Nutra-Lix: Montana innovation in a feed supplement
May 25, 2017
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Nutra-Lix, Inc.–a liquid feed supplement company in Billings, Montana. George Yost is one of the original founders and current owner along with his wife, Karen, and daughters, Kellie Kittelmann and Katie Yost. George grew up on a ranch in Montana, and created his liquid supplement product after working with other supplement companies.
His first introduction into what was then a relatively new industry was his employment as a salesman for Agri-Lines Converter Liquid Feed Co., in Billings, Montana more than forty years ago.
"It was my first sales experience and I found I enjoyed selling very much. I also enjoyed working for the owner/manager Richard Rawlings." Yost said. Then, Agri-Lines sold their Billings plant. Yost ended up working for a succession of new owners as the business changed hands several times in a short period of time. He took advantage of this time of uncertainty to seriously consider developing his own product, with better job security. So, in 1987, with two other partners, Nutra-Lix, Inc. was born.
"That is how Nutra-Lix Liquid Feed Supplement was started. Our goal then—and now – was to enhance the feedstuffs that cattlemen already have on hand and, at the same time, to make sure that vital nutrient requirements were met in that ration," he says.
Yost worked with many different ranchers, nutritionists and scientists to design Nutra-Lix Liquid Feed Supplement. He evaluated cows' performance and studied ruminant nutrition to gain a better understanding of how their digestive tracts work. At that point there were three Nutra-Lix employees—John Cellan, plant manager; Dave LaFurge, mixing technician; and George Yost, salesman.
The goal for Nutra-Lix feed supplement was for the best use of on-ranch feedstuffs combined with the added and required nutrients of an effective supplement. The ultimate goal was to get more cows bred, show better productivity, and produce stronger, healthier calves. Nutra-Lix was successful on all counts. It enables cows to clean up grass that they wouldn't eat before, and produce healthier calves.
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"We've been able to winter cattle on just straw and Nutra-Lix liquid supplement rather than on more expensive hay. This has played a big role in cutting winter feed costs," Yost says. "You can increase the cows' consumption of poor forage that a cow eats in twenty-four hours with Nutra-Lix, and that added intake will increase her body condition and give her more energy."
The savings in using existing forage with Nutra-Lix can be substantial and helps the rancher add an increased margin to his bottom line. With Nutra-Lix, ranchers save money on two major expenses: feeding and morbidity and medical and veterinarian costs for baby calves.
"In developing this product, I knew that controlling intake and palatability was very important," says Yost. "With Nutra-Lix, the supplement is available to the cattle 24/7 at a guaranteed consumption rate. Because all of the cattle have the opportunity to visit the trough, there are no 'boss cows' that get more than their fair share, and timid cows are able to get the supplement they need."
To make Nutra-Lix feed supplement more economical, Yost believed that it had to be sold through local dealerships by dealers that the customers had a relationship with. "Nutra-Lix dealers play a huge role in hand-delivering the product and checking it regularly for proper intake. Most of our dealers also provide a visual check of the cattle as they are delivering the product, and communicate with the rancher for problems they might see. And, having the supplement delivered directly to the pasture saves money on fuel, time and labor. There are so many advantages," he says.
THE FAMILY – Members of the Yost family, along with several excellent employees make up the Nutra-Lix staff. "It's great to have our kids working alongside us every day," says Yost.
Daughters Kellie and Katie are huge assets to Nutra-Lix, Inc. with their computer skills and next generation thinking. Katie enjoys traveling and photography in her spare time, but otherwise keeps busy as CFO of Nutra-Lix. Kellie manages accounts receivables and dealer relationships. Her husband, Kaine is plant manager and their two young boys, George and Augustus make it to work at least once a week. "That also explains what Kellie and her husband do with their 'free time,'" Yost says.
As their kids were growing up, George and Karen produced team ropings at their own arena every Friday night. Now, their son, Ty and his wife Stacey have taken what was a part-time avocation for George and Karen and made team ropings into a serious and prosperous roping production company, Rancho Rio, headquartered in Wickenburg, Arizona. They promote Nutra-Lix products at their events.
The Yost's eldest daughter, Heather and her husband Larry Baker are dealers for Nutra-Lix in Jordan, Montana. Their feed business, YCross Feeds, sell all types of animal feeds and feed supplements, with Nutra-Lix being a major item for them. They also ranch and run cattle.
"It helps when our dealers have a ranching background because they understand cattle better and can explain to their customers how our supplement works." Yost says.
"We love that our family is all a part of the business. Relationships are huge in managing any business, so being able to work with family members who make the effort to understand each other make working long days and long hours bearable. Our 'non-relative' staff and employees have been extremely flexible and supportive of this arrangement and fit right in. We depend upon them for so much."
After 30 years running a company, some people would consider retirement not far off. This is not the case for Yost.
When asked by friends when he is going to retire, Yost said, "I tell them that if I were to retire I would probably just sit in a corner and become dusty and then die."
Besides the need to stay busy, it's his love of the ranching industry that keeps him going. "I often end up spending more days in the office than I like so I truly enjoy the opportunity to get out in the country and visit with ranchers. I love working with ranchers because I love what they do and who they are. They love and respect the land, and I am honored to be a small part of it."