ABOVE PICTURE: Rob and Cindi Miles of Logan County, Okla., turned to a new dealership because of its willingness to learn about their operation, provide the level of service they wanted and because of a trade-in offer they couldn’t refuse.
Rob and Cindi Miles’ Rolling M Farm in Logan County, Okla., began with a house and 10 acres. Today, after nearly 20 years of planning, a dedication to quality — and a little luck — the farm is now 170 acres of rolling hills of Bermuda grass and home to cattle and goat herds, horses and working dogs.
Rob says he’s a grass farmer. Cindi says they’re ranchers. Regardless of what they call themselves, the couple has fulfilled their dream of life in the country. To get there, they’ve taken advantage of opportunities and searched out partners to support them, including equipment dealers. They’ve also walked away from one-time equipment partners who didn’t meet their requirements for dealing fair and serving them well.
“Dealer location is one point, but it’s the lowest point. Equipment lines are important. But, it’s really the service. Nothing is more important than service,” Rob says.
And, Rob’s not talking about fixing up old equipment. He always buys new.
“I’m not a mechanic. I don’t like to work on things. If I have a job, I need to get it done now,” he says.
He also expects his dealer to be willing to show their expertise.
“As a rural lifestyler, I don’t know what kind of equipment I need. I just know what I want it to do.”
Rob, 63, is a northern California native. He grew up in the suburbs and worked on his uncle’s cow-calf operation.
“That’s where I developed the love of the cattle business,” he says. He spent his entire career in that business, the last 32 years before his retirement in 2006 working for the USDA Livestock and Grain Market News Service. He moved where the job needed him to go — Idaho, Nebraska, Tennessee, California, South Carolina and, finally, Oklahoma City.
Cindi, 57, came from the other side of the country, Florida. Her professional career started in the criminal justice sector. Her passion was horses, even though she didn’t own her own horse until she was 22 years old. She then began riding, racing and showing horses. She was a natural.
“I never took a lesson,” she says.
Her career in criminal justice and then manufacturing and selling an animal care product took her to Ohio, Texas and then Oklahoma City. Cindi transitioned to a new career in insurance claims in 1989. She now works in property claims for a large insurance company.
It was their love of animals and mutual friends in the horse and cattle businesses that brought Cindi and Rob together in 1991.
Rob Miles and his dealer, Enid New Holland and Kubota in Oklahoma, negotiated a trade for his old tractor, rotary cutter and several implements for a new Kubota M126X, front-end loader, bucket, grapple, bale forks and pallet forks. Miles says he not only gained better equipment, but his attachments now have the more conve- nient Euro style hook-up.
Building Their Rural Acreage
Rob developed his expertise in identifying quality cattle in his position at USDA. He attended hundreds of cattle auctions, collecting market information. In 1991, he entered the cattle feeding business as an investor. He bought feeder cattle, shipped them direct to feed yards, and maintained ownership until selling them.
The couple had a chance to connect to the land in 1993. They bought a house with 10 acres and a barn — perfect for them and Cindi’s two horses. Rob soon added five cows.
“They were my play cattle, my longhorns. You couldn’t make a business out of them and it was hard to support them on the 10 acres,” Rob says.
The first of two lucky land breaks happened in 1996.
“We had the opportunity to buy 80 acres to the west of our homestead. While area farmers were discussing the slightly inflated asking price, we immediately put down earnest money with the realtor the day it was listed. We started adding better cattle right away,” he says. To do that, they needed to refurbish their land. Fifty acres were in wheat, but the rest was ugly.
Meet Rural Lifestylers
Rob and Cindi Miles
Occupation: Rob and Cindi Miles raise cattle and goats in Logan County, Okla. Rob is retired from the USDA Livestock and Grain Market News Service. Cindi works in the property claims department for a large insurance company.
Property: The couple’s Rolling M Farm includes a contiguous 10-acre homestead, with 80 acres of Bermuda grass pasture, 30 acres of native grass, and 50 acres on which they plant a blend of wheat and rye for winter pasture. Also contiguous to their operation is an additional 60 acres of rented native grass. They pasture their herds on the winter pasture and then bale the crop in the spring. About 33 acres of the best Bermuda grass are baled in mid-summer.
