Feedlot Forum speaker provides attendees with direct connection to national issues


Brad Kooima.

Brad Kooima.


SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – As a college senior, Brad Kooima had no intention of doing anything after graduation other than returning to the farm and raising cattle. A required 10-hour per week internship would change all that.

"I was already feeding some cattle and some hogs and thought I'd end up back on the farm like my three older brothers," he said. "I'd also had some experience with hedging and knew how futures worked, and thought working at a commodity broker would be a great way to really learn something."

He did his internship at a local broker and by the end of the semester, had been offered a job there. Of course, he said no. The second time the job was offered, he again said no. The third time, though, was a charm.

"I didn't yet have a job lined up, so I thought I'd try it for a year," he said. "By the end of my third year, I bought him out, and I'm still doing the same thing, coming up on 44 years in June of being a broker."

Kooima's initial foray into cattle feeding was profitable, and that set the stage for a lifelong association with that business. He now does backgrounding in South Dakota, is part owner in a Nebraska feedlot, and finishes cattle in northwest Iowa. His experience as a cattle feeder translates well into his role as a broker at Kooima Kooima Varilek Trading in Sioux Center.

"It starts with treating every customer the same regardless of their size," he said. "My customers know I'm going to work as hard as anyone for them, and I'm going to do my best to give them the best kind of help I can."

Kooima also is a member of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, on the ICA Feedlot Council and National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Livestock Marketing Committee, and represents Iowa as a member of the working group focused on the USDA Cattle Contract Library. And, he's a long-time advocate for the independent producer.

"Within the NCBA and Iowa Cattlemen circles, I'm known for caring a great deal about transparency, and part of the reason I got involved with some of this work is because I understand the nuances and the ins and outs," he said. "I see myself as being the advocate for the small guy, the independent guy who sells his own cattle."

That advocacy on the national level is part of why Kooima spoke at the 2024 Feedlot Forum sponsored in part by Iowa Beef Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Sharing updates, especially regarding transparency in marketing and contracts, is important to him and to that audience. He told attendees progress is being made on the Cattle Contract Library topic, and independent producers are being heard.

"How can you be against transparency?" he said. "I think the USDA does care about this issue, and even though Washington has been in a place of gridlock, I haven't given up on the idea that we'll see something out of it."

He hasn't always been involved with these organizations, and he remembers exactly when that changed.

"I was a member of Iowa Cattlemen's and I would send in my $100 membership, not be involved or engaged otherwise," he said. "And one day Justine Stevenson showed up at my office and said she knew I was a member of ICA, and she wanted to hear my thoughts."

As she listened, Kooima started naming issues that he was frustrated with, including how the national organization wasn't in touch with local producers.

"Partway through the conversation, I remembered a time when I wasn't happy about something, and my dad telling me, 'Brad, you're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem,'" he said. "I don't know that Justine had a magic bullet or anything like that, but it was a right-place, right-time thing because I realized I wasn't doing anything for the industry that I really love."

His advocacy and representation journey had begun. Fifty years after his first profitable year in the cattle business and nearly 44 years since he said yes to a job in the brokerage business, Bard Kooima remains passionate about the beef industry and the people who are part of it. It's not always easy, it's always important.



The Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state’s beef cattle industry. It comprises faculty and staff from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine, and works to develop and deliver the latest research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information about IBC, visit www.iowabeefcenter.org.

Sherry Hoyer, Iowa Beef Center, 515-294-4496, shoyer@iastate.edu

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