JGL kicked off this year’s Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association’s conference with a hospitality evening and tour of its new office building and assembly yard situated along the Trans Canada Highway, 10 kilometres west of Moose Jaw.
As JGL co-founder Bill Jameson put it, the company outgrew its original place along the tracks on the city’s west side that had been home to the business since he and Robin Gilroy quit their jobs at the local Canada Packers plant in 1979-80 to start order buying with Ed Lang.
The partners bought out Lang in 1986 and over the years expanded the business. In more recent years they added risk management services; the Canadian Cattle Buyers Credit (CCBC) financing program for all classes of commercial cattle; JGL Commodities — trading in grains, oilseeds and feed ingredients — and Hawks Agro, an independent crop-input retailer with locations in Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Central Butte, Rouleau and Gravelbourg.
The new 13,000-square-foot headquarters includes offices for all divisions on two floors plus a spacious cattle trading area, dedicated commodity trading section, sizeable meeting room, modern staff room, and a truckers lounge with full amenities that remains open 24 hours a day.
JGL buyers, led by Todd Hudson, cover all markets in Saskatchewan, northern and central Alberta, and electronic sales across Canada, the U.S., and direct from ranches to fill customer orders.
The first load of cattle arrived at the new assembly yard on May 1. Built on asphalt with steel penning, the yard is equipped to provide access to hay and water for up to 5,000 head, depending on size.
Within 24 hours of arriving at the yard, cattle are grouped by weight and quality to meet each customer’s specs, processed according to any health and/or export protocols, and sent on their way to their new homes.
The barn has a processing alley with a crowding tub to handle cows and bulls, and a separate double-alley setup with a Bud Box to handle feeder calves and yearlings. Both have Silencer squeeze chutes on scales programmed with weight breaks to automatically open gates for sorting as many as four ways coming out of the barn.
Jameson says he never imagined automatic sorting could be quicker than humans eyeballing cattle until he saw it in operation for himself. Even allowing for the fact that western cattle are much more uniform overall than 30 years ago, automation is faster. Jameson credits advancements in genetics for the dramatically improved health and conformation of cattle today.
JGL buyers have also noted some new trends in what their customers are ordering these days. More and more clients are asking for calves that are moved directly from the farm to the feedlot, and more are requesting vaccinated calves.
“One of the big things that is done a lot in the U.S. but (has) not caught on as much here is vaccinating calves two weeks to a month before weaning. For sure, vaccinated calves will bring more money as this dramatically reduces health and respiratory problems,” says Jameson.
When buying direct from the rancher, JGL buyers assess cattle in person, when time and logistics allow, and otherwise give the producer a price indication for a projected sale date by phone or email, co-ordinate the trucking and advise on the best location to weigh the cattle. Financial transactions are handled by JGL to ensure prompt payment.
The CCBC financing program has become a significant part of the JGL operation since it was established in 1999 in alliance with Farm Credit Canada. CCBC general manager Tim Adams and his account managers provide financing for feeders, bred heifers and cows across all four western provinces tailored to the needs of individual clients. A feed advance program is also available to help manage cash-flow needs.
Their risk management team led by Joe Jackson offers marketing options such as forward contracting and hedging strategies to manage price risk, a service that is used increasingly by clients to manage the volatility of the beef market in recent years.
JGL’s future is moving toward the second generation with Shea Jameson moving into management as chief financial officer, Jeff Jameson buying in central and southern Saskatchewan, Scott Gilroy buying cows and bulls, and most recently, Bevin Hudson coming on board as a buyer trainee.
This new facility also represents a big vote of confidence in the future of the Canadian beef industry, one that JGL’s founders hope in some way might inspire young ranchers to get involved in building up the Canadian herd.