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Web a lifeline for networking

02/14/2011 @ 1:58pm

Karl Falster says it frankly: He wouldn’t have his breeding stock business if not for the online networking he has embraced. Falster sells breeding stock and semen from his miniature Hereford and Jersey herds east of Dallas at Winnsboro, Texas. He maintains his own extensive website (falsterfarm.com) complete with husbandry tips and a blog. He also maintains a link to his website in The Cattle Breeders Directory at RuralAds.com.

“We had our biggest year ever, and I credit it all to our online presence,” says Falster about 2010. “It’s $100,000 in sales that we wouldn’t have had without the exposure of the Internet.”

Falster notes that for most beef producers, 99% of sales go through a local sale barn. His business runs on a different model – private treaty – with many contacts from people doing an Internet search. Some of them end up buying a bull, semen, or maybe even part ownership of a cow.

Animal husbandry information, unrelated to his specific breeding stock or sales, is extensive on Falster’s site. “I believe that what goes around comes around. You impart information to help people care for their animals, and it comes back to you in some way,” he says.

He recalls a woman who came to his site 20 times and says she learned something new every time. “She never bought anything, but that’s OK because we helped her.”

The Internet contacts have led to a whole new business for Falster in just the last year: a cow investment program. Interested folks with money to invest can own a cow (or several) that Falster will care for. A man wanted to own part interest in a Falster bull, and after much discussion, Falster said, “Why not just buy a cow and let us manage her for you?”

A new business was born. For investors, it’s a way to diversify retirement or other investments. A top purebred cow might cost $7,500, and that will yield a nice return if she delivers top offspring.

Online Gets Comfortable

Beth Andersland, Emmons, Minnesota, actually calls herself a nontechie. But she knows enough to list her business, which sells freezer quarters and halves from her Simmental herd, on a website called Minnesota Grown, a project of the state department of agriculture. Beth pays $60 a year to have a page on the site (www.minnesotagrown.com) and for a license to use the Minnesota Grown label.

“I could put a sign out front, but I never see most of my customers,” says Andersland. “They pick up the meat at the processor or have it delivered.

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