What happens on a feedlot?

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inyati13
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby inyati13 » Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:31 am

boondocks wrote:
inyati13 wrote:Excellent topic and a great post to begin it. mm, I ask you this question in a Private Message. I will state it again as your post immediately above this raises the issue of what the producer can do.

As a producer and a person who believes that higher life has intrinsic value; they are aware of their existence. Therefore, I adhere to a set of self-imposed standards for the preparation of my feeder calves. I do not concern myself with what other producers are doing other than participation in organizations like the Kentucky Cattleman Association which strives to improve the husbandry of cattle. I don't spend my time pondering the "rights and wrongs" that occur on this planet. But there are people who do and more power to them.

Above you stated, "The question is: what does the cow-calf producer need to do differently to move their calves from high risk to low risk?"

My question: Do the feedlots track the source of their livestock so they can reward those who are putting an effort into proper preparation. If I remember, you answered that question in a PM. Going a little further: I wean my calves, I convert them to high carbohydrate feed, I vaccinate them, I adapt them to direct human intervention, etc. I hope that results in less stress when they start the journey from my farm to the slaughter house. I hope my preparations provide them with a higher quality of life. I don't worry about the end of their life. Death is a tranquill state of non-existence. I want them to "enjoy" their state of existence.

Now my issue: The producers that have good protocols and prepare their products for the "feedlot" should get a reward in the form of higher prices. That does not happen here. My neighbor jerks his calves straight off the cow and ships them. He never puts a needle in a calf unless the vet comes to treat one that is sick. His calves sell for the same amount as mine do. So the average guy who does not prepare his calves in the proper manner has no incentive other than his personal values and standards.


Do you have the option to sell directly? We are still growing our herd and won't be doing much selling for awhile but already get asked several times a month whether and when we will have anything for sale. When we do, the price will reflect that they are well-cared for, natural, grass-fed (yeah, and we'll still probably be in the hole). Anyone hoping our plan is to sell beef cheaper than the walmart down the street can just keep drivin'.
Do you have restauranteurs who would like a source of high-quality beef that they can advertise in their menu is locally-sourced, hand-petted ;-) etc?


I need to check that. :lol: :lol: :lol: :banana:
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby inyati13 » Thu Oct 09, 2014 5:32 am

milkmaid wrote:Here's the thing Ron - go back and re-read the descriptions of high risk vs low risk calves.

Concept #1: When they're sold in groups of 15 at a sale barn where they'll be co-mingled with calves from ten other sources, the fact that they've had one set of vaccines prior to sale just makes them "high risk" as opposed to "ultra high risk."

Concept #2: Feedlots talk about the price spread between high risk and low risk cattle. When the market is low, there's a wide spread between the price paid for HR vs LR. They can lose HR calves, even 15% of them, and still make money on the group when the calves are cheap. Yes- the yard managers really do say they pay differently depending on the risk category of the cattle. Right now the market is high and there's not much of a spread. Buyers would prefer LR calves because it costs too much to lose the HR ones, but they buy anything available right now because they can't keep the yard full.

Concept #3: You may have discovered why some people prefer to retain ownership. If you're selling small groups of calves under 800 lbs at the sale, the only benefit you may ever see to preconditioning is your own sense of satisfaction. I've seen some organizations help compile small groups for producers so the guys who don't have enough cattle for a lot (usually 100-200 hd) can still retain ownership through the yard. There may be other options for you; as dun mentioned, with documentation that indicates they might have a lower morbidity after purchase, they can be worth more.


mm, so my calves are High Risk rather than Ultra High Risk. Our UK Extension Agent has proposed the concept underlined above to the members of the County Ky Cattle Association. Our agent resides in an adjoining county where such a plan is followed. In regard to what dun sugggested, I have mentioned this issue to the man who hauls my cattle. Mike Gifford was a buyer for a company at the Flemingsburg Stockyards for many years. He told me I will not get any consideration of the protocols I follow to prepare my calves. I have not researched the other stockyards but I will discuss dun's suggestion with our County Agent.

If I might make a suggestion. Milkmaid, please start a new thread outlining a step by step set of protocols a producer in my circumstances (as highgrit mentioned, those circumstances fit most of us) should follow to prepare calves for success in a feedlot environment. On the subject of feed, what should it be? I have discussed my feed which is called "Beef Mix" with TexasBred and Fire Sweep Simmentals and the reaction I get is that it is not much more than high quality hay. It is a cruched corn (including whole kernals), alfalfa pellets and some other ingredients. It may not be on the same level as the feeds my calves are going to be consuming at the feedlot. Also, what vaccinations should these calves have? And are they assumed to be unvaccinated and thus revaccinated anyway which means I wonder if my suite of vaccination is too broad and should be narrowed down???

