by Steven E Smith
Deep in the heart of Angus seed stock country, the Wallbridge Angus herd is going strong today. Known as a respected Angus herd within breeder circles for many years, today the Wallbridge herd is owned and managed by a young family that has taken added steps of bringing their products and customers together.
Wallbridge Angus started when the farm was established by George Wallbridge Perkins in 1950. The Perkins family developed a presence in the Angus breed through careful matings that yielded a internationally recognized results. The Perkins Wallbridge bred the 1968 International Grand Champion Female with Wallbridge Barbara 12 and the 1967 Royal Highland Champion Bull, Great Northern. Wallbridge cattle were recognized in the show ring by the time the family dispersed their herd in the 1981, save a small group of cattle.
Enter Doug and Cheryl Giles, who came to work at the Wallbridge Farm in 1994. “I came to Eastern New York to help with a beef sale. While here I was offered a job and I stayed.” Doug met Cheryl and their life was rooted in Millbrook, NY. In 2007, the Giles had the opportunity to purchase the operation from the Perkins family where they continue to lease the land today. Recently, Giles, who serves as Vice President of the NY Angus Association, was one of the host farms for the National Angus Tour.
As with the whole industry of agriculture, all farmers are faced with the decision to accept the farm gate price for their production at the basic wholesale price or to implement a processing and marketing plan that generates a higher value for their products. The latter is termed vertical integration and the implementation of the practice can aid a farm to realize more net revenue per unit as well as gain additional market share because they reach customers who would otherwise not purchase from them. Since purchasing Wallbridge Angus, the Giles family has established their Wallbridge Farm Market at the farm.
“Little Rest is the name for the little hamlet that existed here in yesteryear. Back then there was a general store and a few other buildings when this place served as a ‘Little Rest’ for horse drawn wagons traveling up the hills out of the valley. When we decided to renovate an old granary for the farm store it was symbolic of that history of this place,” stated Dan Foss, Herdsman at Wallbridge.
Since starting the farm store, Wallbridge Angus has had positive results from the endeavor. “The direct market has permitted us to continue our business by improving the cash flow,” stated Giles. Since its inception, the Wallbridge Farm Market store is now marketing a steer a week. The product offering includes beef, pork, chicken eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruits, pasta, jams, jellies and other products from the valley. “We are pleased with the reception that the local community has shown us. “We are open Thursday through Sunday and we have seen steady traffic. Our customers know that the beef we sell in our store is the same beef we feed our children,” added Giles.
The Wallbridge Farm operation is home to 250 registered Angus cattle. As part of the operation, Giles indicated that they manage about 25 head for another breeder whose animals are housed at Wallbridge. Giles gave credit to members of the farm staff that assist him with the care of the herd and production of the crops while describing the farm business to Angus breeders who toured the farm during the National Angus tour. “We have an excellent team here that is close like many families would be. Our growth and expansion of operations is possible because of them.”
“With regards to herd management, the team’s focus is pasture management so that our animals can be kept on pasture from May to Christmas.” Over the winter months, the herd is fed corn silage from Harvestores and baleage for the forage based feeding program. The Wallbridge farm consists of 900 owned acres combined with another 900 acres leased. “When they come to the farm to purchase from us, they are going right to the source. We have noticed that there is interest in what we do on the farm that results in the beef they are buying. Consumers appreciate getting to know us and learning that what we raise here is what they eat,” stated Giles.
Along with farm operations and farm store management, Wallbridge Angus is active in marketing genetics from their breeding herd. The marketing philosophy at Wallbridge is to make the best genetics available across a spectrum of prices. They like to work with younger breeders who are looking to make a start in the business stated Giles. “We like to emphasize having cows that are going to go to work for a buyer and in every price range.”
As one of the founding member farms that established the long running Cow Power Sales here in Eastern New York, Wallbridge has a tradition of being a contributor to the seed stock cattle business. Originally started in 1972, the Cow Power sale today involves the breeder herds of Wallbridge, Heathcote, Rally, Sir William as well as Spring Hill Farm in Vermont and River Bend Angus of New Jersey. Giles added that there are good cattle all over New York State thanks to a strong state Angus association. “I believe there will be opportunities in the beef community.”
“For us, getting the opportunity to take over here at Wallbridge has been fantastic,” said Giles. It requires a willingness to be aggressively focused on strengths and performance of the business as well as assess new opportunities and be willing to change. “Ten years ago, I never thought we would be running a farm store but it has improved the bottom line of this business. What is more is that we have grown to appreciate educating and developing closer relationships with our customer base,” concluded Giles.
by Steven E Smith