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Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 4:31 pm
by Kdg254
Good afternoon!

We are looking into starting a small operation where we feed out backgrounded steers to market weight. We currently have 50 acres and run a small cow calf operation and have gotten it where it has balanced the last couple of years(what we have netted on the cows have covered the land payment)
We don't want to buy more land at this time and have not had any luck finding lease land to expand our current cow calf operation. We have a set of pens on the land that would hold about 50 head to feed out. My worry is that it wouldn't even be worth the effort/time with only 50 head. The goal would be to let it grow slowly. My husband and I both currently work and do this on the side and are able to put all profits back into our tiny ranch so we would hope to be able to buy more and expand our pens as the years pass by.
So in short do you think we should move forward with the 50 head and expand later or get a loan and add on to the pens and buy more from the start? If you think we should buy more how many would you suggest? I want to mitigate some of the risk with the lower numbers since this will be our first time to try a feedlot type operation.
Any input is greatly appreciated! Y'all have a good day

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:17 pm
by JMJ Farms
When you say market weight do you mean finished weight? Like in the 1200 lb range? What do you plan on doing with the cattle once they are finished?

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:43 pm
by Kdg254
Yes the plan would be to buy them in the 6-700 lb range, feed them out and then sell them. I would want to sell them all at once to a wholesale buyer

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 5:53 pm
by Kdg254
Yes the plan was to buy them at the 6-700 lb range and feed them out to 1200. We would then like to find a wholesale buyer for all 50

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:17 pm
by JMJ Farms
I personally can’t tell you if it’s worth it or not. I’m interested in the replies you get bc I’ve contemplated something similar but never have sat down and really put a pencil on it. My guess is the margins would be small. UNLESS, maybe you could sell them to a local “meat market” “butcher block” type store. But I honestly don’t know. I would say it’s worth looking into but may not yield much profit.

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 8:27 pm
by littletom
I think most would buy smaller and not take to finished weight. And turn over more numbers of head a year. As in more groups of 50

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 9:59 pm
by Kdg254
littletom wrote:I think most would buy smaller and not take to finished weight. And turn over more numbers of head a year. As in more groups of 50

So more of a back grounding program?

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 11:14 pm
by Chocolate Cow2
Go with 50 until you know what your doing and if you want to keep doing it. You go too big, be prepared for a visit from your state department of health and environment. Have a manure management plan. They won't accept it but have one. Have your water tested. Gains are terribly dependent on good water. Be prepared for a break out and a way to round up the escapees. Have a plan for disposal of deads. Have a good working relationship with a veterinarian. Be prepared for lousy weather-too hot, they'll need some shade. Too cold-they'll need some wind protection. Facilities. A good working chute. Syringes. Medicine. Someone with the knowledge to know when the calf is getting sick..not after he's really sick. Realize a groups of steers can bring some health issues onto your place that will infect your cow herd.

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 6:28 am
by Kdg254
Chocolate Cow2 wrote:Go with 50 until you know what your doing and if you want to keep doing it. You go too big, be prepared for a visit from your state department of health and environment. Have a manure management plan. They won't accept it but have one. Have your water tested. Gains are terribly dependent on good water. Be prepared for a break out and a way to round up the escapees. Have a plan for disposal of deads. Have a good working relationship with a veterinarian. Be prepared for lousy weather-too hot, they'll need some shade. Too cold-they'll need some wind protection. Facilities. A good working chute. Syringes. Medicine. Someone with the knowledge to know when the calf is getting sick..not after he's really sick. Realize a groups of steers can bring some health issues onto your place that will infect your cow herd.

Thanks for the advice!

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 9:39 am
by Chocolate Cow2
We are a state licensed facility. We can have 999 head on site. If we go over that, we're in violation. Anything over 999 head becomes a federal facility. State rules piggy-back on federal rules. We had to put in a lagoon 10 years ago. Now, we are required to monitor and record rainfall and our water level in the lagoon is monitored in real time by KDHE. We are inspected yearly. Pens have to meet standards. Here's the worst of the deal....we don't custom feed for anyone and haven't for years. The state will not allow our license to expire. The state inspector can make or break you.
If you're close to a stream, lake or river, be aware of severe consequences. We're 5 miles from a river but it was insisted we had to have a lagoon. I don't know what state you are in, I'm speaking from our experience in Ks.
We have water tanks. Some think automatic waterers are the way to go but K-State research showed there will be a bully or dominate calf in the group that keep the more timid from watering at an automatic waterer. A water tank give access to more cattle.

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:14 am
by Kdg254
Chocolate Cow2 wrote:We are a state licensed facility. We can have 999 head on site. If we go over that, we're in violation. Anything over 999 head becomes a federal facility. State rules piggy-back on federal rules. We had to put in a lagoon 10 years ago. Now, we are required to monitor and record rainfall and our water level in the lagoon is monitored in real time by KDHE. We are inspected yearly. Pens have to meet standards. Here's the worst of the deal....we don't custom feed for anyone and haven't for years. The state will not allow our license to expire. The state inspector can make or break you.
If you're close to a stream, lake or river, be aware of severe consequences. We're 5 miles from a river but it was insisted we had to have a lagoon. I don't know what state you are in, I'm speaking from our experience in Ks.
We have water tanks. Some think automatic waterers are the way to go but K-State research showed there will be a bully or dominate calf in the group that keep the more timid from watering at an automatic waterer. A water tank give access to more cattle.


Oh wow. We are in Texas and I met with our county ag agent to ask him about the environmental requirements and he said not to worry about it unless our neighbors start complaining. Guess it will be a good idea to be thinking ahead in case we are able to scale it into something closer to your size. I really appreciate your input!

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 11:57 am
by ChrisB
Are you able to purchase most of your feed directly from a farmer? I don't know if things would pencil out buying all your feed from a coop or feedmill. Also, keep costs low and feed with 5 gallon buckets until you go over 50 head at least.

Keep them healthy and having cheap feed are things you have some control over that will determine if you are profitable.

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:15 pm
by Kdg254
ChrisB wrote:Are you able to purchase most of your feed directly from a farmer? I don't know if things would pencil out buying all your feed from a coop or feedmill. Also, keep costs low and feed with 5 gallon buckets until you go over 50 head at least.

Keep them healthy and having cheap feed are things you have some control over that will determine if you are profitable.


I was planning on buying it from a feed mill because of the small amount but am sure I could work something out with a local farmer to save money. I will start reaching out. Thank you!

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:19 pm
by shaz
ChrisB wrote:Are you able to purchase most of your feed directly from a farmer? I don't know if things would pencil out buying all your feed from a coop or feedmill. Also, keep costs low and feed with 5 gallon buckets until you go over 50 head at least.

Keep them healthy and having cheap feed are things you have some control over that will determine if you are profitable.


That's the real trick to getting your cost of gain down to the point where you have a chance to be profitable. I would think you really need to buy commodities and mix your own. Don't think bag feed would ever work.

Re: Small Feedyard start up

Posted: Wed Sep 19, 2018 7:27 pm
by cjmc
I think you need to get up to about 70-80 head (a semi load). What I would do is buy groups of high risk cattle straighten them out & sell as a uniform low risk weaned group.