I guess for me it comes down to "personal satisfaction". The focus then is: What should be my protocols?
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Karin » Mon Oct 13, 2014 3:50 pm

Some of you mentioned about retained ownership of cow-calf producers being, instead, cow-yearling producers. But what about backgrounding? What percentage of feedlots background cattle of their own or for other producers, and what percentage of feedlots get cattle from backgrounding operations? Reason I ask is because you mentioned how, "calves from 300-900 [pounds] are fed out to slaughter weights (1300-1500 [pounds]) over a period of 120-360 days. Most come in about 700 [pounds] and are fed about 150 days." Since most of the calves that come in usually are of continental/british or british-bred base, they'd have to be on a forage ration for the first 8 to 12 months before being finished for the last three. Otherwise the feedlot would run into problems with complaints from the meat-packer guys with the amount of external fat that needs to be trimmed off from cattle that have been over-conditioned too young and too quickly. At least I would think the feedlot would hear something of that. For Angus-crosses in the states, that's a problem that always needs to be dealt with. For continentals, it's not that big of a deal, though it does help.

I should also mention that a lot of Canadian feedlots also feed barley. I think there are a fair few that are also into corn, but barley still, as far as I'm aware, is still the main grain for finishing cattle on.

Otherwise it's a well-written post, MM. :)

I also have to say this: Folks who hear about feedlots and cattle also automatically think about the deficits in water, parrot outdated the amount of grain to get a pound of beef (I hear lots about how it's 16 pounds of grain to get one pound of beef, I know that's wrong because the Beef Cattle Research Council recently stated the amount to feed to get a pound of beef is less than half that--now I think it's around 6 to 8 pounds), land use, greenhouse gas emissions, etc. And all that, too, is in vehement opposition to "Big-Ag."
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby talltimber » Mon Oct 20, 2014 10:53 am

I knife cut, worm, two-round vacc., wean and would prefer to have them at least two weeks after weaning. I kept my first group of calves (not counting two heifers who went to their 4-H show owners early) for about a month. They were fleshy, but I learned something, so I may keep them longer this time. "Growing frame" is sometimes very close to making them go hungry, looks to me like.
I take a lot of pride in my calves as well, and want to do as right by them as I can. Short of retaining ownership, which I'm not set up or able to do right now, I have no control over their surroundings after they leave me. I can try to get them a headstart on the bug infested be nice storms they are likely to encounter though, and that's what I'm willing to keep doing. I am getting paid a little to do it, which makes it easier to do. I sell off the farm to a backgrounder in this area. He retains ownership and I have heard some of the packer info he has gotten back. He's making money. Sometimes lots of money.
He buys as many of the same type of cattle like that as he can - vaccinations, wormed, cut, weaned a period of time, bunk broke with being fed a "little", broke to waterers, 4 wheelers, chutes/alleys (my calves start out being hand fed and to get back to their momma they have to trail through the barn, chute, and out the headcatch. I like spending time with them, and actually care about them, so maybe it shows in the condition of them.
Maybe, inyati, you could find a backgrounder that would appreciate your calves a little more?
I sent a PM. I may be able to help, depending.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Karin » Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:18 pm

Hey MM, I got a new question for you:

If a feedlot gets a calver that delivers a calf, what happens to the pair? Does the calf end up euthanized, or the pair sold, or what?

Curious! Thanks.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Dave » Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:51 pm

Karin wrote:Hey MM, I got a new question for you:

If a feedlot gets a calver that delivers a calf, what happens to the pair? Does the calf end up euthanized, or the pair sold, or what?

Curious! Thanks.


The feedlots that I have worked at and been around the pen riders and other hired help take them home as day olds and bottle raise them. The heifer just stays on feed.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Karin » Thu Oct 30, 2014 10:19 am

Thanks for that Dave.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby CKC1586 » Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:24 am

Thanks a bunch for the great information. I am sure many of us will be sharing it. Hope you don't mind. Always appreciate your viewpoint.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby hillbilly beef man » Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:17 pm

Thanks for the great post. Question though, if being bunk broke, weaned, and vac. Helps the bottom line of the feed lots so much, why won't they pay more for calves that are? Here there is a contract buyer that gives a 5 cent premium for weaned and vaccinated calves, but it is hardley worth the effort for a nickel. I would be willing to do this if it was worthwhile.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby milkmaid » Wed Nov 26, 2014 11:01 am

Karin wrote:Hey MM, I got a new question for you:

If a feedlot gets a calver that delivers a calf, what happens to the pair? Does the calf end up euthanized, or the pair sold, or what?

Curious! Thanks.


Hi Karin, didn't see your post until now.

