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Well Stocked

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The Fritsch family fills a niche in the Texas cattle industry, buying stocker calves at local sale barns and feeding them right.

Texas cattleman Gary Fritsch was just 16 when he learned a lesson that would shape his lifelong business philosophy.

“I went to the bank in Fayetteville and asked the banker for a loan to buy some cattle. He asked me if I had any cattle to offer as collateral,” Gary says, recalling the mid-1960s experience. “I told him if I already owned some cattle, I wouldn’t need a loan.”

Not surprisingly, the loan request was denied. But the enterprising teenager was not deterred. Rather than give up, he borrowed funds from his aunt and resolved to build a cattle herd on his own.

“I’d buy one or two animals and sell them and pay my bills. Then I’d buy three or four,” Gary says, explaining how he built a cattle business by reinvesting in his own operation.

Today he operates Fritsch Cattle Company, buying and selling several hundred head of cattle a day. Yet he still follows the same approach he adopted as a teenager.

“Every calf we buy, we buy one at a time,” he says.

Up to 30 auctions a week

Fritsch Cattle Company is a preconditioned stocker operation and cattle order-buying business, supported by Texas Farm Credit. Headquartered near Fayetteville — midway between Austin and Houston — the operation involves Gary and his wife, Betty, and their sons, Brad, Todd and Ryan, better known as Bubba.

Six days a week, Gary, “the boys” and two additional buyers attend 25 to 30 cattle auctions within 100 miles of Fayetteville. On the road by mid-morning, they head in different directions — Gonzales, Lexington, Bryan
and other points — buying cattle for Fritsch Cattle or other producers.

The next day, the new purchases are sorted by weight, quality and sex. Each animal is tagged, vaccinated, branded and treated for apparent health issues. Then they’re put on owned or leased pastures in the area. It’s all part of the post-weaning program to help them adjust to a new environment.

“What we do is buy young animals, try to get them strong and healthy, and feed them right,” Gary says.

Located in cow-calf country

Brad Fritsch with Fritsch Cattle Company, sorts cattle arriving from a recent auction.

It’s a formula that works for the Fritsches, largely because of their location in Central Texas. The region is home to numerous small and part-time cow-calf operations that depend on local sale barns to market their

“Most of the calves we buy are from herds of 30 cows or less,” Gary says.

Generally, the Fritsches look for heifers and steers weighing between 250 and 800 pounds with strong gain potential. They retain about 70% of their purchases for their own operations. The remaining 30% are for other producers.

“It’s kind of like the stock market. When the market’s up, we don’t buy as many cattle, and when it’s down, we try to buy more,” says Gary, a licensed livestock dealer. “But because we deal in a large volume, things can go well or go poorly.”

Vulnerable to world events

For years, the Fritsches have used puts and calls and other price protections to reduce their risk in the cattle market. Still, Brad points out, they’re vulnerable to external events.

“In the cattle business, you can think everything’s good,” Brad said. “And then overnight something happens in the world, and it all changes.”

But whether the market is up or down, “pay day is always down the road,” Gary says. “We don’t get paid until the cattle are sold.”

Water, feed and shade

Jake Miles (L) and Brad Fritsch drive cattle to a pen at Fritsch Cattle Company

To get their stockers ready for finishing, the Fritches precondition them on high-quality pasture, supplemented with a ration they mix themselves, plus hay in winter. About 30 to 40 days after the cattle start eating 15 to 18 pounds of feed daily, they’re shipped to feedyards in the Texas Panhandle.

“We always want to have good water, good feed and plenty of shade — and people who know how to check the cattle,” Gary says. “That’s what keeps the place going.”

The “place” includes the separate operations they each run. Brad and Bubba own land and cattle in a partnership known as B&B Cattle. Todd, a former country music recording artist, owns his own cattle and recently purchased the Giddings Livestock Commission. Although not a part of Fritsch Cattle Company, their sister, Rachel, and her husband, Daniel Schley, raise show pigs and feeder cattle nearby. Betty handles accounts payable, and Brad’s wife, Amy, manages the office.

An early start

Buying, backgrounding and selling cattle — taking them from weaning to the feedlot stage — is a family tradition.

“I started with one calf, probably when I was 6 years old,” Gary says. His children did the same.

“I’d buy the boys one or two calves at a time. As they got older, they’d take their profits and buy some more,” he says. “I instilled in all of them, if you want to get ahead, pay your bills first and set some money
aside for your next purchase.”

He also cosigned their first cattle loans when they were in high school or college. Today, they all have their own revolving lines of credit with Texas Farm Credit. So do two of Gary and Betty’s grandchildren.

“Texas Farm Credit treats us well,” Gary says. “What I like is the profit-sharing. And the interest rate is so good.”

Farm Credit support

Their loan officer, Kevin Hemann, relationship manager with Texas Farm Credit, reports that the entire family spends countless hours serving the community.

“It’s a pleasure to work with the Fritsch family and see their passion for agriculture and young people firsthand,” Hemann says. “We look forward to working with them for years to come.”

With 10 children among them, the Fritsch siblings also appreciate Farm Credit’s support for rural youth activities.

“Texas Farm Credit has been so good to support the kids in FFA and 4-H and to be at the school functions,” says Brad, who along with Amy was a delegate to the 2015 Farm Credit Young Leaders Program. “You just tell them such and such is going on, and somebody from Texas Farm Credit will show up to support it.

“They’re out there helping to support agriculture.”

Cattle grazing with golden sky

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