Cattle Today

Cattle Today

cattle today (10630 bytes)

by: Stephen B. Blezinger

Part 2

In the last issue we looked at many of the concepts surrounding cattle feeding. While many of the concepts discussed are common and almost ultra-elementary if you are a member of the cattle feeding industry, they tend to be quite foreign to many “outsiders.” Cattle feeders have a language of their own that to many cow/calf producers is like speaking Greek. In this installment we'll examine some of this terminology that is unfamiliar to many. This terminology may vary somewhat from area to area depending on the part of the country where the feedyard is located. Also, this list is not meant to be all-inclusive but presents many of the terms commonly used in the cattle feeding industry.

Cattleman's Guide to Feedyard Terminology

1) Acidosis -- The condition is observed from mild off-feed to chronic off-feed, lameness or even to mortalities. Also may be referred to as rumen overload, digestive upset or grain overload.

2) ADG -- Average daily gain. The amount of gain divided by the number of days in the feeding period.

3) Auction Market or Barn -- The most common option for selling cattle is the Livestock Auction Market. This is a centrally located facility where beef producers take their cattle to be sold. The cattle are sold by auction to the highest bidder.

4) Backgrounding -- Calves put on a high-forage ration to increase their weight to between 800 to 900 pounds before being placed on finishing rations.

5) Breakeven -- The sale price ($ per cwt.) at which the owner of the cattle does not make or lose money.

6) Buller(s) -- Steers that are ridden by other steers in the pen (as with cows or heifers that are "bulling"). If problems persist, animals are usually removed from the pen to prevent bruising, injury and reduction in performance of the other cattle.

7) Chute Charges -- A fee charged by some feedlots each time cattle are worked through the chute.

8) Close-outs -- A detailed description of pen performance, feed intake, death loss, and profit or loss. A close-out is generated each time a pen of cattle is sold. Can be calculated on a "deads-in" or "deads-out" basis.

9) Company Cattle -- Cattle that are owned and fed by the feedlot. See also Customer Cattle.

10) Cost of Gain -- Total of all feedlot-related costs (feed, yardage, processing, medicine, and death loss) divided by total gain during the feeding period. Can be calculated on a "deads-in" or "deads-out" basis.

11) Custom Feedyard -- A feedyard that feeds, manages and markets cattle for customers. Fees are charged for materials (feed, hay, medicine, etc.) and services.

12) Customer Cattle -- Cattle that are owned by an investor, rancher or other client of the feedlot. They are fed and managed for a fee.

13) Dark Cutter(s) -- Carcasses that have muscle tissue that is dark colored rather than the desirable cherry red. Usually, they are a result of depletions in muscle glycogen stores. Dark cutters can be influenced by implant strategy, cattle handling techniques, weather and gender.

14) Days on Feed - The number of days the cattle are fed.

15) Deads-in/Deads-out -- These terms refer to the methods used to calculate close-outs, costs of gain and breakeven. They can be calculated with "deads-in" or with "deads-out" of the calculations. "Deads-in" refers to leaving the dead cattle in the calculations, while "deads-out" refers to leaving the dead cattle out of the calculations.

16) Dressing Percent -- Carcass weight divided by final live weight times 100.

17) Dry Matter Basis -- Feed that is adjusted to zero moisture to account for variation in moisture content.

18) Dry Rolling -- Grain processing method in which grain is rolled without steaming.

19) Dry Supplement -- Supplement that is generally in pellets and fed in a dry form in a mixed ration.

20) Feed Alley or Lane -- The road used by the feed trucks to deliver feed to the pen.

21) Feed Conversion or Efficiency -- The amount of feed consumed by an animal per unit of body weight gain. Expressed as pounds of feed per pounds of gain.

22) Feed Markup -- The amount that the feedlot marks up the feed charges. Charges vary with each lot. Feed markup can be charged as a percentage of the feed bill or as a flat fee per ton of feed.

23) Feeder Association -- A cooperative association formed to acquire livestock for growing or finishing.

24) Flaker -- A mill that steam flakes grain.

25) Forward Contract -- Cattle are pre-sold for a determined price and are delivered to the buyer. The animals are paid for at a future date when they reach a specific weight. Contracts oblige all parties to act according to legal standards. It is important that producers understand all the terms and conditions of the contract before signing.

26) Grass Cattle -- Cattle that were grown on pasture before placement in the feedlot. See also Yearlings.

27) Green Cattle -- Cattle that are relatively thin with only small amounts of body condition.

28) Grid(s) -- A method of pricing slaughter cattle that offers premiums and discounts for cattle. Depending on the situaion, cattle that are leaner and have a higher-quality grade receive the premiums. Grids generally have other specifications for carcass weight and dark cutters as well.

29) Heiferettes -- Heifers placed on feed following the loss of a calf or open heifers placed on feed following the breeding season. Typically these animals are a little older than those normally going into the feedyard.

30) Ionophore -- Feed additive that enhances feed efficiency in cattle by altering ruminal fermentation. These include: Rumensintm (monensin), Bovatectm (lasalocid) and Cattlysttm (laidlomycin propionate) which are the approved ionophores used in diets for finishing cattle.

