Like many farmers, Davin Althoff’s experience in agriculture is a story in two interconnected parts. There is the day-to-day, immediate picture of his diversified family farming operation, and there is the big picture of ag markets and policies.
At home on the Althoff farm in Moniteau County, Missouri, corn planting is progressing rapidly, although part of that is because of a lack of rainfall, which pastures and ponds could use. His farm also has a beef cattle operation, cow-calf pairs and backgrounding stocker cattle, and the latest crop of spring calves is rapidly growing in the pasture.
Althoff works as director of marketing and commodities for Missouri Farm Bureau, helping set policy goals, and he has worked several other jobs in the ag sector, including the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Beef Industry Council, so he is familiar with the big picture part of agriculture as well.
As for the big picture, headlines around the world shape ag markets. It rains or doesn’t rain in Argentina, or China decides to buy more American beef and pork, or legislators in state capitols and Washington, D.C., set policies relating to agriculture, and that affects producers back home.
“We need folks in agriculture who can advocate for our way of life,” Althoff says.
He enjoys that way of life, and raising cattle near California, Missouri. His cow-calf herd is about a third spring calving and two-thirds fall calving, and then an order buyer buys lightweight heifers to bring in for the stocker cattle side of the operation, feeding them up to around 700 pounds before selling them to feedlots, some locally and some to the great feedlots out West.
He has been pushing the quality in his cattle.
“We have been focusing really on the genetics,” Althoff says.
He also partners with some other local producers to work with a feedlot in Oklahoma to retain some ownership in their cattle sent to the feedlot. Althoff says he has been able to capture some of the grid premiums in his cattle sent there, even if the sometimes-high feed bills can catch his attention. He says it has been helpful getting more genetic information on his cattle and gradually improving their performance.
Althoff used to be all spring calving, but he has been happy with having some spring and some fall, starting with fall calving 10 to 15 years ago.
“I wanted to diversify my opportunity in terms of hitting the market different times of the year,” he says.
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There are pros and cons to calving at each time, but Althoff says it works for him to have a mix of both.
“It’s definitely a diversification opportunity for cow-calf producers to look at,” he says.
Opportunity is also an important factor in Althoff’s job with Missouri Farm Bureau.
As director of marketing and commodities, he works with the organization’s 13 different commodity committees. With Missouri ranking in the top 10 nationally in 10 different commodities, there are a lot of agricultural sectors in the state vying for priority.
“We are a powerhouse state as it relates to farming and ranching,” Althoff says.
He says at the annual in-person committee meetings, members discuss the issues that are important to them and any potential policy solutions that might be needed. Althoff says they might be national issues like the Waters of the United States ruling or more local production issues like black vultures and how to deal with the protected birds that can behave aggressively around livestock. Althoff says Missouri Farm Bureau secured a sub permit from the federal government and can issue permits to livestock producers to kill up to five of the birds, which can be a problem, especially for young calves. He says killing one of the birds and hanging it as an effigy has shown to be an effective deterrent.
The commodity committees also identify opportunities, such as the American Foods Group building a new meat processing facility in east central Missouri, which Althoff says could have a lot of potential for cattle producers in the area. Producers have another marketing option and could look to finish more cattle locally.
“American Foods Group is a huge opportunity we see,” Althoff says.
Before his time at Missouri Farm Bureau, Althoff worked for multiple state government departments, the state Senate and the beef industry council, always working on ag-related issues. He knew early on he wanted to be involved in big-picture ag issues in addition to working in production agriculture on the farm.
“Growing up in agriculture, it’s just a part of my blood,” he says. “I love farming and ranching, being a part of the operation. But also, we need farmers and ranchers to be involved, whether it’s on a voluntary basis, or farm kids being involved in other aspects of agriculture beyond just the production side.”
Althoff says at some point he expects to go back to the farm full time, but he still plans to be involved in ag issues and the broader ag industry. He says he will always be interested in promotion and advocacy for agriculture.
His favorite part of his off-the-farm jobs remains the people he meets.
“It’s always meeting the people,” he says. “I just really enjoy meeting the farmers and ranchers and people involved in agriculture. … The people have been what I’ve really enjoyed, getting to know them and learning from them.”