Brothers Grow Beef Business One Step at a Time

5/31/2014 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

Ben and Dave Nogan’s beef farm dream has been a work in progress. This year, they made the step from farm renters to farm owners.

The Nogans, from Scott Township, Lackawanna County, had been renting a 211-acre farm for the past four years. The previous owners, a set of four sisters, decided they wanted to sell, offering the Nogan brothers a chance to own the farm.

They have been growing corn, soybeans and some hay at the farm. Now that they own the property, they are working double time to get their cow/calf operation relocated this summer.

Ben Nogan said they have to repair fences and some items in the barn to prepare for the move. The farm was originally a dairy operation, but the former owners’ father had converted to beef for several years. Previous renters had only cropped the ground and had not kept animals there.

“Basically we have used it for crops and now are going use the farm to its full potential,” Ben Nogan said of the property.

The brothers’ cow/calf herd is currently housed on pastures that were not being used by their parents’ beef herd. The Nogans also picked up additional pasture acreage at a nearby rental farm.

Once the herd is moved to the farm, the brothers’ goal is simple — expand the cow/calf herd to a sustainable size for the pastures at the farm.

The brothers say their partnership just made sense. They both loved cattle and wanted to strike out on their own, but wanted to support the family’s home farm as well. They work full time for their parents, Jeff and Ann Nogan, who operate a beef operation and agricultural supply company.

“We are working ahead on our own, but we don’t want to separate” completely, Dave Nogan said.

The calves they raise most likely will be finished at their parents’ farm and then sold through contract to Cargill Meat Solutions in Wyalusing, Pa., or by private sale.

Like most young farmers, the brothers needed to secure the lending for the farm purchase. To get the loans, the first step was to build a business plan.

They worked with Bill Wehry in the Pennsylvania Farm Service Agency office, Sherry Potocek from the Bradford County Farm Service Agency office and Howard Updyke from Peoples National Bank.

“They were a big help in getting it done,” Ben Nogan said.

Dave Nogan said their farm records were an asset. “We knew what the farm could produce,” he said. Many beginning farmers will use estimated county yields rather than the farm’s actual yields when developing a plan.

High cattle prices have benefited them on the feeder side of the business but could be a challenge as they build their herd. It’s why Ben Nogan says farm diversity was a key element in their business plan.

The corn is sold to local farms or used at their farm, and the soybeans are sold to a local feed mill. The brothers also market hay and mulch hay.

Ben Nogan says that when one area of the business is running at high prices, another will be low. But, ultimately across all of their enterprises, the farm’s profit margin will even out.

As a result, the brothers received a Young and Beginning Farmers Loan through the Farm Service Agency and additional financing from People’s National Bank to purchase the property.

They do not have a profit team of consultants to meet with regularly about their business, but if they have a question, they will go out and seek the answers.

Ben Nogan said they get about “every cattle magazine they can” to keep up on the latest trends and ideas in the industry.

They also say they love to talk with other producers about their farms. Dave Nogan said young producers can always learn from others and it’s a good way to pick up on innovations to incorporate on their own operations.

They best piece of advice they have for young producers is to look for mentors, saying that has been a key element to their success.

Dave Nogan said they have had several mentors, in addition to their parents, who have provided advice in helping to get their business off the ground.

Working with your brother can be tough, but as Ben Nogan said, “No relationship is perfect, but we both have the same goals” for the farm.

The brothers say they develop a plan and stick to it as a way to minimize day-to-day disagreements.

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