Feed Lot

FEB 2018

Feedlots and cow/calf operations in the beef industry who feed 500 or more has annually on grains and concentrates; maintain 500 or more beef cows; backgrounder, stocker/grower, preconditioner; veterinarian, nutritionist, consultant

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During harvest or calving, often the reduced numbers of cattle in the feedlot and the feedlot in general, can get somewhat ignored on a farmer-feeder operation. Feedlot owners and managers that are heav- ily involved in farming and ranching can get stretched thin and if there is not someone dedicated to keeping operations running smoothly in the pens, figurative storm clouds can appear on the horizon for barn staff and pen checkers. Many famous and surely more intelligent people than myself have made quotes about the values of good planning and the hazards of not doing so. My favorite one is, "having no plan is not a plan." Some feedlots and farms I have worked on through the years seemed to use the opposite philos- ophy as their motto. All staff would know there were orders placed with livestock buyers for weaned calves and grass cattle, so eventu- ally they would start showing up at the gates. But there didn't seem to be anything happening to prepare for that day. Fences were in disre- pair, gates sagged, waterers slowly ran over or didn't run at all, the pro- cessing and treating shelves were bare of medications, needles, sy- ringes, and applicators among oth- er things. Then when the calves would suddenly arrive, the man- agers would grudgingly walk away from farming or calving and franti- cally try to play catch up. Usually this would either mean the first groups of calves would not get the full array needed, or would walk the pens for days before they were processed. More stress would be applied to everyone to rush and compensate for the lack of plan- ning. Pen checkers and barn staff would be forced into duties they were unfamiliar with just to keep things moving. Things ran much smoother on feedlots where someone was in charge of working with a veterinar- ian and establishing a plan early for purchasing processing medica- tions and treatments for the new cattle. Even better were those op- erations that were able to buy in bulk as there wasn't always the threat of running out of things after each new group of cattle was brought in. Many feedlots invest time and effort into researching and learning as much as possible about each group of incoming cattle they re- ceive. Some lots might be from one owner, or grouped in pre-condi- tioning sales with certain treat- ments already completed. Some- times it is possible to learn if groups of cattle have had exposure to bunks, or to waterers, or if they've been started on feed. All this information can be helpful in grouping cattle and deciding what medications need to be used for processing, along with any extra measures needed to get the new cattle drinking and eating as soon as possible. Others planned ahead and moved pens of existing cattle to ei- ther isolate incoming cattle or group them nearest to the treating barns. Remember some pen check- ers may not be as experienced as others. Grouping cattle properly can allow for training pen checkers or allow the more experienced rid- ers to work the new cattle and the less experienced to concentrate on the existing cattle. It's not fair, pru- dent or cost effective to ask new, inexperienced pen checkers to over-see a large amount of freshly weaned calves. Establishing a management sys- tem plan of how to pull and treat sick cattle is another good plan. It shared with the pen checkers so everyone understands what needs to be done. It's much easier and more cost effective to have a system in place that works and everyone understands. Remember, it's a fact that I don't think anyone would deny, that the health, performance and carcass quality of cattle is greatly influ- enced by how the receiving phase works, and with the large invest- ment of owners required to fill feedlot pens today there is a need for a solid plan to give cattle the best opportunity to perform and reach their potential. Not to men- tion, it's much easier on this old cowboy's OCD when there not only is a plan, but it's also a good one. Bruce Derksen worked in the livestock industry and specifically as a feedlot pen rider for over 30 years in Western Canada. He now lives in Lacombe, Alberta. He writes about present day feedlot and ranching practices, draw- ing on his numerous experiences in the industry. FL View from the Saddle: Plan To Have a Plan For farmer-feeders balancing livestock and farming operations, a plan is essential to keep both sides of the business running smooth MANAGEMENT By BRUCE DERKSEN As other timely tasks take presidence over feed yard operations, a plan can keep the business in running order. 24 FEED•LOT  February 2018

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