A northeast Kansas diversified farm became the first in that corner of the state to license with Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) in the Feedlot Licensing Program (FLP).

Neal Haverkamp, part owner and manager of Nemaha Valley Angus Inc., Bern, Kansas, shares in the family's large hog, crop and cattle operation with his four brothers. Last year, instead of sending calves from their registered and commercial Angus herds to a custom feeder, the Haverkamps started their own feedlot.

“We felt we could do it as economically and efficiently as anyone,” the cattleman says. Processing corn from the farm through their own feedmill certainly helps. Although originally built for the hogs, Haverkamp found the mill works just as well for cattle feed.

Committed to targeting the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand, even before he attended a Wooster, Ohio, CAB seminar in 2005, Haverkamp says, “Licensing the feedlot just made sense. We were already feeding AngusSource cattle.”

When he noticed results of the AngusSource Carcass Challenge (ASCC) for the first quarter this year, it sealed the deal. Comparing the regional numbers to his own, he realized his cattle could have won quarterly honors had the feedlot been CAB licensed.

Seedstock sales and customer service are driving forces behind Nemaha Valley Angus. The family started and then enlarged the yard over the past year so they could purchase and feed calves from some of their bull customers.

“We've seen our cattle perform just as well at home, our grain costs are cheaper, our input costs are cheaper and it really hasn't added much labor for us,” Haverkamp says.

He looks for the CAB license to offer “more exposure.” It can better establish his herd as a proven means of hitting the CAB target profitably, and build a better market for the cattle they're feeding. That should help bull customers see the value in improving genetics and raising cattle that target the CAB brand. Packers pay $25 million per year in CAB grid premiums for such cattle, he notes.

Sharing data is a tradition that goes back even to when cattle were fed elsewhere. Providing customers with individual feed efficiency, gain and carcass data has already helped improve the cattle. One customer stands out for a strong commitment to use the information.

“Their first cattle were Select, and now they're producing CAB cattle all the time,” Haverkamp says. Apparently, customers like the added value. “They keep coming back for bulls and asking for ways to improve. I guess that says it all.”

Cattle from the Nemaha Valley Angus network of customers consistently reach 40 percent CAB, but Haverkamp was especially pleased with one late spring load of calves. They reached nearly 30 percent CAB Prime and more than 80 percent combined CAB and Prime.

That's many times better than the national CAB average, where Haverkamp admits they started from when feeding their first load of cattle just 10 years ago.

“The progress they've been able to make in such a short time really points to their ability to select and manage high-quality genetics,” says Gary Fike, beef cattle specialist for CAB.

Feedlot efficiency is a must, because Haverkamp must look after the other aspects of Nemaha Valley Angus as well. Self feeders help reduce the time requirement, but high-quality, predictably similar genetics are also a big key to efficiency. That's why he likes to buy calves back from his bull customers.

“We don't have to worry about them,” he says. “We know they fit into our program.”

Market fluctuations are the biggest challenge of running a feedlot, but Haverkamp figures the high-quality output will act as a hedge against risk.

“If customers are going to pay for beef, they're going to pay for quality beef that will give them a good eating experience,” he says.


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