As a young boy, Brock Buchanan worked eagerly on the farm alongside his father. Even going so far as sneaking into his parent’s room at night to lie quietly by their bed so that his dad would have no choice but to step on him when it came time to change water in the middle of the night.
“I just always wanted to go with him,” says Brock. “I never wanted him to leave me.”
Today, Brock doesn’t have to lie down on the floor to go to work every day with his dad because cultivating cattle and crops is family business for him and his father, Sheldon Buchanan. Born and raised in Utah’s Sevier County, the livestock men carry on a century-old agricultural tradition that started in 1909 when Sheldon’s great grandfather, A.W. Buchanan built his home in Venice.
Raising Cattle in Utah
Sheldon and Brock are cattle producers operating a 400-head cow-calf operation in Utah’s Sevier County. While both Sheldon and Brock maintain their own separate herds, the father-son duo manage their cattle together utilizing 265 head of permit on the Pavont mountain range just west of the ranch, as well as 400 acres of pasture between Venice and a portion of ground in Fillmore.
Cattle aren’t the only commodities growing at the Buchanan farm. Sheldon and Brock also raise a bulk amount of the feed needed for those cattle outside of the grazing season by farming approximately 312 acres of crop land.
Starting Out in Poultry Farming
While Sheldon and Brock are making a name for Buchanan livestock in the cattle industry, the Buchanan family was once invested in turkeys. In his earlier years, Sheldon’s family belonged to the Utah Turkey Growers Association, a co-op of poultry producers that operated a processing plant in Salina, a hatchery in Richfield and breeder farms in St. George and Annabella.
Sheldon recalls feeding the numerous birds in the same turkey barns that still stand—vacant and unused—on the Buchanan’s farm ground. It was a daily occurrence for Sheldon to visit Richfield Feed and Grain, a mill owned and operated by distant relative, Golden Buchanan, until the mill was acquired by IFA’s own parent co-op, the Utah Poultry Producers Association.
For years, Sheldon visited the Utah Poultry mill for the turkey’s daily feeding. This very same mill and building houses IFA’s Central Utah Agronomy Center today.
A Buchanan Rebrand: Going All-In on Cattle
In 1961, after navigating shifting industry dynamics, the Utah Poultry Cooperative underwent extensive rebranding as the co-op officially adopted the name Intermountain Farmers Association as the organization transitioned from poultry marketing to supply for a much wider variety of agricultural enterprises. Just ten years later, Sheldon’s family turkey farm would face a similar rebrand of its own.
Turkey and poultry farm numbers hit a steady decline in the area around the same time IFA was making its big transition. Sheldon and his family were among the last four remaining turkey farms in the Sevier Valley, but it wasn’t long before several of their Utah Turkey Grower partners began investing elsewhere. These outside investments prompted their partners to disband their turkey ventures, leaving the Buchanan family between a rock and a hard place.
“Quit and go broke or keep farming and go broke,” Sheldon says those were his choices. With each turkey farm that closed, came the need to recoup those lost poultry numbers in order to turn a profit. “We had a choice of growing twice as many turkeys as we were, or quit,” says Sheldon.
Rather than raise 150,000 turkeys to make a living, Sheldon opted for the latter. “We were full-time in cattle after that,” he says.
Well-Rounded Livestock Growers
Both Sheldon and Brock are no stranger to raising livestock of both the furred and feathered varieties. Even during the Buchanans’ turkey-grower days, Sheldon, his dad and his grandfather also raised feeder cattle and a small herd of sheep.
Sheldon’s grandfather had retired from the Venice farm and moved to Salt Lake City but that didn’t last long. “Six months is all he could stand of retirement,” says Sheldon. After that six-month sabbatical, Sheldon’s grandfather purchased a ranch outside of Heber City where Sheldon and his dad would ship the cattle and sheep herds in the spring before bringing them home to Venice to be fattened and sold.
This process continued for a number of years until the Jordanelle Reservoir was built and the ranch was covered in water. Still the Buchanan’s continued raising cattle and sheep on the side of their turkey business until finally accepting the “quit or go broke” option and going all-in on the cattle business.
