“Right feed, right time, right place,” the motto of J.D. Heiskell & Co., a 125-year-old grain and commodity trading business, says it all. The privately held company has evolved its business to stay true to this promise, while maintaining the family values it touts as its foundation. The country’s fourth largest feed manufacturing company by volume, J.D. Heiskell & Co. has boldly grown in order to keep up with the demands of its customer base, exceeding expectations along the way.
“Our history proves a great deal of staying power,” says Aaron Reid, J.D. Heiskell & Co’s vice president and the general manager of the Southwest Business Group. “We’ve been in the business a long time and continue to diversify.”
Over the course of the last decade, such diversity has allowed the company to evolve from a feed manufacturing facility in Tulare, CA, to a major provider of feed, grain and commodity inputs. The company operates feed mills and trans-loading facilities in seven western states and three trading offices that facilitate Domestic grain and commodity trade as well as exports to Mexico, the Pacific Rim and the Far East.
“Our corporate goal is to be a quality host to our customers and employees,” Reid says. “We ask ourselves: Are our customers happy to do business with us or are we just another shipper/receiver? We strive to be more. We want to host their business to the point where they enjoy doing business with us.”
The drive to expand its offerings to better serve its customers prompted the company to journey into previously unpenetrated markets.
The rise of the Southwest Business Group
As cattle numbers have steadily increased in destination markets like Texas and New Mexico, J.D. Heiskell & Co. seized this potential opportunity by strategically entering the Southwest market in 2006 with the acquisition of grain terminal in Portales, NM.
The Portales elevator is situated within a 150-mile radius of 1.3 million cattle and 400,000 dairy cows, allowing many opportunities to supply local feed lots and dairies. The company set out to become a point of demand in the marketplace, trucking 150 to 200 miles around the facility.
“Entering into a new marketplace is not an easy task,” Reid says. “I think part of our success in the Southwest can be attributed to the sustainability and growth [in the West] that we’ve been able to pour back into the business.”
And so the Southwest Business Group was born. With hopes to build this venture to the scale the company has achieved in California and Idaho, the group has focused first on building out its assets and securing a capable personnel base.
In 2009 J.D. Heiskell & Co. moved the group’s regional office from Portales, NM, to Amarillo, TX. The four merchandisers working out of the office aid in strengthening the company’s presence in the regional grain trade while securing the company’s position as a feed supplier to beef cattle and dairy.
“Initially our name wasn’t as recognized in Texas and New Mexico,” says Reid. “As the business has evolved and customers have gotten to know us, it has been rewarding to see the customers satisfied with our product and customer service.”
After successfully establishing a firm hold in the Southwest, the development of strategic partnerships prompted the company to further expand its assets in Friona, TX.
Enhanced operations in Friona
After years of leasing a grain elevator in Friona, TX, J.D. Heiskell & Co. purchased the facility in 2009.
The elevator splits 2 million bushels of storage capacity between flat, steel and upright concrete structures, and handles around 6 million bushels of corn, milo and wheat a year.
“This facility was built for local farmer origination — and has grown tremendously every year — but we’ve also moved to focus more on feed commodities on the outbound side,” Victor Worley, Southwest operations manager, explains.