After his retirement from banking, Ted Koontz began raising cattle and a custom hay baling business
When reflecting on his 74 years on earth, Ted Koontz smiles and remarks, “I guess you could say I have come full circle.”
His circle includes; a childhood on a dairy farm in Bates County, Mo., a degree from the University of Missouri in agricultural economics, a rank of captain in the Marines, a tour of duty in Vietnam, a career in banking, and at last, a busy retirement back on a farm.
Ted returned to his agricultural roots after retiring 12 years ago from his job as CEO of Citizens Bank of Sparta, Mo. Ted and his wife, Becky, raise registered Angus cattle on their 39-acre farm in Sparta, Mo. In addition, the couple operates a growing custom hay baling business.
When Ted hung up his suit and tie and left the air-conditioned bank office for the last time, little did he know that he would be putting in even more hours during retirement. Decked out in work boots and jeans and surrounded by Mother Nature’s volatility, Ted works 12- to 14-hour days during hay season.
“Hay season is April to Thanksgiving. We hope to be done by Thanksgiving,” Ted said with chuckle.
Ted employs a small crew of part-time workers to help him with his hay baling business. So far this year, Ted has baled 2,200 round bales and 3,000 square bales. He delivers much of his product.
“If you don’t provide delivery service sometimes it is hard to find a market,” Ted said.
Many of his customers have large cattle operations or horse farms. Ted hauls some of his hay to customers who live 80 miles away in Dallas County, Mo.
“We rely on ‘Big Whitey’ out there. That’s what we call him,” Ted said. “The old Ford, ‘Big Whitey’, hauls 25 round bales at a time.”
Most of the land Ted works is filled with orchard grass and clover.
“I still have some fields with blue grass, but of course, it doesn’t produce the tonnage that the other forages will,” Ted explained.
One particular 90-acre tract produces a significant amount of hay for its size. On the first cutting this year, Ted mowed and baled 708 round bales. “The orchard grass was shirt pocket high and the clover was waist high in that field at the first cutting,” Ted said.
He attributes the bountiful hay harvest on the 90 acres to two things: naturally good producing land and fertilizer. “I put on 100 pounds of nitrate, 100 pounds of phosphate, and 150 pounds of potash. So that gets you about a 60–60–90 mix,” Ted said.
Though Ted contends with testy weather conditions and pesky equipment troubles, he finds great peace in being in the hayfields.
I immediately recognized I needed to get modernized.
– Ted Koontz
“I enjoy just being out on that tractor and hearing the diesel run and looking at the beautiful field of bales sitting there – especially if you get it baled right,” Ted reflected.
The hours in the fields also bring Ted a feeling of youth.
“It’s kind of crazy to say this, but it might be a bit of a health issue because people who retire and sit in a recliner, their health goes down. And as far as I can tell, my health is as good as it was when I retired from that desk job – maybe better,” Ted said. And it must be working.
“I will say one thing for him. He can out throw boys on the square bales,” Becky Koontz said with a smile.
Though Ted spends many hours running his custom hay business, he still manages to find time to dedicate to his cattle operation called TEKO Angus.
In 2003, Ted purchased 12 registered Angus heifers. He currently runs a closed herd of around 30 head of cattle that includes 15 momma cows, some replacement heifers and bulls.
Ted recalls early on in his return to the cattle industry, he found out he needed to make some changes. After taking a bull to the Southwest Tested Performance Bull Sale, Ted realized he needed to put more emphasis on EPDs.
“I immediately recognized I needed to get modernized,” Ted recalled.
Instead of purchasing cattle with proven performance genetics, Ted chose to build up his own herd. He scoured herd books looking for bulls that would improve his herd’s weakest traits.
“Since I started out with carcass genetics, with the High Prime bloodline, I tried to never compromise the carcass genetics,” Ted added.
After more than a decade of strategic AI’ing, Ted is satisfied with the genetic performance of his herd. But Ted admits, “You are never too old to learn something.”
So he will keep modifying and changing, with the hopes of keeping TEKO Angus and his hay baling business at the top of the market.