IFA Brings Expertise to Buchanan’s Fields
The Buchanan family trusted IFA since the co-op’s poultry era. As long-time co-op members, Sheldon and Brock continue to rely on the expertise and quality products of IFA’s feed, farm supply and agronomy divisions to keep their crops and cattle growing today.
Amending Soil with Best Fertilizer and Irrigation Practices
“Plants need what’s in the soil,” says Daniel Dastrup, Branch Manager of the IFA Central Utah Agronomy Center, “That’s how they grow.” Daniel and his agronomy team work directly with the Buchanan’s to improve soil health. They perform soil sampling, apply fertilizer and help the Buchanan’s make informed management decisions.
The Buchanan’s Venice farm ground comes with some unique growing challenges. For one, the soil is highly alkaline. In order for the Buchanan’s to grow a productive crop, they utilize a deep irrigation management practice to improve the soil’s condition. However, this management practice poses its own difficulties as far as washing out soil amendments and fertilizers.
These are the challenges that Daniel and his team of IFA agronomy experts help the Buchanan’s overcome with specialized product recommendations and expert applications. The results? “Better crops and healthier cattle,” according to Brock.
Crop Protection: Weevil and Aphid Pest Control
“You can depend on the weevil and aphids. They will be there,” says Sheldon. If there’s one thing he has come to count on in his lifetime of farming, it’s crop pests.
Pests leave a substantial impact on crop yields and overall profits. The Buchanan’s understand that every pest in their fields means less feed for their cattle. IFA’s agronomy team provides them with pest control products and strategies to help combat these losses.
“We do our best to provide them with whatever they need,” says Daniel. “If they have a specific need, we want to try to meet it.”
Livestock Supplies and More
The Buchanan’s not only rely on the expertise of IFA’s agronomy teams but also the variety of livestock and farm products available at their local IFA Country Store.
Whether it’s rolled barley for the horses, mineral and fencing for the cattle or a new blouse for his wife’s birthday, Sheldon and Brock are grateful to have an IFA store and knowledgeable team so close at hand.
“We know where to go and who to talk to if we have a problem,” says Sheldon. “We’re really lucky to have IFA this close.”
Growing the Farm-Family Tradition
With more than a century of farming legacy under the Buchanan’s family belt, both Sheldon and Brock hope to see that legacy continue.
“We just try to keep growing,” says Sheldon. “If you don't keep growing, it seems that you lose out.” The Venice farm is not what it used to be when Sheldon’s great grandfather first moved there. Sheldon, his dad and now Brock all had a hand in building the Buchanan farm by adding more ground, more permits and more livestock.
“We don’t like to get bigger but you’re kinda forced to do it,” says Sheldon. Moving forward, Sheldon and Brock will continue to build upon the agricultural legacy that’s been handed down to them and they both hope to one day see Brock’s kids take that legacy even further.
“I hope this farm can keep going for five or six more generations,” says Sheldon with an eye to the future. As the Buchanan farming-tradition continues, IFA will be ready to help with the knowledge and products to grow the best crops and the healthiest cattle.
Written by Mikyla Bagley, IFA Content Specialist, and originally published in the IFA Cooperator magazine (vol. 89, no. 2) Summer 2023.
Mikyla Bagley is a fifth-generation rancher actively involved in her family’s cattle operation. She holds a deep respect for the wisdom and management practices of the farmers and ranchers who have crossed her path, both because of her family operation and otherwise. A deep desire to remain connected to the agriculture industry drove Mikyla to earn her BIS in Agriculture Science and Communication from Southern Utah University. She continues to be involved in her family’s operation while using her degree and life-long experience as IFA’s Content Specialist sharing the experiences and wisdom of IFA experts and Co-op Members.
“The agriculture community is filled with genuine and hard-working men and women whose passion for their lifestyle deserves to be shared. I look forward to helping highlight both their stories and expertise alongside IFA.”