Honored to be covered in Voyage Austin Magazine!
Today we’d like to introduce you to Blayr Barnard.
Hi Blayr, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself. My great grandfather started share cropping in Coryell County over 100 years ago. My grandfather and father moved from share cropping to farming to ranching. My father, David S Barnard, was the CEO/President of National United Bancshares (which had a branch in Georgetown until it was merged with Bancorp South). My Dad started ranching “stockers” (young yearling calves) when he was 12 years old with his first lease place and his first loan. He grew from that to an operation of about 6,000 head and 3,000 acres from then until his passing in 2018 at the age of 73. He also served on the Dallas Federal Reserve Board and was named into the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame. The man was brilliant, giving and kind. He was also a paraplegic that was in a horrible drunk driving accident when I was three and taught himself to walk again after his heart stopped six times on the way to the hospital.
I grew up in the Waco/Gatesville area and went to Midway before graduating and heading to Texas Tech University where I majored in Honors High Performance Management and Marketing and also received my MBA. While at Tech, I was offered an incredible internship with the Small Business Development Center – a non-profit hosted by local educational institutions to give small to medium size businesses (under 500 employees) with no-cost assistance to start or expand their small businesses. I worked in research for three years and won a few awards. Then I took six months off to backpack through Europe with my husband, then started my own construction business with my husband focusing on intricate tile designs and general remodeling. In 2007, I was recruited to become the youngest Director in the country for the Southeast Montana SBDC. I stayed there until mid-2009 when I was recruited to become the youngest Regional Director in the Country and manage the Louisville, KY suburb site the SouthEastern Indiana SBDC.
By 2014, I had won just about every award I could win (State Star, Best Practices, SBA Excellence and Innovation, Southern Indiana Professional of the Year, etc.) and was considering retiring for a few years with two young sons on our rental property income. My father approached me about taking over the family ranch. He was turning 70 and wanted to secure its future – we had never discussed that as even a possibility until Nov 2014 and I turned in my notice in January 2015 to hire my replacement so I could leave in June 2015. I made the move much easier than I had imagined because my father had become one of my best friends over the last ten years and his employees were not only incredible but kind.
I learned as much as I could from my father and as many educational courses as I could take over the next few years. In 2017, my father fell and broke his hip at 72 and was in and out of rehab from then until his passing in June 2018. I had effectively taken over the entire ranch in 2016, but those months were very stressful because he was so important to my family and myself. After his passing, most didn’t expect me to continue the ranch – to the point of receiving daily unsolicited realtor calls for weeks, but I do truly love what I do and enjoy the work – both physical and mental.
Since taking over the ranch, I’ve expanded four times – two times with additional acreage (we now run over 11,000 acres) and once with the addition of freezer beef.
Freezer beef is not something we ever expected to do. Large stocker operations rarely sell to the public, but when the pandemic hit in 2020, friends and people from the community started calling us when the store shelves were empty. We had 33 heads left over from a sale in late February 2020 and decided to hold them and feed them out. They sold out in 2 weeks. We went from selling a 2-3 head of cattle to friends and family when we had our own butchered in 2019 to selling over 150 head in 2020. Since we are still a small organization, we are able to move very quickly and be flexible. We have continued to expand in 2021, now offering wholes (400+ pounds), ½ (200+ pounds), ¼ (100+ pounds), 1/8 (50+ pounds), monthly beef boxes and branded merchandise.
In 2022, we are expanding into pork processing to be available on our website and expanding to delivery from Houston/San Antonio to Dallas on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.
What makes us a bit different is that we like super clear pricing. Most ranchers sell on the hanging weight – meaning you don’t know how much you owe until the animal has already been partially processed and the final total until the butcher is done. Our customers felt that was overwhelming. So we decided to do some cost averaging and make a set price with a guaranteed weight amount. It makes the pricing clear and easy so people know exactly what they will pay instead of hoping for the best.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road? I am a fairly positive person, so I think it has been smoother than I expected. My employees signed up to work here for an incredible man with years of experience – they now work for a woman with blue hair who knows business practices in and out but who has only been in ag full time for 6.5 years. They have accepted me and show an incredibly loyalty, hard work and care that I sometimes tear up when thinking about. This industry doesn’t have many women – much less women with blue hair who are always changing things up to move with the science or the market or the needs of the community.
