A lot without any cattle of its own is a reflection of non-confidence, so it is fair to expect that up to 20 per cent of the cattle be owned by the feedlot operators themselves.
The search for a feedlot in which to feed your cattle can be exhaustive, so I’ve prepared this checklist you can refer to when comparing lots.
Your first inquiry into the feedlot should be handled by friendly, competent and professional front-end staff. The first responder is a reflection of the management of that yard and their engagement with employees and clients.
Successful feedlots have historically held large land bases for the disposal of nutrients and access to feed. The land base supports the needs of the feedlot, as their role is to add value to feed through cattle.
It is important to inquire regarding the type of feed and ration levels used and availability or usage of coproduct such as DDGS. In times of high feed costs, it is advantageous to soften the cost of the ration with co-product inclusion.
Although many feedlots are custom in nature, it is quite alright to inquire as to the percentage of owned cattle in the lot. A lot without any cattle of its own is a reflection of non-confidence, so it is fair to expect that up to 20 per cent of the cattle be owned by the feedlot operators themselves. Small pens are an asset to the beginning feeder both in terms of keeping the cattle together and for the health of the animals. Many feedyards have smaller pens for this purpose.
Science is the very foundation of the modern feedyard, and as the potential cattle feeder, it is fair to inquire regarding animal health systems and handling. Pick those that are important to you. Does the yard employ complete computerized systems that record every event in all areas of production on an individual animal basis? Is feed efficiency testing available? Do they provide the option of DNA testing?
How is the information used to optimize the feeding period and carcass value of the animal? Is there a marketing relationship in place to transfer and interpret information gathered in the feeding and slaughter process? Does the feedlot have adequate kill floor access through competitive but congenial marketing relationships?
The export of cattle into the U. S. is a very large part of the feedlot business. Look for a lot with export experience and computerized records.
Charges and payment
You will of course want to fully understand how the feed and services are charged out and the feedlot’s expectation for payment. If these seem daunting then a customer-orientated yard will have ownership options available to discuss with you. You would want the feedyard to know if your cattle have value attributes such as verified, natural or DNA tested. This allows for them to start your marketing plan on the onset.
A feedlot should be able to provide you with a full risk management suite and be willing to discuss those options with you. Ask for a blind closeout on a recent set of cattle and a projection for the cattle you are placing. Then work through the risk management options that could enhance your portfolio. When your search is over for the feedlot in which to place your cattle, you should feel comfortable with the staff and management, have a clear understanding of the costs and payment expectations, and feel a part of the risk management and marketing process.
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Brenda Schoepp is a market analyst and the owner and author
of Beeflink, a national beef cattle market newsletter. She ranches near Rimbey.