Wade Bryant, general manager at Kerr Feed & Grain, represents the fourth generation of the Kerr family to provide feed and nutrition products to producers surrounding Henrietta, TX. In 1930, the company started to plant its roots with small retail location where Bryant's great grandpa started selling feed and other farm supplies. By 1948, Kerr Feed & Grain was born and had established itself as a retailer for other lines of feed; by the mid-50s, it had established the mill and began blending and grinding feed for its customers. From there the company continued to build on to the mill and by the 1970s, it was steam flaking, blending and pelleting own products under the Kerr label.
Today, 90% of Kerr Feed & Grain’s business is retail; the other 10% is wholesale feed delivered straight to the ranch. It mainly manufacturers cattle feed, but also many other feeds, i.e. horse, swine, poultry and other specialty products. The company delivers feed within 100-mile radius of Henrietta, including southern Oklahoma and north Texas.
Recently, Kerr Feed & Grain moved toward a cooperative-like model by diversifying its offerings with lawn and garden products, hardware and electrical supplies to become a one-stop shop for the rural community.
Bryant notes that while many smaller ag outfits in the area have gone out of business — as high operating costs and commodity volatility have made it difficult to compete — and the ones that have survived have done so through consolidated with larger companies. Bryant feels that as long as Kerr Feed and Grain stays price conscious and somewhat competitive, customers will continue to trade with them because they know they are concerned about them and their operation.
“There’s room for a regional, local player like us,” he says. “We have customers who did business with my granddad and continue to trade with us because we do what we can to take care of them."
As Bryant looks to the future, he asserts his feeling that the company will maintain a balance between growth and maintaining the business.
“When we entertain growth — like hiring outside sales reps or increasing our geographic coverage — we feel it’s important to keep things manageable,” Bryant says. This being said, he feels that the bulk cattle feed industry “is definitely the way of the future.”
“In 11 years since I’ve been here full time, I’ve witnessed this growth,” Bryant explains, pointing to the fact the company used to run 75% bagged product and 25% bulk, in his time it has shifted to a 50/50 split.
“There will always be a demand and need for bags, but the bulk industry — as far as distribution and the ability to service more customers — is the way of the future," he says, "especially as these guys continue to invest in feeders that distribute bulk products as well as overhead bins to be able to accept deliver on bulk product.
While some ranch operations won’t be able to justify the capital investment, Bryant attributes the root of the shift to bulk to the efficiency required by an aging ranching population, as they are less likely to take chances with injury bag feeding can deliver.
The grain business
In the late 1960s, the Kerr Feed & Grain erected a 120,000-bushel grain elevator with two elevator legs. As grain production in the area decreased “because the harvesting isn’t what it used to be,” the company now handles wheat during the harvest, May through July, but usually uses it to store grain for the feed mill in the winter.
“Back in the late 80s, we handled hundreds of thousands of bushels of grain, but to be candid with you, after the last harvest we didn’t buy one bushel of wheat,” Bryant explains. “It wasn’t the backbone of our business, but t was always a supplement to what we did. Now when we build our budgets, we know we can’t hang our hat on it. If anything comes in, it’s just extra.”