Since 2019 alone, we’ve been through a processing plant fire that sent cattle prices plummeting, a global pandemic that did the same, a supply/demand shift, exporting drama, and now skyrocketing input costs and a fairly severe drought.
Losing my Dad was the hardest struggle I’ve faced. Not because it created business struggles, but because it was unexpected and has taken a lot of time to heal from losing my best friend and business partner.
As you know, we’re big fans of Barnard Beef Cattle Co. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand? Barnard Beef Cattle Company specializes in providing high-quality beef at a reasonable and clear price to any customer in the Dallas to Houston/San Antonio corridor. Most of our deliveries center on the Waco/Temple/Killeen market, DFW and Austin. We sell monthly beef boxes and beef in bulk. Our beef usually grades Prime or Choice Plus – so it is comparable to the beef in the case but is priced closer to the beef on the shelf. We are able to do that by cutting out the middlemen, not shipping cattle to Kansas, then back to Texas to a butcher and then to a grocery store. We also keep our costs low by doing local meet-ups. Instead of charging higher prices, we meet our customers along I-35 on Saturday mornings and unload beef directly from our freezer box to their car in a central location. It saves us a lot of time/gas and we pass that savings on to customers.
All of our cattle are born in Texas, pasture raised and given lots of wide open spaces and clean water. We then sort off the top 1% of our cattle and put some in a grass pasture to make grass fed and grass finished beef and some into a smaller pasture where we make our lightly grain finished beef. We are distinctive because we mix our own rations so many people who don’t eat traditional grain finished beef because of corn allergies, digestive issues or dietary restrictions are able to eat out beef because it is not fed as “hot” (corn heavy) of a ration as a traditional feedlot.
What makes you happy? In my traditional job with the SBDC, I worked very long hours because I truly loved what I did by helping people achieve their dreams. My husband had rental properties and stayed home with the kids, but I wasn’t getting the quality time I wanted with my family. This company has allowed me to raise my family with me. The kids (Conor – 10, Axton – 7, Zander – 5) help me every day – from doing basic office work like filing and sorting to moving hundreds of head of cattle on a UTV to cleaning water troughs to packing beef boxes in the freezer. They’ve joined me for property closings and eminent domain fights. My oldest gave me a mother’s day card a few years ago where he said he loved his momma because she taught him about margin. The teacher thought he was mistaken because what mom would be teaching their kid about margarine… so he clearly explained profit margin to her — at 6. I love being able to work with my husband and kids every day. Some days are tough – it isn’t all wine and roses, but it’s better than only seeing them for 2 hours before they go to bed each night.
I love my employees. We have weekly family dinner nights and make sure to celebrate everyone’s birthday with fancy home cooked meals and desserts made with love by the boys and I. They have become all of our favorite night of the week because it is the old school version of family – we may not be kin, but these nine men are about the best thing that has ever happened to me from a career perspective because of the unfailing trust they have put in me.
Lastly, I love love love our customers. When the store shelves were re-stocked and everyone was calming down in late 2020, I considered shutting down that side of the business. It is less than 1% of our business so I didn’t really want to spend the time on that instead of on other matters. But our customers are amazing. From actively watching group posts to refer people to us, giving us rave facebook reviews, sharing EVERY SINGLE POST, to taking out after social media trolls and fighting battles that are really hard for a business to do without looking horrible – our customers are amazing. We delivered over 600 boxes of beef in 3 weeks of Dec 2021 – that’s almost 24,000 pounds of beef. When we would drive up to a location – even if we were 15-45 minutes late, our customers would get out and start taking boxes to each other’s trucks/car like they worked for us – everyone just having the holiday spirit. They’d never met, but it made drop offs like Chick-fil-A — we delivered to 27 people in Gatesville in less than 15 minutes one day because people that had never even met were just pitching in and helping make everyone happy. It’s been beautiful to watch.
The other main reason I have continued with this line of our business is that it has given us an incredible avenue to help the community. We have been donating to food banks, churches, soup kitchens, veterans organizations, etc. We’ve donated sunshades and constructed the frames for schools who had to make kids play outside more because of COVID. We did a raffle for a local woman who has a mysterious disease and has been hospitalized for over a year to help with medical expenses.
Whole Grain Finished $2500
Half Grain Finished $1400
Whole Grass Finished $3200
Half Grass Finished $1850
Beef Boxes Range from $55-250 monthly rotating based on inventory