‘Eat like a rancher:’ Sandhills Beef Co. hoping to help producers, consumers


Deanna Nelson-Licking for Tri-State Livestock News

September 19, 2019


An engineer, a professional football player and a wrestling coach walk into a ranching community…


While it could have a funny ending, the punchline is anything but laughable. In fact, ranchers in the Nebraska, Sandhills, are hoping the unlikely trio can help write a happier ending to their current anything-but-happy cattle marketing novels.


The fed and feeder cattle market have been under tremendous strain over recent months, with an extreme downturn in the past 5 weeks, following a packing plant fire in Kansas. As fed cattle prices fall below 2003 levels, producers and feeders are looking for long-term answers to the diminished competition in the fed cattle market, which has resulted in per-head losses as high as $200 for many feeders in recent months, according to some market analysts.


Jacob Wingebach, John Howell and Brian Killion have partnered together to form Sandhills Beef Company. The three men are offering cattlemen the opportunity to market their own cattle with the hopes of capturing additional profit from their animals. According to the business model proposed, the rancher would own his or her cattle up to the point of slaughter, when the beef company would then buy the animal, slaughter it and market it.


Sandhills Beef is planning to give the average rancher a to promote their beef to a niche target market of those with a disposable income who will buy the best, say the owners.


On September 8, over 70 cattle producers gathered for a tour of the clean, efficient and newly renovated Hooker County Packing facility located south of Mullen, Nebraska.


The Sandhills Beef Co. owners believe they are taking the concept of “ranch to plate” to a new level. They intend to harness the use of social media as one of their marketing tools. Participating ranchers will have the option to create their own “brand” on the website utilizing videos of their operation to tell their story. Consumers will be able to see where their meat comes from and can buy with confidence. The partners feel that local ranchers are raising a superior product and should be paid a premium price. Sandhills Beef Company by having different “brands” underneath the main company will have outlets for Prime, Choice and lower choice can be ground to supply the ground beef demands.


As a beef marketing outlet, Sandhills Beef Company will handle the slaughter, packaging, marketing and delivery of aged beef.


Producers will own the cattle right up until they go to the packing house, but after that, Sandhills Beef will do the rest. The eventual goal is to have feeder cattle fattened at a central feedyard. Wingebach hopes to increase his packing house output up to 10 head a day, and he has staffing to handle that number. He has the capacity to hang 100 carcasses. The company is waiting on their final USDA inspection and are hoping be in operation by later this fall.


“This is a business model, we have the facility already, I’m asking ranchers to think outside the box and come talk to me. There is a decent margin to be made on your animals by generating interest and more value by telling their story. We want to work with the ranchers who want to be engaged in their future,” Wingebach said. “We are super excited about the turnout and thrilled with how things went at the meeting.”


Some local beef outlets are well on their way...