Equipment: Kubota M126X with Kubota loader and bucket, Rhino grapple, Worksaver front-end and three-point& bale forks and pallet fork. Kubota RTV 900 with hydraulic dump bed. Other equipment includes cattle and goat handling pens and equipment; Sitrex spring tooth chisel; Ferris zero-turn lawn mower; stock trailer; flatbed trailer; bale trailer; Danuser post-hole digger; Tri-L bale unroller; Vermeer trencher; and forge.
“The other 30 acres were totally inundated with cedar trees. The reason they call this area Cedar Valley is that we have a big problem with red cedar trees. You couldn’t walk a straight line. You’d have to walk a maze to get down to the pond,” Rob says.
This kind of land didn’t meet his standards, so he fixed it. He secured some cost-share funds from USDA’s Soil Conservation Service and hired a bulldozer to clear the land. He then hired a farmer to custom sprig Bermuda grass for grazing.
“My plan was to go into the cattle business in a small way. I just wanted to farm what I could own. At that time, and still today, the real investment is in the land, not the cattle,” Rob says.
He kept 26 cows, along with the horses. His herd began with Limousin bulls crossed with British-type cows and some Brahma-influenced cows. The herd has transitioned to Angus cows crossed with Gelbvieh or Angus bulls.
The operation’s second lucky break happened in 2007 when the adjacent 80 acres came up for sale, bringing the quarter section back together. The couple took a risk, but didn’t want to pass up the chance to expand their operation with adjacent land.
“The first quarter was extremely cheap and the second one was extremely expensive. It all balances out. The most expensive piece of land you buy is your first piece. It gets easier after that,” he says.
The couple kept 50 acres of this piece in wheat and rye for winter grazing and a spring hay crop. The balance of 30 acres brought back the $100 per hour dozer to clear cedars.
Rob Miles is retired from the USDA Livestock and Grain Market News. He believes to be the best you need to buy the best. The only piece of machinery on his farm that he hasn’t bought new is a trencher he bought at an auction.
In 1997, a fluke led to what is now a major part of their operation, goats. His father had given them two Border Collie pups. Rob didn’t want to train them on his “good cattle,” so he bought six goats.
“Cindi liked the goats, so we went into the goat business,” he says. “We had a billy goat and six nannies. They had kids — and most of them died. We bought better billies and learned how to keep the kids and nannies alive. We’re at our peak now with 130 mommas and five billies. We could grow the goat herd larger, but the work load is a limiting factor at this age.”
The goats and cows now pasture together. Rob has devised some special gates to allow the goats to wander the quarter, while keeping the cows on the better pasture.
Equipment to Make It Work
As soon as Rolling M grew from 10 acres to 90 acres, Rob knew he needed equipment to manage the operation.
“In the beginning, we had a new 70-horsepower New Holland ‘no-frills’ tractor. No cab. No shuttle transmission,” he says.
“I was happy. They explained everything about it. They explained the shuttle transmission, but I didn’t think I could afford it. Spending $18,500 for a tractor for no bigger than our operation was daunting. We paid for the tractor out of our salaries,” he says.
One thing he and the salesperson didn’t talk about turned out to be an issue later.
“They didn’t explain that I couldn’t have a grapple on the front-end loader. Over the years, I wanted a grapple to move brush and pick up old hay.”
- Negotiation keeps the discussion going. Stay committed to the process and find ways to meet the rural lifestyler’s needs, while achieving sales and margin goals.
- Tap into the rural lifestyler’s enthusiasm for country life by exploring all the equipment and attachment possibilities. They may not buy today, but it could mean a future sale if their operation changes.
- Service sets a rural lifestyle dealer apart. Highlight ways that your dealership’s service is better than the chains and your competition, such as on-farm repairs.
It would have cost close to $1,500 to retrofit the tractor, plus the cost of the grapple.
“I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on an old tractor,” Rob says.
