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Joseph Egloff’s Rocking Chair Ranch grew from eight to nearly 60 head of cattle with assistance from UGA’s Small Business Development Center. The SBDC also helped Egloff get a federal grant to add a meat-packing plant that attracts farmers from Florida to North Carolina.

FORSYTH — What Joseph Egloff began as a “little hobby” in 2011 is now a full-time cattle ranch with a meat packing plant that serves customers from Florida to North Carolina.

“I had eight head of cattle and a day job to pay for my cow habit,” Egloff said of Rocking Chair Ranch Cattle in Forsyth. “Then it exploded on us. What started out as a little hobby had become a real job, and after about three years, we were up to about 58 head of cattle a year.”

As the business continued to grow, Egloff turned to the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center for help.

SBDC consultant Peter Williams developed financial projections and a work plan for Egloff’s first grant application, which was successful, and helped him with some marketing strategies.

Egloff also has received support from UGA Extension. Every year he sends soil samples from his ranch to extension for quality analyzation to help inform the decisions he makes for his pastures.

“They are great people over there, and for a farm that doesn’t have the background that others do, they have welcome knowledge,” Egloff said. “Even though I’m called a cattle rancher, I’m nothing more than a grass farmer. You take care of the soil, the soil takes care of the grass, the grass takes care of the cattle. The foundation is good healthy soil.”

Since 2017, Rocking Chair Ranch sales have increased by 20%. But Egloff says he could do better, by reducing the time and cost to get the cattle to the nearest processing plant.

“Joseph was taking the cattle to the closest processing plant, about an hour and a half away in Tifton, once a week,” Williams said. “This was causing a bottleneck in their production, and he wanted an alternative. So we started discussing the possibility of him starting his own plant.”

With help from the UGA SBDC, Egloff successfully obtained a Small Business Administration loan for nearly $1 million to build his own processor.

Construction began in 2019, and MidSouth Packers opened for business in August 2020.

Egloff said he hoped to process as much as 43,000 pounds of meat each month. But the numbers far exceeded his hope: 59,000 pounds processed in February 2021, 68,000 in March and 74,000 in April.

MidSouth Packers serves farmers from more than 70 small farms throughout the Southeast, pulling in cattle from as far north as Franklin, N.C., and as far south as Lake City, Fla.

He said he hopes to expand to processing lambs and goats in 2022.

“With the packing facility, I get to support other small cattle farmers, and that makes me feel like I’ve done something worthwhile,” Egloff said. “But I did not build this thing by myself. I knew in my mind that this thing could work, but I didn’t know how to make it work. We got a lot of help and I’m so grateful to Peter and the rest of them for it.”

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Émilie Gille is the public relations coordinator for UGA Public Service and Outreach.

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