Eckels develop strong beef feeding farm
Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor
Tuesday, 10 September 2013 09:48
PERRYSBURG - An old fast food commercial asked the question, "Where's the beef?"
|At the Eckel Farm, brothers, (from left) Nolan, Nick and Nathan pose in front of a portion of the steers being fed on Sept. 3. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Among the best answers in Wood County is on the Eckel Farm in Perrysburg Township.
The Eckel brothers, Nolan, Nathan and Nick, work together as they feed out Holstein calves. Each of the three take on different roles in the operation.
The farm operation acquires beef feeder calves at roughly four months old and feeds them up to 300 to 350 pounds each.
"We feed them out for meat," Nolan said noting they may have the animals at their facility for roughly 12 to 14 months.
He said they pick up roughly 40 to 50 new calves every two weeks to keep the cycle going.
He says they own the cows they raise which are acquired through the Buckeye Heifer Resources network across all of Ohio.
They own the animals shortly after their birth, purchasing the calves primarily from five different family operations. Those cow-calf operations will feed them until they are old enough to transport to the Eckels.
The business was an outgrowth of Nolan's Eastwood High School FFA project. He started using an old family barn and conducted a similar one-man operation with roughly 35 head for his FFA project in 1998. That was his freshman year.
Over the years, the herd size increased, his brothers joined in until today when it is among the largest beef operations in Wood County. They currently average around 750 head on the farm at any one time.
"This about the size where we want to be," Nathan said of their current capacity, with no immediate plans to grow larger.
"We've always had cattle," he added noting they always took beef projects to the Wood County Fair as youth.
Though primarily handled by the brothers, they sometimes hire someone to help when it is time to bale hay.
They may get a few heifers, but generally, they raise all steers, according to Nathan.
Once they get the steers up to goal weight they are sold to a big packing plant in Michigan which processes around 2,000 head of cattle a day.
Nolan said they take a full semi truck load about once a month. They hold 38 to 40 head.
The animals which don't head north to Michigan go to Bucyrus to auction.
Nathan explained how they also grain farm around 500 to 600 acres. It is a recycling effort as the grain is used to feed the animals and the manure from the steers is used to fertilize the land.
Though they are not a certified "organic" farm, the process of using the manure provides organic material as opposed to chemical fertilizers.
The cattle are fed a mixture of barley, shelled corn and corn gluten pellets.
The Sentinel-Tribune visited at feeding time when much of the herd was packed around the feeding areas. However, Nolan says the open barns allow the cows plenty of fresh air and there is roughly 50 square feet of space for each steer.
"They all have more than enough room to lay down," Nathan said.
Although they have a rotation plan with one barn used for the younger calves, and the herd rotated through the other barns as the steers grow, sometimes they may just spend most of their time at the Eckel Farm in one or two of the numerous barns.
Each brother primarily takes on different roles within the operation. Nolan manages the cattle, including acquiring the calves and the sale of the finished product. Nathan focuses on the grain farming.
Nick works off the field as a salesman with the Schuerman Pioneer Seed Agency in Pemberville. He also assists with various aspects of the operation including helping with various aspects of the grain operation.
Nick said his busiest time with the seed operation is the winter, so that allows him more time to work on the farm the rest of the year.
"I would say I split my time about 50-50," Nick said. "It works really well. I am pretty flexible."
"We are all flexible," Nolan added.
Their father, Jim Eckel got the boys started to help diversify the family grain farming operation.
"It was his way to keep us all on the farm," Nathan said.
Their father died in 2010. They are the fourth generation of Eckels to farm the land.
Nolan graduated from Owens Community College, while both his brothers earned degrees from Ohio State University.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 11:29