Migl Feed & Grain Specializes In Customer Service
published: September 15th 2011
by: Martha Hollida Garrett
The year was 1968. The average cost to build a home was $14,900; gas was 34 cents a gallon; minimum wage was $1.60/hour and the first Apollo mission was launched. While these events had national significance, a business venture in Lavaca County, Texas, was just beginning and would certainly impact and benefit area farmers and ranchers.
Frank and Elrose Migl of Hallettsville established Frank Migl Trucking during 1968. It began as a moonlighting business operated from their home. In the evenings, Migl would dispatch his driver to pick up corn and milo and have it delivered to buyers. This was done in the evenings so he could continue to work his day job. His wife, Elrose, would assist by managing the accounting and tending to their young children at home.
They soon purchased more trucks and hired more drivers, all the while Migl continued to work both jobs. Before long, the extra income allowed them to lease some land and start yet another sideline business of raising cattle.
Hard work soon earned them enough money for Migl to leave his day job and focus on growing their business. Over the next 10 years, they continued to broker more and more grain and added many more trucks to the Frank Migl Trucking fleet. The home-based business was growing fast and expansion was ahead. So in 1976 they incorporated and changed the company name to Migl Feed & Grain Co. Soon after they built an office outside of Hallettsville on Hwy 90-A West, where the company remains today.
Growing cotton had long faded away in the Lavaca County area. Some farmers had switched to producing grain, while others found jobs in town or started ranching and converted cotton fields into pasture land. The cattle population had increased significantly in Lavaca and surrounding counties after farmers quit producing cotton.
Since the Migls were also in the cattle business and interested in producing forage for their own cattle, he sprigged one of his fields with Coastal Bermudagrass and could see that this area could be a good source of high-quality pasture for hay and grazing. He also did a few custom sprigging jobs for others. Migl would fertilize his fields with equipment and products from a local supplier, however, he saw a great need for better service and better equipment.
It wasn’t long before Migl Feed & Grain Co. expanded into the liquid fertilizer business. They added a fertilizer office, liquid fertilizer tanks, one custom applicator truck and two pull-type fertilizer buggies. In fact, Migl was the one that brought liquid fertilizer to Lavaca County, but not for his own business expansion at Migl Feed & Grain, but years earlier, while he was managing a local fertilizer dealership.
Now, more than 40 years later, Migl Feed & Grain Co. has expanded to include many services that enhance the livelihood of local agriculturalists. Service has remained the key ingredient in a recipe designed to help farmers and ranchers produce more grain, yield more forage, and raise more pounds of beef. Products like liquid herbicides, brush control, soil micronutrients, renovator, seed, planting equipment rentals, sacked feed, liquid feed, and animal health products were added over the years. Larger fertilizer holding tanks and grain bins were added as well. They also installed equipment to clean and sack grains and seed.
Their customer base also expanded beyond the borders of Lavaca County as their reputation for positive customer service and quality products spread.
With the expanding services and products, extra help was brought in to manage the growing company. Tommy Brandenberger joined the company in 1991 as director of operations. He is now serving as the company president.
“Even though there is very little grain produced here in Lavaca County, we have remained in the grain business since day one. It’s where the company started. Our primary source for grain is the Gulf Coast area. We service feed mills and feed yards in Central and South Texas, primarily delivering corn, milo and wheat,” describes Brandenberger.
Expanding into liquid fertilizer has proved just as successful as the grain side of the business.
“Our fertilizer customer base numbers around 1,500 with producers concentrated in Lavaca, Gonzales, DeWitt, Colorado and Fayette counties. There are more cows in these five counties than there are in most western states. Most producers are small, but the country lends itself to intensive forage production, except in a dry year like this one,” Brandenberger explains adding, “Ranchers usually make three and sometimes four cuttings of hay per season.”
Migl serves customers from Bee County all the way up to Bastrop County. Having tanker trailers, turn-row tanks and sufficient equipment helps Migl branch out much farther than their own back yard.
Today, the company has six custom applicator trucks, seven nurse trucks, 14 pull-type applicators, twelve 18-wheelers and six tankers. They blend all their fertilizer at the Hallettsville location and work with each customer to custom mix just what they need. Migl promotes soil testing to accurately define what the soil needs.
“On an ideal day, the custom applicator trucks leave early morning and don’t return until late. We use the nurse trucks to deliver fertilizer and herbicide from the office to the applicator truck. This allows us to serve more customers, more efficiently. The 14 pull-type buggies are available for customers who want to apply the fertilizer themselves. On a busy day, especially when rain is predicted, these do-it-yourself buggies will go out three times each,” describes Brandenberger adding that this allows the company to serve ranches of all size.
The company has around 35 full time employees and expands to 41 with seasonal help. They utilize their personnel year-round by building their own equipment, performing their own maintenance, and by having diversified services that don’t conflict with the primary entities of spring fertilizing and fall grain hauling. Migl also sells and hauls limestone, has grain cleaning capabilities, and bag deer corn during the non-busy season.
“The biggest change we’ve seen in our business is that we’ve become a 12-month business, as the scope of our products and services has broadened. Maintaining equipment has always been a high priority for Migl and today our employees spend many hours servicing our equipment. We want it to work well for us as well as our customers. Our drivers and applicators are very knowledgeable about each piece of machinery and are expected to take care of many mechanical issues that may occur while in the field so that the job can be completed on time,” says Brandenberger.
Migl Feed & Grain Co. also has facilities for washing all equipment, which is done on a regular schedule to increase the life of machinery.
Along with keeping well-maintained equipment, the company takes pride in operating under environmentally sound practices. They were one of the first retail outlets in Texas to build a secondary containment system for their fertilizer and herbicides tanks; if there is a problem they are able to contain the product.
“Nothing drains off our property that would be of environmental concern because we recapture the water used for rinsing and washing. Our employees go through strict safety training as well as training about the rules and regulations issued by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency,” explains Branden-berger.
In addition to safety and good environmental practices, Migl takes pride in offering good service to the customer.
“Our customers can trust us to be there in a timely manner with products they need and at a competitive price. Many customers never enter the office. They trust us enough to conduct the order over the phone. We make effort to know customers by name and enjoy conversation time with them. It helps us get to know them. We have many repeat customers who like to come in just to visit or grab a cup of coffee. We operate as a family here and it’s important to the Migls to have long-time customers as well as long-time employees. We strive to provide good service so they will be satisfied and keep coming back,” Brandenberger said.
Many employees of the company own cattle which helps strengthen the bond with their customers. Their drivers usually know the property they are delivering to and being cattlemen themselves, they understand the importance of shutting gates and letting the customer know if they see a cow down or having birthing difficulties. The Migls also maintain a commercial cattle operation, which is primarily Beefmaster-influenced.
Today, the Migls can still be found in the office, although they no longer oversee the daily operations of Migl Feed & Grain Co. What started as a one-truck moonlighting job some 40 years ago, has grown into a full-service grain, feed and fertilizer company that continues to make farming and ranching a little bit easier for customers, many of whom work in town by day and ranch in the evenings. The company continues to impact agriculture, just as it did in the beginning.