NEWARK, Ohio — With two children of his own, Licking County cattleman Dave Felumlee has a vested interest in the future of Ohio’s beef industry.
His daughter, Keri, 15, and his son, Kacey, 12, show Angus cattle across the country.
But even if it weren’t for them, he believes in the responsibility and commitment that go hand-in-hand with show cattle — and those are qualities he tries to instill in other youth, as well.
Felumlee is chairman of one of the biggest cattle shows in the state, known as the Ohio Beef Expo Junior Show, which draws more than 800 head of cattle. That’s up from about 500 head when he started on the committee just seven years ago.
Growth was the goal, and growth is what he and the other organizers got — so much so that many of the barns at the Expo, March 18-20 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, are near capacity.
“It’s a great problem to have, that there’s that many youth interested in the beef industry,” he said. “And that’s going to continue to grow our industry in the future.”
Felumlee likes to see as many youth as possible have opportunities with cattle — because it lets them learn new skills and stay out of trouble.
“It’s a good learning opportunity for the kids,” he said. “You learn so much with showing cattle — the responsibility it takes, the hard work, the effort and seeing it pay off in the end.”
His own children have been working the past several months to get cattle ready for this year’s Expo. They’ll be showing and selling cattle, and meeting up with other young cattlemen and women, like themselves.
Felumlee, 44, has had cattle at the Expo since it was started, nearly 30 years ago. The event draws producers from other states, and also features breed sales, a large trade show, and educational opportunities for producers of all ages.
Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, said Felumlee was a natural fit for the junior show, due to his own family’s involvement with show cattle.
But she said he’s worked to make it “an event for everybody,” by improving programs related to quality assurance and judging.
Showcasing the best
As Felumlee sees it, the Expo is a “showcase” of Ohio’s beef industry. And from what he’s seen, “We (Ohio) have one of the best, if not the best expos in the country.”
Back at the farm, Felumlee and his family keep 180 Angus mother cows and sell bulls and females, mostly during special sales and on a private treaty basis. The Felumlees, including Dave’s wife, Dawn, and his parents, Orville and Rachel, also grain farm about 1,200 acres.
The family actually started with dairy in the 1960s, but added beef over the years, to the point where they sold the dairy cows and went all beef in 2001.
The transition was gradual, but the decision to finally go all beef happened in about 60 days.
“Within 60 days, the cows were gone, the bulk tank left three hours later, and there was no looking back,” he said.
He grew his beef herd with the help of other beef producers, including well-known cattleman Fred Penick, of the Way View Cattle Co., in Hebron.
Some of Dave’s first show cattle were bought from Penick, in the 1980s, when he was still in 4-H.
“He’s branched out now and has a pretty good program put together,” Penick said.
The two have remained friends, and today own cattle together, and also coordinate a bull sale, held every two years and known as the Partners in Performance Bull Sale.
“He’s got an awful good embryo program, sells bulls all over the state and out of the state,” Penick said. “His genetics have been well accepted across the country — he’s just a darn good cattlemen.”
Dave admits to liking beef farming better than dairy, but his years as a dairyman helped prepare him for working with cattle, and the family was able to repurpose their dairy facilities fairly well.
The cattle spend most of their time on pasture — about 400 acres — but have access to the barn as needed. Felumlee relies on his Angus cattle to live up to their breed, which usually means calving unassisted and staying hardy on pasture.
“Our cows need to be pretty much maintenance free,” he said. “They’ve got a job to do.”
One of those jobs is to convert grass into meat. The Felumlee farm, known as Claylick Run, consists of some good crop ground, but also a lot of hill ground that is good only for grazing.
“The one thing we can do with that ground is turn it into food,” he said.
The cattle are moved between pastures every seven to 10 days.
The best of the bulls are sold off the farm, and at a special auction every two years, at the Muskingum auction barn in Zanesville. The Felumlees also have their own auction facility at the farm, and hold various auctions there throughout the year, including their own female sale, held on-farm every two years.
Dave said younger producers have a lot of opportunity, if they’re willing to work hard.
“There’s been some profitability for producers and there still are opportunities there to make money, and we’re starting to see some more young people enter back into the beef industry,” he said. “A young person that’s adventurous and a hard worker has some opportunities now to make their place.”