ANYONE WONDERING about the state of manufacturing in Central Florida ought to take a brief drive over to Lake Wales. There, at 7 Lincoln Avenue, you’ll find a company called Southern Livestock Systems. At this address, you’ll also find a vibrant and year-round manufacturing operation serving Florida’s ever-growing agricultural community.
A family-operated and 100 percent minority-owned company — the minority here being a businesswoman, wife and mother to two children — Southern Livestock Systems manufactures gates, corrals, arenas, feeders and hay rings, stalls, kennels, livestock scales, and cattle management systems. Though its products include key components for livestock control and fencing systems, Southern Livestock Systems isn’t a fencing company. “We really don’t do fencing; we make the corral panels and gates for the fencing,” says Serena Reed, the company’s owner and managing officer.
Serena Reed is joined in company management by her husband, Mike Reed, and father-in-law, Don Reed. In addition to her ownership responsibilities, Serena oversees accounts receivable and payable, and human resources for approximately 20 employees. Mike is the chief operations and sales manager, computer-aided design (CAD) expert, and designer of custom livestock management systems. Don is the manufacturing general manager and lead purchasing agent. “With just the three of us here in the office, decisions can be made right here,” Mike says. “As a smaller business, we can be more flexible.”
The formed and welded products of Southern Livestock Systems can come either pre-galvanized, power-coated in a baked-on paint-like material, or hot-dipped galvanized for top-of-the-line protection from the elements. In addition to selling fencing gates and related components in common demand by farmers and ranchers, the company designs and builds custom products and livestock systems.
“We’re the only ones who go out and make a (product design) jig to someone’s specifications,” Serena says. “We’re the only (company) in the state of Florida that does what we do,” adds her husband. Jobs for customers range from the routine to the highly complex. Southern Livestock Systems’ largest project to date was a cattle-management system for the University of Florida’s Beef Research Unit near Marianna in the Florida Panhandle. The system, measuring 408 feet long by 108 feet wide, was designed to go under a huge sale barn at the research center. Completed this past spring, the project required 1,200 pieces and took four months to build and install. “It was very complex, but we did it,” he states. “It was phenomenal, something we’re very proud of.”
In addition to UF, well-known names among their customers include Lykes Bros., the University of Georgia, Auburn University, and Deseret Ranches of Florida, Westgate River Ranch, and the Florida Strawberry Festival. “We have very loyal customers,” Mike says, adding that the company has built a reputation on quality products and service. “We would like to be known for building a quality product at a fair price. “If there’s a problem, there’s not a problem,” he adds. “That little extra thing you do for a customer goes a long way.”
The history of Southern Livestock Systems goes back to 1999, when the Reeds started a sales and distribution company called Circle R Ranch and Livestock Equipment. The company’s name was changed near the end of 2011 when the Reeds decided they wanted to get into manufacturing. Southern Livestock Systems still has its distribution business — carrying agricultural products by Southern Livestock Mfg., Rice Lake, Tru-Test, Pearson Livestock Equipment, and Apache Mfg. — but on its own the company is very busy just making and delivering gates. “We deliver more than 20,000 gates a year — about 400 to 500 a week,” Mike Reed reports.
At Southern Livestock Systems, the buck stops at the desk of Serena Reed, but she’s quick to point out that the company’s success is the result of a solid team effort. “It’s a family-run business,” she says. “Everybody has a strong suit here.”
This article is sponsored by Southern Livestock Systems.
SOUTHERN LIVESTOCK SYSTEMS
7 Lincoln Avenue, Lake Wales
Call for an appointment: (863) 638-4283