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Hauling through the years

Darren Olsen Published on 02 August 2010
Dennis Capps, along with his three brothers, Mike, David and Brian

When it comes to moving feed for the dairy industry in Idaho, few companies have been doing it longer than Glen Capps, Inc. of Jerome, Idaho.

Dennis Capps, along with his three brothers, Mike, David and Brian, continue a tradition of agriculture feed and stock hauling that has been going on since vehicles were first used for that purpose. Dennis explained it has been in the family’s blood for 95 years.

“My father, Glen, started the hay business in 1947. Before that, my father’s step-dad started trucking sheep up a dirt road over Galena Summit above Ketchum, Idaho back in 1915, so you could say we are in our 95th year of trucking products for the agricultural industry.

“The trucking business is a way of life that we enjoy. From the farmers to the dairymen, we really enjoy the people in this industry and have developed some great friendships and working relationships over the years.

Most of us can appreciate the equipment and care needed to make this business work, so it has become a growing part of the family for generations.”

Having served the agricultural community of Idaho for decades, Glen Capps, Inc. has seen a variety of changes to how and what they transport over the years.

Today, Idaho has evolved into one of the top five dairy states in the U.S. and the connection between feed growers and these customers is where the biggest niche of their business resides.

Dennis said, “The dairy industry in Idaho makes up the bulk of our business today. We spend most of our time transporting straw, hay and barley to dairies throughout our area from growers across the Intermountain West. “

Dennis was also quick to point out that it is the continuing relationships his family has made with both growers and dairies in the area that have helped everyone weather the dynamic roller coaster of the past few years the feed and dairy industry have encountered. Without them, he feels they would be in a very different business situation than they are today. It’s a lesson that has always been part of the Capps’ philosophy.

“When it comes to working with farmers, I find most of them do the best they can considering the weather and other factors that can affect quality production.

For the most part, they are honest and ethical in their business dealings and are just trying, like everyone else, to take care of their financial needs to stay in business.

I also feel the same way about the dairymen in our area, although with milk prices that went sky high and then have plummeted and stayed low for over a year now, the stress and strain is starting to get to some of them. I feel everyone is doing the best they can, but the current economy isn’t easy for a lot of people right now.

“The relationships you develop over the years are key in surviving times like we face now. Even though the business is competitive, most reputable hay haulers have built up a good relationship with both buyers and sellers that keep everyone moving forward.

A few years ago, when prices were starting to get real high for several months, you saw a lot of people try and jump in to make some money and then get out. Most of them are gone today, but those who have tried to remain honest and honorable to the contracts they fill are still here.

“Our business has grown up around other haulers in our area and I feel most of us have respect for one another and all do our best to keep a good name for feed haulers in our area.

I think everyone would like to avoid the situations that developed out of the rapid rise and fall in 2008, some of which we still are dealing with even today.

That said, I know of three different individuals or companies that have tried to get into the business this year. It is a continually changing landscape in this business and it takes time to really build the lasting relationships that make this job a good one.

“The biggest lesson my father taught us when we first got into the business was to be honest and fair with everyone you deal with, no matter how big or small they may be.

A few years ago, a hay exporter from Washington commented that he always felt we had been honest and honorable with him, from the time he was working with my dad, through his sons, and it has always stayed with me. When all is said and done and I have passed this on to my children, nephews or someone else, I hope that same message continues to be said about what we have continued to do through the years.”

Along with the challenges of keeping up on business contacts and friendships that keep things moving, other areas of the business can keep everyone on their toes.

“In addition to keeping quality help at the business, there are the typical equipment issues, breakdowns and having enough to service both the farmers and the dairies, and there is usually a steady competition in this business which keeps us continually finding the best way to honorably service both the growers and the dairies.

This business can be quite intensive at times, especially when new hay is coming available and needs are high. There are times when you can miss a business opportunity by 15 minutes if you are not continually staying in contact with both hay buyers and sellers.

“While the business can be challenging, it also is a lot of fun because it keeps everyone moving and on their toes. It is the challenges of the business that keep me and my brothers going and finding new and exciting ways to keep the business moving forward,” Dennis said.

Capps semi's

As far as the future of Glen Capps, Inc., it has already happened. Dennis pointed out that a new venture into composting was begun two years ago and has already been well received by both the dairymen and growers.

“Over the past two years, we have begun a composting business to help dairymen remove excess nutrients from their operations while providing our forage clients with needed nutrients at a reasonable price.

So far, it has been working really well. Growers have been seeing an increase in production and the excess manure is finding a home back where it is needed. Overall, everyone seems to like the results from our efforts.

“We did make the investment in the composting equipment as a business and have formed relationships with several local dairies to use the excess manure they don’t need to spread on their own fields locally.

After composting it, we haul it back to those forage producers who are looking for better ways to keep their forage quality up without spending too much on commercial fertilizers. The producers typically spread the compost themselves and stockpile it on the edge of their fields until they are ready to use it in the fall or spring.”

Beyond this recent expansion, Dennis stated that they are working on maintaining the business as it is until the dairy situation stabilizes. The recent shockwaves through the industries they serve have been good reminders that sticking with what you do and serving those you work with are key to staying in business yourself.

“Over the years, automation and technology have really changed the way we do business. We can now haul in one day, on one truck, what it used to take us a week to do. Keeping the hay and other feeds moving is key if you want to remain profitable and stay in the business and we owe a lot to the way hay is baled and stored now.

Without those changes, I don’t know how we would be able to keep up with the needs of the dairy industry in our area today.

“Right now, we feel pretty good about the size we have reached. It is manageable with the equipment we have and I feel our customer service is good on both ends. I hope we can continue to see the composting end of things continue to grow, and from what we have seen over the first two years,

I think we have hit on a model that will work well for everyone involved. Overall, we just want to stay loyal to those we are able to work with and help anyone else who needs our services.

Being a good, honest business has, and will always be, our focus. Keeping things at the level we have them now is part of that. I am kind of glad my kids and nephews have been with us to see both the ups and downs this business brings and can carry that with them into the future.”  FG

Glenn Capps, Inc. (now being operated by Dennis, David, Jenny, Brad, Brian and Mike, pictured left to right) has been serving the feed and forage industries in southern Idaho for decades.
Photos courtesy of Glen Capps, Inc.