DeTye Vet Supply uses dirt road values to help ranchers succeed
June 18, 2018
Going into their 18th season of serving ag producers in western South Dakota and the surrounding area, Tyler and Dee Haugen can see that their goals and business strategy are sound.
DeTye Vet Supply, located near Sturgis, South Dakota, uses a mail-order style business and a commitment to helping their customers—most of whom have become friends—produce as many live, healthy cattle as possible.
"What pays us at the end of the year is live cattle," said Dee Haugen, the "De" half of "DeTye" Vet Supply.
Detye, started in the fall of 2001, offers animal health products, but for the Haugens, it's about more than selling vet supplies.
"Our goal has not wavered," Dee said. "We pride ourselves on our ability to offer service that is simply the 'best in the west.'"
The company website, DeTye.com doesn't have a "buy it now" option, but it offers contact info, and a full catalog that includes everything from vet supplies to branding irons. It was a deliberate, thoughtful decision to not automate the ordering process, Dee said. "It's about the personal touch. We're committed to our customers and we feel like we would lose that if we provided online ordering. We encourage people to call us, so we can offer the best pricing program, based on their needs."
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When they started DeTye, Dee and Tyler came up with three principles that have guided their business decisions since.
- Provide our ranching customers with the lowest prices on quality animal health products
- Provide our customers with the most updated information on those products, so they can make the best decision for their individual livestock needs
- Deliver those products in the most efficient way possible, with the least amount of hassle on the customer's end.
Nearly every business decision–and success–can be traced to those three principles.
They don't consider themselves experts on animal health, but they are a connection between producers and the people who have the answers. "I tell people that if I don't know the answer, I know someone who does," Dee says.
Their store is located at their home, which helps keep costs low, but still includes a warehouse and coolers to make sure all the supplies are kept at optimum conditions. Though their store is at the end of a dirt road, pharmaceutical reps stop by about every other day, Dee said. "They're constantly being updated on their products, and they keep us informed."
In the nearly twenty years they've been in the business, they've seen a lot of changes. "There was a time that some of the vaccines created new problems for the cattle. That's not an issue anymore," Dee said. There also used to be a lot of companies that produced vaccines and medicine, but many of those have merged or reorganized, and now only a few companies are represented in the market. "The ones that are still in the market are there because they're good at what they do," Dee said.
The same could be said of DeTye. Their commitment to customer service makes it easy for customers to come back year after year.
While most producers don't make their buying decisions based on the bag of candy included with every purchase, it does give them something to look forward to, and reinforces that personal touch.
Customer decisions are more likely to be based on the ability to call—or even text–and ask, "What did I buy last year?" and to not only get the answer, but to have the person on the other end of the line tell them what new developments have happened since, and what other options might be a better fit. They'll also tell the customer if they're wasting money.
"Oftentimes we see where producers are over-vaccinating," Dee said. "We'll see that they're using two products that are for the same thing, at the same time. We try to use our resources to help them with that."
One of their resources is their full-time employee, Colleen Morehead. She started with DeTye a year ago and is already considered part of the family and a huge asset to the company, with a vet tech degree from Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, Wyo.
"We count on her for her extensive knowledge in the reproduction world of cattle and horses," Dee said. "She has been involved in the reproduction fields at all levels."
Another service they offer is to take care of the paperwork involved in many of the rebates and incentives from their pharmaceutical and supply companies.
"It's a busy world," Dee said. "I fill it all out and send it in. I've had producers get two to three thousand back a year."
Being a local business, DeTye knows what health issues producers are facing, often before the producers do, but they emphasize the importance of a relationship between a producer and vet. "We try to help them find what they need, but they have to tell us what's going on in their specific situation," Dee said.
"We try to have our customers best interests in mind at all times. That way they keep calling us for what they need."
Dee and Tyler realize that the future of their business is tied to the future of the industry. They have three reminders of that at the table with them daily. Their three daughters, Landry, 13, Arina Dee, 9, and Blaisely, 3, all love rodeo and agriculture.
DeTye supports youth programs in the community, including FFA, 4-H, National High School Rodeo, Junior High Rodeo, National Little Britches Association and others. For the last seven years they have also given a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior.
It's a business they enjoy, but they realize that they're not just in the business of selling animal health products, they're in the business of helping ranchers succeed.
"We do not take our customers for granted, just like we have never taken for granted the ability to put a hard day's work in," Dee said. "We truly enjoy what we do and hope that it is evident in the huge amount of friends that we have made. It is always awkward for me to say customers, as each and every individual that has purchased from DeTye has become a lifelong friend. You are not just a customer to us, but truly a friend."