Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
Jordan Morris expanding quickly in beef industry
BATAVIA — Jordan Morris is a young and ambitious man who is making waves in the local beef industry.
Morris runs two cattle facilities and two pig buildings. He owns a semi which he uses to haul feed, and on top of that, he advises other farmers on risk management. About three years ago, he got involved with the Jefferson County Cattlemen, and this is his first year on the board. Morris said he’s proud to be a member of the beef industry, and that he regards it as a very rewarding line of work, even though it is hard work that fewer people want to do.
“Around here, more people are getting out of [the industry] than getting into it, especially the cow-calf side,” Morris said. “Every day, more fences are torn up and pastures ripped up and planted with row crops. That will be a thing we deal with the rest of our lives. For some people, it’s too much work for the reward at the end of it. I always say, ‘If we did it for the money, we wouldn’t do it,’ and that’s a fact.”
Unlike a lot of farmers who worked on their parents’ land or worked for their parents’ business, Morris’s parents were not involved in farming at all. He started as a farm hand working for a local farmer, and one summer while in college, he had the opportunity to build a pig barn. He took that opportunity, and has been working in agriculture full-time ever since.
Morris was born and raised in Muscatine, and moved to Fairfield when he was a freshman in high school. He said his interest in agriculture was sparked by helping his uncle, who owned a 17-acre farm near Muscatine.
“We’d help the neighbors bale hay and do all sorts of stuff,” Morris said. “That’s where my passion came from.”
Morris graduated from Fairfield High School. As a teenager, he didn’t know what career path to take, but he knew he wanted to work outside.
“I worked for an excavating company for a while, and in college I poured concrete,” he said. “I built grain bins out of college, too.”
Morris was studying agriculture at Iowa State University when this opportunity to build a pig barn in Jefferson County arose. He and a farmer started building it in August, and Morris decided that it was wiser to continue working on the pig building than to return to Iowa State. He built another pig building south of Libertyville shortly thereafter, all while maintaining a cow-calf operation on the side.
“I really enjoyed the cows, and that’s what made me progress hard in the cattle industry,” he said.
Morris was helping another farmer at the time, Larry Anderson, who ran a feedlot. That inspired Morris to start his own feedlot, too, building his first cattle barn in 2019 south of Batavia. Shortly thereafter, Morris bought another feedlot in Floris, in Davis County.
Morris explained why he didn’t waste any time in expanding his cattle operation.
“In order to build a building, you’ve got to have the cattle for it,” he said. “You’ve got to have a pile of equity because cattle are expensive, and you’ve got to buy feed, a mixer wagon, skid loader, all that stuff. I thought, why don’t I start custom feeding, and that will get my barns built.”
Morris said he was inspired by that iconic line from “Field of Dreams.”
“I built a barn and I had nobody lined up,” Morris said. “I thought, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ It truly did work like that. I went from knowing hardly anybody in the cattle industry, and now I know people from Kansas, Nebraska and I’ve custom-fed for 15 different people. I have repeat customers who are happy with us.”
Morris said he’s still involved with both pigs and cattle, and that he spends most of his time with the cattle.
“Hogs are easier,” he said. “You can be in and out of a pig barn in 15 minutes. To do [cattle] chores, it takes two hours. And if we go to Floris, it’s another hour or two down there. And that’s just chores, that’s not counting hauling manure or anything like that.”
Morris said so much of the work of caring for hogs has been automated, while all facets of caring for cattle are still manual.
“If it’s raining, as soon as it’s done raining you’re going to bed the cattle, scrape the manure and get them cleaned up so they’re comfortable,” he said. “With the pigs, the weather doesn’t matter. It’s 72 degrees and windy every day in their building.”
When cold weather strikes, Morris deploys curtains around his cattle barn and puts bales of cornstalks down on the ground to keep them warm.
Morris said that, even though cattle are more work than hogs, he enjoys the cattle more.
“With the pigs, it’s the same thing every day, and with the cattle, you see something new every day,” he said.
In addition to having heifers and steers on his feedlots, Morris has maintained his cow-calf operation. He sends his cows to Missouri in the warm months because there’s more pasture land there.
“For the one operation we have our cows on right now, there are 3,000 acres of pasture one mile from the guy’s house,” Morris said. “That’s non-existent up here. You’ll have a 50-acre pasture over here, or a 75-acre pasture over there.”
Morris and his wife Emily have three sons, ages 1, 3, and 5. Morris said they love coming out to see his animals and his tractors.
“One boy hates getting dirty, so I told him, ‘This won’t be the career for you,’” Morris laughed. “One boy couldn’t care less, and it seems the dirtier he is, the happier he is.”
Morris said that, even with inflation raising the cost of inputs, the beef industry is in good shape, and he hopes it will stay that way when his kids grow up.
“That’s the point of the Cattlemen, to keep this as sustainable as we can for the next generation,” he said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org