk.”

Tyler’s advice to new producers entering the industry focuses on the complexity and ultimate reward for the next generation in agriculture. Tyler states, “Always remember that the short-term loss is worth it for the long-term gain. Get rid of debt, build equity, relationships, and infrastructure.” Tyler also talks about the struggle for new producers and the reward that can come from perseverance. “Bringing young people into agriculture is a long, rough road, one that is not for the weak,” says Tyler. “There will be days where it is tough, but it is always worth it. The reward of the life is worth the struggle.”

Tyler and Whitney have no plans to slow down and look forward to the future as they grow their operation. As children Grady and Lyla get older, they are continually integrated into the lifestyle that their parents have worked so hard to create. Tyler is a member of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, a partner of Missouri Farmers Care. Grady and Lyla are members of the Walker 4-H Club and are excited to start their stock show debuts this summer. 

By- Landon Hutchison, Duke Marketing Agency, for Missouri Farmers Care