Sunday, June 13, 2004

Look Who's Talking: David Uible, sold on buffalo


Investor's ranching 'hobby' pays off

By Justin Fenton
Cincinnati Enquirer

As an investor, David Uible's job is to purchase and turn around struggling small companies through his business, Uible Management. It was the perfect training for his foray into buffalo ranching, which has taken him from buying a dozen calves to running a business capitalizing on the low-carb diet craze. Uible, 43, recently expanded his interests by joining the board of directors of New Richmond National Bank. He said he hopes to bring his business sense to the small bank chain.

[img]
David Uible of New Richmond stands in the field with some of the 80 head of buffalo he raises on his ranch.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
BUFFALO RANCHING is not exactly the most popular hobby. How did you get started?

We (his family) moved from a condominium we had in Eden Park and bought a 171-acre farm in New Richmond. Once we had it, we figured we better have some animals. We're family friends of Ted Turner and as a result had heard his buffalo stories. He owns the world's largest buffalo herd with 35,000 head. I joined the National Bison Association and thought, "I think we can do that." We bought 12 calves in 1995.

IS BUFFALO RANCHING LUCRATIVE, or just a hobby?

It started out as a hobby but it's starting to pay dividends. A media report (about his ranch) in 2000 really kind of got things moving. It was not our intent to be in the meat business, but the article caused several restaurants as well as some meat markets to contact us. The next thing we knew, we had struck a deal with a distributor (Eckerlinds, which supplies meat to Finley Market in New Liberty North).

BUFFALO MEAT contains less than one-fourth the fat of beef and pork and about one-third the fat of chicken. Have you seen an increase in business with the obsession over the Atkins low-carb diets?

Sure, sales are doing real well. We've seen probably a 25 percent jump since January, and it's not just Atkins but also mad cow. People are more aware of where the beef is coming from. Feedlots out west are undesirable - it's just not a healthy lifestyle for beef cattle. Our cattle have access to fresh grass and corn and spring water, so they have a nice life out there.

ARE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES between rescuing small businesses and buffalo ranching?

With any distressed business, the area they're lacking is marketing. That's the common thread - you've got to be able to sell your product. The buffalo was not something that was really sold in Cincinnati. We were creating a new market and had to figure out how to get ourselves out there and build demand. There's a handful of restaurants - the Cincinnati Country Club, the University Club and Joe's Place (which Uible acquired last month) - where their buffalo burger sales outnumber beef burger sales.




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