Crop Tour Day 7

Five Rivers Feedlot

Today we visited Gilcrest Feedlot and spoke with Judd, the general manager as well as some of his department heads such as the people in charge of yard, milling, feed, cattle, office, and shipping and receiving. This feedlot was built in 1970 and there are 340 pens on site. Annually, this feedlot receives about 88,000 head of cattle and ship approximately 82,000 head of cattle.   They feed a total of 1,700,000 lbs for feed daily and produce 650 tons of flakes daily in order to feed the cattle. They remove about 150,500 tons of manure annually. Not all of this manure is spread on their cropland and they pay local farmers 75cents/ton to come in and take the manure away.

Judd chooses the cattle based on their breed, frame size and geography of pick up. The most common breeds in his feedlot are Angus, Charolais, Red Angus and quarter Simmental crosses. For the Charolais he likes the dark nose phenotype because they cut like an Angus. He also wants a large frame size to accommodate the fat need for the winter and because frame size correlates to amount of meat. For geography the country is split into sections called prime, good, average, high risk and freight too high. Prime states are in the Northwest area, good is the states directly west, average is the southern states, freight too high are the northeastern states and the high risk states are to the northeast but closer to Nebraska and the Southeastern states. One thing that Judd did mention is that he prefers to get his cattle locally and will pay a premium to farmers who sell their cattle to the feedlot.

In terms of pen management they try to stick to 60 day maintenance program that is proactive instead of reactive. This can’t always be done though if you have a new load of cattle come in and they run through the fences you obviously need to go and fix those fences right away. Within the pens the stocking density is based on the bunk feeder space per animal. For cows it 12 – 14” and for baling calves its 22” to give them a bit more distance. At the feedlot there capacity is 100,000 head of cattle but they only run at 60,000 head of cattle due to water costs. The highest capacity that they have had is 80,000 head of cattle.

In terms of biosecurity, there is not very much but between the animals, the California cattle and Mexico cattle cannot be in the same pen or co-mingled and are therefore always kept separated. All of their cattle are vaccinated in order to keep their cattle as healthy as possible. In all of the Five Rivers feedlots company wide, across all animals there is a very strict animal welfare policy and everyone is evaluated in order to stay accountable.

In terms of feed there are a couple different rations depending on the age of the cattle and where they are coming from. The interesting ration that we learned about was the storm ration that is fed when they know that there is a big winter storm coming to get that cattle prepared and have as little loss as possible.

The theme for today was feedlot management, land use efficiency and animal welfare. My first learning point for the day was about the different areas of the states that have good cattle versus not so great cattle. It was interesting to see Five Rivers’ map of the states split up in those categories and to see where their cattle actually come from.   My second learning point for the day was about how big the feedlot was and getting to actually experience it and drive through it. My third learning point for the day was about how proactive they are about their runoff and their audit program for that runoff.

My assessment of the visit was that it was a really interesting visit as not a lot of us are able to experience what a feedlot is like in an open pen setting due to our cold winters. However, sometimes they do have some severe weather but in the end they make it work with as little loss as possible.

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