David Duff has seen plenty of good times and bad in the cattle feeding industry. It’s a tough business in which it keeps getting tougher to squeeze out a profit.
After 44 years, Duff has decided it’s time to walk away from the industry that his family helped to build into one of the major economic engines in Scott County.
“This little, old hill has produced a lot of memories,” says Duff as he looks over the feedlot, located southeast of Shallow Water, that was built to handle 15,000 head of livestock. Today it has only a handful of pens with bison that are being finished off for market.
Duff, 69, is candid about his reasons for retiring.
Outside of dealing with the hardship caused by drought during the past three years, and higher grain prices as a result, Duff says there are too few “true cattlemen” in the business today.
And the Duff family put principle ahead of profits. They refused to compromise on the issue of captive markets which reared its head more than two decades ago.
Captive supplies are typically defined as cattle that packers own or contract to purchase two weeks or more prior to slaughter.
The concept is simple. A packer doesn’t have to control the entire cattle market to have an influence on price. But with enough cattle committed to them, they could put feedlots in a difficult marketing position.