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Sioux Nation Ag Center: Supporting the Livestock Industry through Expert Service
Owning and operating a livestock business isn’t an easy way to make a living. Sioux Nation Ag Center (Sioux Nation) understands this, and operates as a support system for companies in the competitive industry. The South Dakota-based company offers everything a livestock producer needs, including affordably priced animal health care products, customized feeding programs, veterinary care and the most innovative marketing services available.
“We’re different from other companies out there because we combine animal health and nutrition into one,” shares Joe Swenson, third-generation president and CEO of Sioux Nation. “We have vets on staff and nutritionists, combined with a service and sales team that supports our customers, giving them the tools they need to run their businesses. You won’t find too many companies that do what we do.”
A Family Foundation
Sioux Nation was founded in 1960 by Joe’s grandfather, Marvin, who started the company by specializing in animal health. “We didn’t get into the feed or marketing side of the business until the mid-1990s,” explains Joe. “We’ve been doing both for the last 20 years.”
Although Joe grew up in the family business, he actually graduated with a finance degree. “My background has helped me determine how to grow in the right areas from a financial standpoint,” he admits. “When I started here I did a little bit of everything, from deliveries to sales, whatever was needed. I always knew I wanted to work in the family business. I got out and explored a bit, but eventually came back and took over when my father passed away.”
Today the company operates out of its main Sioux Falls, S.D., headquarters, as well as a pre-mix plant in Iowa and five veterinary clinics spread throughout southeastern South Dakota. Sioux Nation sources some supplies for its products from China and Canada, but for the most part, remains local.
“Our business is very seasonal,” shares Joe. “But we don’t have a lot of seasonal help; 99 percent of our 65 employees work for us year-round. Our staff is made up of nutritionists, veterinarians and a sales and marketing team. We truly have the expertise and know-how to guide you to the right options for your livestock operation.”
From Feed to Finance
“Our goal is to try to do everything a livestock producer needs,” explains Joe. “Whether it’s the health of your animals and nutrition or the financial logistics of your business, we have the support system to do it all.”
Every producer needs a basic necessity: healthy animals. Sioux Nation provides a wide range of services to protect dairy and beef cows and swine. As far as cattle and swine, the company offers veterinary feedlot services, fetal aging and sexing, nutrition support with Ph.D. accredited staff involving, ration balancing, feed sampling, consulting, vaccination protocols and consulting and many other support services.
Recently Sioux Nation has expanded the dairy side of the business with new product development in natural supplements. “The past two summers have been very hot and dry,” details Joe. “These products help to counter the effects of the heat. Natural pepper extracts work as a vascular dilator, which increases blood flow and helps keep animal stress down during extreme temperatures.” In addition to the natural supplements, Sioux Nation offers milking equipment evaluation, culturing and regular DHIA analysis, as well as calf-rearing consulting and reproductive ultrasounds.
Part of raising healthy animals is quality feed. “Recently we’ve partnered with alternative feed sources to combat high corn and grain prices,” adds Joe. “It’s being done in Europe but not really in the U.S.; we’ve been experimenting with it for about five years now. Feed byproducts that replace corn offer substantial cost savings, as well as health benefits. Fermenting the product lowers the pH balance, killing bacteria that can’t live below a certain level.”
The company also helps keep a close eye on its customers’ financial situations. “The industry has turned upside down over the past few years in terms of rising agricultural costs and banks cracking down with higher equity requirements,” admits Joe. “We’re trying to help our customers build more equity and pay down their debts to free up cash. We work with banks and lenders to secure financing. There’s always been a need for this type of accounting, just more so now than ever.” From feed to animal health, finances to logistics, Sioux Nation has the bases covered. “We also provide our customers with marketing, hedging and investing services,” adds Joe.
Projecting Future Growth
As if the feed to finance operations weren’t enough, Sioux Nation is also in the process of expanding its sales force and consulting management. “We’re adding support staff to help increase our customer service,” adds Joe. “We don’t want to just sell a product; we want to help consumers find the right one that helps them and their animals.”
In order to comply with strict Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, Sioux Nation has updated its facilities and manufacturing plants to meet regulations. “We like to stay compliant and exceed these standards anyway,” reveals Joe. “But lately we felt as though we could improve our plants.”
The cost of needed upgrades, drought and the economy has combined to put some recent stress on the business. “The lack of rain has upped the cost of ingredient prices for our feed,” admits Joe. “But after over a half-century in business we’re pretty confident that we can weather the economic storm. We’re always looking to expand outside and within our current territories. It’s about looking at the national agricultural market and how it’s changing and staying current.”
Joe sees growth on the horizon for Sioux Nation. “It seems like acquisitions are the way to expand right now,” he details. “The industry is going toward requiring more expertise because there’s more and more qualified nutritionists and veterinarians out there. We need to continue to improve our product lines to stay competitive.”
Joe is confident the family-owned and -operated company can remain a dominant force in the industry and build the next 50-year legacy. “Our products and services really speak for themselves,” stresses Joe. “That’s what keeps us in business.” For over 53 years Sioux Nation Ag Center has put livestock producers first, supplying everything needed to keep an operation running.