31) Inventory Gain/Loss -- The amount of gain or loss in feed inventory because of storage, milling and processing feed.

32) Limit or Programmed Feeding -- Limiting energy intake to achieve a desired rate of gain during the growing period. Often used in growing and backgrounding situations to have cattle ready for market at a specific point in time.

33) Liquid Supplement -- Liquid supplement based on molasses that contains urea. Used to provide supplemental protein in a finishing diet. May also contain supplemental calcium, phosphorus, salt, ionophores and other feed additives.

34) Live Sale -- Method of sale in which the cattle are sold to the packer "live" at the feedlot. The packer is responsible for transporting the animals to the slaughter facility.

35) Livestock Broker -- Brokers buy or sell livestock on behalf of someone. For example, if a producer has a load of fat cattle for processing, a broker will try to get the best bid from different plants. If the seller agrees to sell the cattle at the bid price, the broker arranges details such as trucking, manifests, etc. The payment from the plant goes to the broker who retains a fee (usually a dollar rate per head) and pays the producer the balance.

36) Long Yearlings -- Yearlings that have had an extended period of grazing. Usually placed on feed in the fall following a full summer grazing season. Fed for 120 days or less. See also Short Yearlings or Yearlings.

37) Morbidity -- Refers to number of cattle, in a group that develop a clinical disease following exposure to a disease-causing agent.

38) Mortality -- Refers to number of cattle in a group that die from a clinical disease following exposure to a disease-causing agent.

39) Pay Weight -- Shrunk live weight of an animal at the time of sale. Usually four per cent. See also Pencil Shrink.

40) Pen Deads -- Cattle that are found dead in the pen. Cause of death is usually unknown.

41) Pencil Shrink -- An arithmetic deduction of weight from the live weight of an animal to account for fill: usually three percent for cattle off pasture and four per cent for off-feed weights of fed cattle. See also Pay Weight.

42) Presort Sale -- Cattle from different producers are grouped in lots by sex, weight, type and condition. Cattle are weighed coming in, less an estimate or pencil shrink, depending on the distance to sale.

43) Processing -- Vaccinating, treating for internal and external parasites, ear tagging and other procedures such as implanting, dehorning and castration that are done soon after cattle arrive at the feedlot.

44) Rail Grade -- This option is usually a private treaty sale. Cattle are slaughtered and the carcasses are graded for quality and priced according to the different grades. The producer sells directly to the packer and is paid according to the weight and grade of the carcass.

45) Short-Keep Cattle -- Often refer to heavy feeders bought and placed on a high-energy ration; weights and days on feed (often 100 days or less) are determined by end-market requirements.

46) Short Yearlings -- Cattle placed on feed after weaned. Usually placed on feed from March to July and fed for 120 to 160 days. See also Yearlings or Long Yearlings.

47) Shrink -- See Pencil Shrink or Inventory Gain/Loss

48) Soggy/Fleshy Cattle -- Cattle that are fleshy or overly conditioned from a backgrounding or growing operation.

49) Stag -- A term used to describe cattle that have been improperly castrated.

50) Steam Flaking -- Grain processing method in which grain is subjected to steaming before rolling or flaking.

51) Step-ups -- The rations used to acclimate cattle to high-energy grain diets. The length of time that cattle are fed these diets varies. Generally, the amount of concentrate is increased gradually. The first week in the feedlot, the cattle may be fed a 45 per cent roughage diet, the second week a 35 per cent roughage diet, etc., until the cattle are on the final finisher. The number of step-up rations varies from yard to yard. Many large commercial yards use 4 to 5 steps. Some smaller yards may use as many as 10.

52) Surfactant -- An additive used to aid in grain processing.

53) Tempering Grain -- The process of adding water to dry grain to increase moisture content to facilitate rolling of grains. See Steam Flaking.

54) Trenbolone Acetate (TBA) -- Active ingredient in some implants approved for use in feedlot finishing cattle.

55) Video Sales -- Cattle are sold by public auction via satellite television that broadcasts videotaped images of the animals on the producers' farms. Producers pay an up-front fee for videotaping and the rest of the commission if the cattle are sold. Buyers participate in the sale by telephone or computer.

56) Warmed-Up Cattle -- Cattle that have been grown in a backgrounding yard before being placed on feed.

57) Wet Distillers Grain -- A by-product of the dry milling (ethanol) industry. Commonly used as an ingredient in feedlots near dry milling plants. Can be produced from a variety of grains (corn, milo, barley, and wheat).

58) Yardage -- Charges incurred each day that the cattle are in the feedlot. These charges vary depending on the lot. Usually calculated on a cents per head per day basis.

59) Yearlings -- Cattle that are placed on feed after one year of age. Usually fed for 80 to 150 days. See also Short Yearlings or Long Yearlings.


Hopefully this will give you some familiarity to many of the words and the language commonly used in the feedyard industry. In the next issue we'll discuss the mechanics of feeding cattle and some ways that smaller producers can become involved.

Dr. Steve Blezinger is and nutritional and management consultant with an office in Sulphur Springs Texas. He can be reached at Route 4 Box 89 Sulphur Springs, TX 75482, by phone at (903) 885-7992 or by e-mail at


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