Consider conducting your own feedyard assessment this fall
We often hear the word “assessment” and immediately shudder and look the other direction. Assessments tend to fall into the category of dental and accountant appointments. My goal for the column this week is to get everyone to read the whole column (don’t worry, I’ll keep it short) while also “planting the seed” of critically evaluating the ranch’s own feeding facility.
Feedlot assessment is one of the new areas of focus for Beef Quality Assurance (BQA). We are all familiar with BQA through certifications, and the positive impact that the BQA program has had on injection site awareness and improved beef quality. It’s a very legitimate step, to evaluate both facilities as well as employees, if only to make sure everyone is in good communication. Assessments can be detailed, such as evaluating waste and nutrient management, record-keeping, etc., or assessments can also be used to just address common questions, such as what are the diagnosis and treatment protocols for sick cattle, as well as feeding records and protocols. Rather than being painful, assessments can be healthy, non-confrontational opportunities to discuss things before any wrecks actually happen.
The importance of feedlot assessment, or even ranch assessment, came to mind earlier this week. On our own personal ranch, our daily management seems a little unique, but may actually be becoming more common. With my travel and work schedule, I’m not home that much, especially Monday through Saturday. Most of our daily family ranch work is handled by my two sons, Ty (11) and Todd (9). I’m fortunate that both of them enjoy ranching, and enjoy the responsibility of daily chores and checking cattle, although I’m not sure how long this will last. My oldest son, Ty, has a very good eye for animal behavior that he has developed on his own.
Despite their natural instincts, we still have lengthy discussions on both “why” and “how” we do ordinary tasks around the ranch. Not just the fact that we should feed at the same time every day, but why, from an animal physiology and science standpoint, that it’s important. These seem like simple conversations, but I benefit from discussing them too. Many small ranches and feeding operations have similar situations. Part-time employees and family members are asked to do several tasks, sometimes without a good discussion of some of the important issues. Fewer employees have an agriculture background or previous experience. One of the big benefits of conducting a feedlot assessment is that the program walks you through many of these “ordinary” discussions.
Ranches that wean their own calves, backgrounding yards, stocker operations and feedlots should all consider doing some type of assessment. As a framework, the Beef Quality Assurance program, through beef checkoff dollars, has developed very comprehensive assessment tools. The assessment tool discusses several areas, such as cattle receiving protocols, health programs, cattle handling, chuteside etiquette, feeding and feed sampling, biosecurity and emergency contact information. These materials are available through your own state BQA program, or by visiting the BQA Web site, http://www.bqa.org.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News