Feeding beef cattle has slightly declined over the years. Although major of feedlots have fewer than thousand head, those operations market eighteen percent of cattle fed each year. Since cattle feeding is a high-risk business, the scale of economies favor larger operations. This then requires less land for cattle feeding operations than for a cow-calf operation. Successful operations come with the proper planning and preparation. It is also very essential to have a feeding management plan and proper health program for the facility. The facilities themselves should be well managed and taken care of, to keep clean and functioning. It is also important to have some type of shelter, a shed and wind blocks, but most importantly should be designed for the number of cattle being fed. Also it would be sufficient to make use of the manure or to at least have a runoff. When purchasing feeder cattle, the price tends to fluctuate every season of the year. Cattle in better shape usually assigned a higher grade and therefore sell for a higher price per pound. It is always good to stay up-to-date on market conditions when purchasing feeder. The greater the health usually comes with an increase in price, as where thinner cattle require higher medical treatment, lower resale value, and higher death-loss rates. Establishing a health program is very important when running a cattle operation. Purchasing preconditioned calves are a good investment for the cattle feeder. They should all be properly vaccinated, preferably before they are moved to the feedlot. It is also wise to control or reduce parasites, which can be treated with the correct health program established. Another important factor is nutrition. The ration of the fed should depend on the type of cattle and the desired market grade. Increasing forages in the diet of feedlot cattle will in return increase the cost of weight gain when grain prices are low. The fed should provide a balanced diet, and reach desired endpoints for the market.
As I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook, an article caught my attention….a Blizzard in October. I clicked on the link and after reading it I was devastated. In western rural areas of South Dakota this past weekend, they suffered a dramatic blizzard. Ten of thousands of cattle died from the blizzard that swept through the state Friday. Not only is it a multi-million dollar impact to the state, but with the government partial shutdown and the Congress failing to pass the farm bill, the farmers and ranchers of South Dakota are at a complete and total loss. Timing couldn’t be any worse for this early October blizzard. Many of them are used to the harsh storms during the winter, but they were unprepared for the catastrophic storm as were the cattle unprepared as well, with no winter coat to protect them from the freezing wind and snow. With this being one of the hardest hit storms reporting twenty to fifty percent of rancher’s herds being killed. It worries me that since the government is in partial shutdown, what are they farmers and ranchers to do now? The government has programs to help those who suffer losses from weather, but those programs are ineffective since the farm bill failed to pass. Those in need have lots of questions and concerns, but who are going to answer those questions with the shutdown down employees being “furloughed?” Even if they are repaid for their loss, twenty percent of their herd being gone, it will take years for them to re-establish from that. All they can do now is record and document everything that they have lost in hopes that in the future they will receive the help to rebuild. As they continue on with their lives, looking for cattle that have blown miles away, unbury ones they lost, and depose of the carcasses of the cattle, I will pray for them and that they receive any amount of help they can get. Agricultural and cattle are too big in this world for something like this to go unnoticed.