Feedlots and Beef Cattle

       Feedlots Make Mass Market Meat

     New and efficient ways to raise cattle and improve the quality of beef often seem to pop up overnight. A lot has changed since the days of horse-drawn equipment, and these advances have not only made it possible to breed better beef cattle, but have increased the typical herd size for even the smaller rancher.

     Feedlot mass production is still the norm, but advancements in nutrition have transformed this system into a hi-tech and amazingly efficient way to get beef cattle to market sooner and produce the high-quality type of products that consumer’s demand in today’s market.

Ranchers Still Love the Auction
The auction is still the favored site to sell cattle and, though there is an increasing trend in other, somewhat alternative methods, the majority of cattle are brought to feedlots for their finishing. Auctions also provide the best way to get the most accurate market price, so anyone who has a good knowledge of the market should be able to plan their sales accordingly. With feedlots, it is not uncommon to sell in large groups, with larger ranchers selling thousands of head only a few times each year at auctions. The ranchers basically dictate the market prices by dictating what they are looking for in the cattle. Some size, others color, most both. And the price of cattle depends on the quality of the cattle available at any given moment.

     Cattle also are priced based on trends, and what is popular with today’s consumer can easily fall out of fashion tomorrow. Feedlot buyers are acutely aware of these trends, so it’s important to realize where your herd falls in the status of today’s consumers and sell accordingly.

Inside the Feedlot
A feedlot is a concentrated animal feeding operation used for fattening cattle prior to slaughter. Thousands of animals may be held in an array of pens. Most feedlots require some type of governmental permit and must have plans in place to deal with the large amount of waste that is generated.

     Prior to entering a feedlot, cattle spend most of their life grazing on a range or on fields of grain. Once they reach the typical weight, roughly 650 pounds, they are transferred to the feedlot. Once the cattle arrive, they receive shots, tags, vitamins, and growth promotion drugs as well. They also are fed a specialized diet which may be made up of hay, corn and various other grains, by-products of food processing, such as sugar beet waste, molasses, soybean meal, or cottonseed meal, and minerals. This diet encourages the deposition of fat, or marbling, in the muscles, which is valued at the grocery store for its effects on the tastiness of the meat. Some cattle can gain up to three to four pounds each day and each is fed based on its individual characteristics

     Changes in understanding and scientific advancements in nutrition have altered the feedlot diet considerably over the years, and, as a result, the profitability of the feed lot and the amount of cattle it can process has increased as well. Some of today’s larger feedlots can accommodate more than 10,000 cattle.

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