Still, the tractor worked well for many jobs, such as moving hay bales, digging post holes using a three-point Danuser digger, and fertilizing with the co-op’s spreader.
“It was a good tractor. It worked fine for 16 years. I put 1,200 hours on it,” he says.
Dealer ‘Wild Goose Chase’
Last year, Rob felt it was time to replace the tractor.
“I was looking for more horsepower. And, I’m getting older so I wanted a cab, AC, and a radio,” he says. He also still wanted that grapple.
Rob went back to his original dealer, but felt they lacked interest in his business.
“They didn’t aggressively seek me out. They knew I was serious. I gave them the opportunity, but never heard back from them.”
He turned to another New Holland dealer, but felt they only wanted to sell what they had on the lot, which didn’t interest him.
He turned next to a John Deere dealer.
“I worked with them for quite a while. I just couldn’t get along with them. Their prices were just too high with too few included options.”
Rob continued his dealer search. This time to the Kubota dealer, where he had previously bought a utility vehicle. Again, he says he faced the same lack of interest in negotiating. So, on to the next dealer, Enid New Holland and Kubota — about 60 miles away. He had replaced his first utility vehicle with the purchase of a new Kubota RTV 900 at this dealership a year earlier and had a good trading experience.
“They were very aggressive. The young man I worked with was very personable,” he says. This dealer also worked hard to keep the conversation going with Rob. He says a deal breaker for him was the service department and service philosophy.
“I don’t like to transport my tractor. They said they had a service truck. I know some things you can’t do on the farm, but you can come to the farm to add Freon and work on many non-engine or transmission items. That kind of service was worth the world to me as a service truck trip charge is many times cheaper than a two-way ride on a semi-trailer,” he says.
Cindi Miles owns Lacy J, an Appaloosa mare. She also owns Lacy J’s two daughters, Annie and Belle. Cindi works in property claims for a large insurance company.
Also, Rob says the salesperson worked hard to understand his operation.
“They asked how I would be using the equipment and about my future needs. Most dealers leave that out. Even though I’m old I still plan on doing this for another 25 years.”
Rob currently has 50 acres custom tilled and planted to wheat and rye for pasture and hay by a local farmer.
“Someday, I may be planting my own wheat and discing my own ground. The others didn’t want to address that. They’re just trying to keep the money down to get you into something you won’t balk at.”
A Sale is Made
His dealer was also ready to deal, says Rob.
Rob Miles uses his Kubota RTV 900 every day to check his goat and cattle herds.
“Of course everyone is working for themselves, but I was looking for someone who was interested in me. That’s what they did. They centered in on me. I’ll always be grateful for this and will always have a special relationship with them because of it,” he says.
The salesperson and rural lifestyler began working their way through the options and how to make Rob’s work easier. They discussed the Euro-style implement attachments that would save time and effort getting on and off the tractor. One problem: It would cost about $180 each to add the modifying plate to his current attachments.
Then, the salesperson made an offer that moved the discussion to a sale: The opportunity to trade his New Holland tractor, a rotary mower (which he never used because of the grazing goats) and his existing attachments (front-end loader, bucket, rock bucket, bale spear and pallet fork). Rob got the tractor he wanted, a Kubota M126X, and the attachments he wanted, a Kubota loader and bucket, Worksaver bale spear and pallet forks and, finally, a Rhino grapple.
“The used equipment traded fairly equally with the new and added very little to the deal already struck between the old and new tractors. Financing was by Kubota at 0% for 5 years, once-a-year payments, with the first payment 12 months down the road. Whatever money was outstanding due to the equipment trade was rolled into the same tractor note with Kubota,” says Rob. “It was all him making that offer. He didn’t stick with a price and walk away and he traded well. That’s what endeared me to them. It’s quite a distance for me.”
The Miles now have the equipment they need to manage their acreage and livestock to the level of quality they prefer. In fact, Rolling M is nearly perfect for Rob. He’s even passing up a trip to stay on his farm and work.
“Why do I want to go to Italy? Italy can’t look any better than this.”