Small Georgia Cattle Farm Grows With Help From UGA | State
FORSYTH – What Joseph Egloff started as a “little hobby” in 2011 is now a full-time cattle ranch with a meat-packing plant that serves customers from Florida to North Carolina.
“I had eight head of cattle and a day job to pay for my cow habit,” Egloff said of Rocking Chair Ranch Cattle in Forsyth. “Then it exploded on us. What started out as a small hobby turned into real work, and after about three years we were up to about 58 head of cattle a year.
As the business continued to grow, Egloff turned to the Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia for help.
SBDC consultant Peter Williams developed financial projections and a work plan for Egloff’s first successful grant application and helped him with some marketing strategies.
Egloff also received support from UGA Extension. Each year, he sends soil samples from his ranch to the extension for quality analysis to inform the decisions he makes for his pastures.
“They’re great people out there, and for a farm that doesn’t have the experience of others, they have welcome knowledge,” Egloff said. “Even though I am called a cattle rancher, I am nothing more than a grass farmer. You take care of the soil, the soil takes care of the grass, the grass takes care of the cattle. The foundation is good healthy soil.
Since 2017, sales of the Rocking Chair Ranch have increased by 20%. But Egloff says he could do better, reducing the time and cost of getting cattle to the nearest processing plant.
“Joseph would take the cattle to the nearest processing plant, about an hour and a half outside of Tifton, once a week,” Williams said. “It was causing a bottleneck in their production, and he wanted an alternative. So we started discussing the possibility of him starting his own factory.
With the help of UGA SBDC, Egloff successfully secured a loan from the Small Business Administration of nearly $ 1 million to build his own processor.
Construction began in 2019 and MidSouth Packers opened in August 2020.
Egloff said he hopes to process up to 43,000 pounds of meat each month. But the figures have far exceeded his expectations: 59,000 pounds processed in February 2021, 68,000 in March and 74,000 in April.
MidSouth Packers serves farmers on more than 70 small farms across the Southeast, pulling cattle as far north as Franklin, North Carolina, and as far south as Lake City, Florida.
He said he hopes to expand to processing lambs and goats in 2022.
“With the packaging facility, I can support other small livestock producers, and it makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile,” Egloff said. “But I didn’t build this thing on my own. I knew in my mind that this thing could work, but I didn’t know how to make it work. We received a lot of help and I am very grateful to Peter and the others for that.
Émilie Gille is the public relations coordinator of the UGA Public Service and Outreach.