Guest Post: It’s a sweet job in a sticky business.


Today’s Hi, I’m Agriculture post is brought to you by Mike Davelaar. Mike is a good friend of mine — while we met because of ag, we truly connected because of Mike’s passion for helping young adults and teens through his church and other outreach projects. Mike is one of my biggest cheerleaders as I work to advocate for mental health and eating disorder awareness (especially in young adults), but today Mike is sharing about what it means to work as a “cattle feed guy” in South Dakota.

Mike is pretty much the best, and I’m honored that he took time to write this for me!

Unconventional ag jobs. That’s what Kelly told me she wanted to feature on her blog. I’m guessing my job kind of qualifies.

Mike Davelaar

Mike is about 6-and-a-half feet tall and is a teddy bear. A borderline-terrifying teddy bear who likes to talk about cows. He grew up on a dairy and is now a cattle feed salesman.

Hi, I’m Agriculture. My name is Mike Davelaar. I sell cattle feed. Pretty normal so far. But I sell molasses for cattle. And yes, I’ve heard or told all the jokes that go with that. It’s slow in January. It’s a sweet job. Sticky business. But it’s an awesome job.

I started with Quality Liquid Feeds in 1989. On April Fools Day. I’m not sure who that says more about, me or them. But it’s turned into a great career.

Selling molasses in South Dakota is about as far removed from it’s source of origin as one can find. But as a source of energy and a carrier for vitamins and minerals, it’s an awesome fit.

So what do I do? The answer to that question varies by the day and the week. Somedays I’m plumbing equipment to move feed (molasses), some days a nutritionist, and other days using industry connections to answer a customer’s questions.

The plumbing part is probably the most unexpected part of my job. I’ve told people that it’s my job to make using liquid as little trouble as possible. That means I have to be fluent in pumps, viscosities and electric motors. I also need to understand how to compensate for the cold. Molasses is environmentally sensitive. It gets thick in winter. So things need to be over built. But that’s part of life up north. Storage tanks, lick tanks and delivery units are all part of the equation.

I also work with dealers to set up sales plans. Most of the time it’s a pretty simple plan. “Let’s go talk to a few folks” is a great place to start.

Sometimes we need to make business plans with dealers to figure out what is the best plan of action for dealers and for customers. This year that looks different. Where most years we are using an inclusion rate of our liquid at about 1# per head per day,this year however, with the price and availability of corn we are feeding 3-4#/head per day. The inclusion rate has caused the need for more equipment, trucks, etc., and that’s all part of figuring out the job.

Sometimes trouble shooting is the call of the day. Sometimes it’s cleaning/servicing storage tank. Someday’s I’ve drove home covered in molasses. There’s worse things in life than getting a little dirty.

But the best thing about my job is the people that I get to meet. I’ve made great friends with great people in this industry. People like Kelly Rivard. Nuff said.

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