Depends on the feedlot. Yards that take in cattle from certain states (e.g. ID, MT, WY in brucellosis positive areas) are considered quarantine yards. Cattle that enter cannot leave except to slaughter. Other states - e.g. KS - don't have quarantine yards and calves can leave.

On a quarantine yard the calf is either euthanized or raised on the yard as a bottle calf. Sometimes they do leave with employees, with or without management's awareness - but it's not legal as I understand it. On non-quarantine yards the calves are typically sold/given to one of the employees.

You all are welcome to share the post in its entirety with credit given. Glad it's been helpful.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby bverellen » Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:07 pm

Another question for MM or somebody that knows:

Here in Iowa the state has a Green and Gold Tag program. It certifies the calf has received a round of specific vaccinations(green tag) and two rounds(gold tag) and has been weaned for a minimum of 45 and 60 days, respectively. All shots, castration, dehorning must be done by a veterenarian, and after completion a preconditioning certificate is issued.

Would sale barn calves that go thru this program and are backgrounded be considered high or low risk calves and do you think order buyers would pay more for these type of calves if not a full pot load?

Thanks for your post MM, it was very informative.

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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby milkmaid » Mon Dec 08, 2014 10:32 pm

I'm not sure on the order buyers. Since they typically pay better for groups than singles, it would stand to reason that they'd pay more. Esp in the current market, those calves are probably more valuable (since someone else has already taken the initial death loss).

On arrival at the feedlot they'd likely be categorized as medium risk calves, due to source and age - but the preconditioning should keep them out of all the high risk categories. For instance, I'd probably not use antibiotics on arrival, but watch the group very closely and prepare to mass medicate the group if over a certain percentage get sick.

There's a Zoetis BRD program up in Canada that promises a 0% BRD pull rate. I'm not sure if yards will pay more for calves on that program or not... but frankly most of it is just good management. Starts with prevention of PI calves (vaccinating cows), then vaccinating prior to weaning, preconditioning, and metaphylaxis at arrival to the yard. Still not sure there'd be a 0% rate, but I could see it being close.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Brute 23 » Sat Feb 06, 2016 10:07 am

milkmaid wrote:
The question is not what feedlots should do differently to reduce morbidity and mortality - the die was cast before the cattle ever arrived at the yard. We work with what we're given, but we can't fix immunocompromised, mineral deficient, parasite ridden, unvaccinated, weaned-on-the-truck calves for the owner. The question is: what does the cow-calf producer need to do differently to move their calves from high risk to low risk?


I strongly disagree with this way of thinking.

As a producer I retain quite a few of my own heifers and put them back in to production. From time to time as the market permits we keep bull calves and turn them out on grass to be sold as heavier calves. Some are kept for butcher to divide amongst family, friends, owners, ect.

In all cases we cut out the calves, haul them to some good pipe pens worm them, and make sure they have tags. They typically stay in the pens with hay, #5 or less of grain each, salt and mineral for 20-30 days or until I feel they have calmed down. Then we turn them out in small pastures that adjoin the pens and let the get grass in addition to the other feed.

Now, in all this time I have NEVER doctored one calf doing it like that. Why is it my responsibility to add a bunch of expense to my pocket to make up for the way feed lots operate? That's their problem. I know I'm raising quality animals that are good enough to go back in to production and make beef (been eating it all my life), what they do after that is their problem... and at their own risk.

The majority of us probably do not see the benefits of spending that extra money. I've done it both ways and at the end of the day that buyer is going to pay the bottom dollar he can get if for and put the extra in their pocket. They are going to assume the worse, pay the least, and dock you for any thing they can. I don't blame them because I get why, but at the same time, as long as that continues I'm not going out of my way to prep cattle for them.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Tim/South » Sat Feb 06, 2016 6:39 pm

The stocker operator seems to have been over looked in this discussion. Stocker operators are the ones who buy our calves. If I was a green horn and read this discussion I would have been led to believe that all of our calves went straight to feed lots.
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Re: What happens on a feedlot?

Postby Dave » Mon Feb 08, 2016 11:15 am

Once again regional differences raises its head. Realize that Milkmaid is from Idaho and went to vet school in Washington. So it is written with that twist in mind. Up here animals tend to be sold in single owner groups. Year round calving is not the norm. In fact it is fairly rare. Vaccination and weaning information is announced and the buyers do pay for it. Once calves get over 400 pounds there is a substantial difference in price between bulls and steers. Large groups of uniform weaned, vaccinated steers will bring a whole lot more money than single fresh off the cow bull calves with no shots. Often 50 or 60 cents a pound more. Typically calves are weaned heavier than they are in the south. Those 600-700 pound calves are much more likely to go straight to the feedlots. Although there are some stocker operations, they are fewer in number.
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