By NANCY LYBARGER
NORTH VERNON, Ind. — After a major livestock equipment supplier was bought out by another business, the product quality just wasn’t up to par – so cousins Mike and Ed Biehle launched their own company.
Mike’s brother, Joe, had been a regional manager for an Iowa livestock equipment company. That company was bought out by another, Joe said, and it became obvious to them the product quality slumped. “They weren’t in business too long after that,” he said.
Cowco, Inc. – Equipment and Custom Signs opened in 1995 in southeastern Indiana, offering a variety of livestock equipment. Joe Biehle, manager for Cowco, said its founders were able to meld the new business into their other concerns, Biehle Electric and Biehle Systems.
The company’s goal is to distribute and service quality, dependable, safe and easy-to-use cattle handling equipment. The owners and manager are constantly looking at ways to improve equipment safety, both for livestock and their keepers, and comfort. If a client has an idea for a piece of equipment, or something like a gate, custom fabricating is available.
Biehle said about 75 percent of their inventory is from their own designs and improvements to livestock equipment. Cowco equipment is designed at one of their other shops, which specializes in industrial contracting and computerized conveyor systems.
Through their business, the Biehles offer not only Cowco equipment, but Pride of the Farm, Jug, Digi Star, Callicrate Bander and S.I. Feeders. They stock feeders, pens, chutes, weighers and banders, hoop buildings, haycovers and many other livestock-driven products.
They make custom license plates for specific breeds and industries, as well, but that is the extent of the sign business, Biehle said.
Cowco is also a regional representative for S.I. Feeders, covering Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan and Illinois. It services 30 dealers, he said.
With three employees at the equipment dealership, it is sometimes a struggle to do farm equipment shows, but Biehle said they have found it necessary for the business. It has 21 shows on the schedule for 2013; many are in booths with other dealers.
“You have to get the product out in front of the public. We direct-sell in areas where there are no dealers,” he said. (Several areas are without dealerships, he noted.)
The shows also allow clients to see equipment that dealers may not have on hand at their shops. “There’s just too much. You can’t keep it all in inventory,” Biehle said.
Cowco will be with S.I. Feeders at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky. Recently Cowco participated in the Kentucky Cattlemen’s convention in Lexington, but they range from Oklahoma to Michigan, to North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia and points between. In March and April, they’ll be in seven states doing beef expos.
Biehle said they don’t sell directly through their website, but many clients use it to figure out the equipment specifics they need. More client inquiries are coming through the site, he said.
“We aren’t set up for people to buy from the website. Most people will go to a dealer to purchase it. Most of our inventory is too big a ticket item to buy online,” he explained.
Cowco is located at 3780 South S.R. 7, North Vernon, IN 47265. The website address is http://cowcoinc.com and the business can be contacted at 812-525-3694 or 800-240-3868.