To cover the bases, these feeders take a balanced approach toward providing the right incoming supplement program
by Gilda V. Bryant
It’s no accident that hundreds of the nation’s feedyards are located in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. Wide-open spaces, abundant corn and other commodities combined with the latest computer-based programs insure the right amounts of quality ingredients are transformed into the best possible finishing rations. With the addition of minerals and probiotics, animals can reach excellent health and nutrition levels, which increases performance.
CRI Feeders (CRI), located outside of Guymon, Oklahoma, is a commercial feedyard that specializes in finishing yearlings. Scott Anderson, Manager, says their customer base includes cow-calf producers, stocker operators, and those who buy cattle directly from auction markets or other purchase points. Although Anderson’s clients come from all over the Continental United States, he has had foreign investors. When fully stocked, the capacity of CRI Feeders runs around 45,000 head.
Anderson sees a broad variety of cattle breeds in the feedyard. Producers, who retain ownership of yearlings from their own cowherds, are more breed specific, geared to what they are trying to accomplish with their genetic programs. Stocker operators tend to make more of a margin play, feeding calves they believe can make a profit.
Good health and productivity starts with a tried and true intake protocol, crucial for incoming yearlings.
“When the [the animals] unload, we evaluate them for health status and classify them into one of three groups: low-risk yearling set, moderate-risk set and high-risk set,” Anderson explains. “[The categories] depend on how aggressive we are with our starting program as far as how we approach them with feed. We’ll work with the low-risk cattle to have them up to our intake expectations by the third or fourth day, then start introducing some finished feed. We’ll take our time with the moderate-risk and high-risk cattle, taking five to ten days to evaluate them and make sure their health is going to hold before we push them on up to feed.”
Feedyard personnel face challenges when cattle come from nearly every state in the Union and Mexico. Feedyard managers, veterinarians and beef nutritionists often have limited or no knowledge of newly arrived calves’ prior mineral supplementation, vaccinations and dietary backgrounds. Anderson says he has to cover his bases to make sure that if there is a deficiency, he can replenish the animals’ mineral and nutrient status as quickly as possible.
CRI’s beef nutritionist, Frank Goedeken, Ph.D., with Integrated Beef Consultants, reports CRI Feeders supplements inorganic minerals at 150 percent of the NRC (Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle) recommended requirements. He says most commercial feedyards follow this practice to ensure their cattle obtain the necessary nutrients for good health and productivity.
Why is mineral supplementation important for newly received feedyard cattle? Goedeken says the big issue is the animal’s previous plane of nutrition. At times, transportation stress and poor nutrition programs make it difficult for vaccines and antibiotics to work on high-stress cattle. Anderson and Goedeken aim to move each animal up to a good plane of nutrition, to better cope with stress and disease challenges.
“We want the cattle to recover,” Goedeken explains. “Most of the data says it takes about 30 days to get blood levels [up to optimum measurements], and turn things around if their nutrients are depleted. If we want to do that a little quicker, some of the organics allow us to do that without the competition of other minerals. For example, [the trace minerals] copper and zinc compete for the same absorption site. Mineral nutrition isn’t understood as well as we would like. It is complicated because all the minerals are related to each other. Some of the deficiency symptoms are very similar from one mineral to the next, so I try to take a very balanced approach.”
From the first bite
CRI’s nutrition program includes providing organic or chelated minerals to new cattle to help them recover quickly from transport stress and mineral deficiencies. Their protein supplement also contains inorganic minerals. Plus, this program provides probiotics to improve overall animal health, reduce E. coli and decrease death loss. Anderson says minerals and other supplements are included in each ration from the first bite they consume when they arrive at the yard.
Anderson and his staff rarely take on high-risk cattle, but when they do, they try to find what these animals will eat the first few days after arrival, as they rest and acclimate to the feedyard regimen. Generally, they receive loose prairie hay and a commercial receiving pellet along with the receiving ration in the bunk.
“Finding what those high-risk cattle will eat, and getting something into their systems to help them fill up and get their digestive systems working again after their ride to the feedyard is important,” Anderson explains. “The health program can’t work if the nutrition side isn’t working and the nutrition side can’t work if the health side isn’t working. All of that has to work together to support health and allow the animals to get their systems built back up so they can go on and perform in the feedyard. Anything that can be done to help these programs sync as quickly as possible to help support the health of the animal is critical.”
Goedeken reports that over the years, he has seen properly fortified mineral programs reduce death loss and increase health in cattle, which improves feedlot performance.
with the nutritionist to formulate a set of diets that compliment the type
of cattle [you are feeding in your facility],” Anderson
advises. “Not everybody gets the same kind of cattle and different
cattle have different needs. Working with both the veterinarian and
nutritionist to make sure those needs are met in as efficient and
cost-effective manner as possible is important.”
You gotta get it “just right”
by Gilda V. Bryant
Scott Anderson, Manager at CRI Feeders, outside of Guymon, Oklahoma, buys corn grown in Colorado and Kansas, which is delivered and stored in grain bins at the feed mill. He also buys corn from local farmers. CRI has the capacity to stockpile about half a million bushels of dry harvest corn in a long ground pile. This huge supply lasts about three months. He purchases triticale and corn silage produced locally in the spring and fall, respectively. Additionally, he buys ground corn stalks that will be fed as a small portion of roughage, as well as wet distiller’s grains and a liquid supplement. These items are delivered as needed and stored at the feed mill.
“We have inorganic minerals in our protein supplement,” Anderson explains. “And we also have some organic minerals we add at varying levels through the micro machine to help compliment what we’re trying to accomplish.”
According to Frank Goedeken, Ph.D., beef nutritionist for CRI, the micro ingredient machine mixes premeasured ingredients, such as minerals, probiotics, and other nutrients with water. Precise amounts of the micro ingredient slurry is added to exact portions of silage, flaked corn, wet distiller’s grains and other feedstuffs.
This mixture is dumped into a mix truck, and mixed for a prescribed amount of time before being dispensed to the bunks. A computer-based program insures the proper amounts and types of feed are fed to cattle in each pen three times a day. Anderson reports the computerized batching system is linked to the bunk reading system. The rations are batched to match the formulation Goedeken designs for the various cattle diets. This efficient system easily delivers specific rations to every pen, which allows managers to measure performance.
“Everything is monitored closely on all these ingredients that go into the mix,” Anderson concludes. “We work to be extremely consistent on the accuracy of our batching, mixing and delivery of all those related items.”