As the rights to the Haun Ranch family business transferred to third-generation cattle producer Brad Haun in 2021, he committed to keeping his son, Tyler, actively involved in the decision making and day-to-day ranch operations.
The Miller, SD-based Angus beef ranch began in the 1950s when Brad’s grandfather, Floyd Haun, purchased the land. During the summers growing up, Brad would visit and lend a helping hand. When he thought back to the days when he was Tyler’s age, 28, Brad noted he wasn’t much involved in business decisions. He was too busy working so there wasn’t time for that, he said.
“If people aren’t willing to help the next generation help make some decisions and learn how things work, it’s kind of like driving them away,” Brad said. “Because everybody wants to be valued, and everybody wants to feel like they’re a part of the business, a part of the family operation.”
Management looks slightly different with Brad setting the hierarchy – or lack thereof.
“I guess I’m kind of the boss, but I want it to be about making decisions together,” he said.
Brad and Tyler have no formal procedure for determining big business ventures or minor decisions, but they don’t seem to need to. Practically every decision made is one they’re in agreement on. They attribute their harmony to communication.
Although the family has the philosophy to not let business matters get in the way of personal relationships, they chose to take precautions as leadership passed from Brad’s father and uncle – Bob and Harold Haun, respectively – to Brad himself. At the same time, Bob and Harold passed down their ranch in Spencer, Neb., a separate entity from Haun Ranch known as Haun Land & Cattle, to Brad Haun’s cousins.
The Hauns involved third parties to keep the transition smooth, professional and amicable. They hired an attorney with succession planning expertise and an accountant. It was a yearlong process that Brad said was challenging: “In a lot of families, there’s hard feelings; we don’t have any hard feelings between us at all. At the same time, it wasn’t easy.”
The succession planning for Haun Ranch renewed its sense of mission. Tyler said he was particularly struck with newfound appreciation for the generations before him.
“The one thing Dad and I talked about is we want to honor my grandpa, my great grandpa and everyone who came before us and honor their legacy with what we do moving forward,” he said.
The family business remains open to input from any family member, but Brad’s dad has intentionally taken a step back, letting his son exercise his new authority. Although, while technically retired, Bob will still attend a cattle sale now and then.
An accident on Sept. 6, 2019, brought up questions about how to account for long-term illnesses and leave of absences within the family business.
While Brad and Tyler were moving cattle from the pasture across a three-mile stretch to their home, Brad’s horse bucked him across the road into a ditch. The incident led to an open book pelvic fracture and four months of recovery, during which the ranch was down a hand.
“It’s limited a little bit how much I can do,” Brad said.
Before the accident, the father-and-son duo primarily relied on each other for all the heavy lifting around the ranch and made do with a helping hand here and there. However, with Brad’s injury, pulling double duty became too much for one person. At this point, the Hauns began to consider hiring someone outside the family fulltime.
By the next year, they recruited Jesse Anderson as the newest team member of Haun Ranch.
With the added hand, the Hauns were able to expand their business in a way they could only dream about before. In 2020, they set up shop for a new beef retail business known as Haun Ranch Beef.
“My family has always been very proud of our cattle and the beef that it produces,” Tyler said. “Over the years, it’s always been fun to have people over to our house, and they tell us, ‘Oh man, these are the best steaks we’ve ever had.’ Anytime people have had our beef, we’ve received a ton of compliments on it. And so very simply, I guess this was a next step in thinking, ‘You know, it’d be really neat to share this with people outside of our family.’”
The idea had always been in the air, but Tyler was the one who began to push the concept into reality. During his college years before he joined Haun Ranch fulltime, Tyler had an interest in beef marketing. The Haun family refer to Tyler as the “numbers guy.” Exerting this skill, Tyler was able to create a business plan for Haun Ranch Beef, which he and his wife Jaclyn primarily oversee.
With about 2,000 head of cattle in the winter and 1,000 in the summer, Haun Ranch is able to supply enough beef for their own retail business while still sending the bulk of the meat to outside processors, including repeat shipments to JBS SA and Demkota Ranch Beef, based in Aberdeen, SD.
The Hauns send the top 1% of their cattle to be processed by Wausa Locker, Wausa, Neb., and Hudson Meats & Sausage Inc., Hudson, SD. That beef is used to fulfill Haun Ranch Beef’s direct-to-consumer orders around the country.
Haun Ranch Beef offers cuts of steak, roasts, ground beef, brisket, sausage, meat snacks and bundles featuring a mix of the company’s products. The products are even sold at a local flower shop, Blevior Floral, which is owned and operated by Tyler and Jaclyn.
As business owners, Tyler and Jaclyn are continually immersing themselves in marketing study materials and other resources, learning new business strategies.
“Since our businesses are so integrated into our lives too, it’s not like we don’t talk about work stuff when we’re at home,” Jaclyn said. “We’re usually bouncing ideas off each other or making sure we’re making wise choices.”
The couple described their approach to marketing as adjusting to their customers’ needs. Instead of asking, “How can I sell my product to you?” they ask, “What does the customer need?” Haun Ranch Beef’s non-local customer base has grown most significantly. Noting this, they began to offer bundles so that distant customers could receive bulk products in one delivery.
Moving forward, the Hauns hope to leave everything they touch better than it was before – including the land, cattle, people and resources.
“And on the beef side, we’ll be able to hopefully share our beef with a lot of people and hopefully make their lives better with some really good beef,” Tyler said.