Feedlot talk: Feedlot manager shares considerations for ranchers and beef industry
On April 4, feedlot manager and rancher Cassie Lappaseotes discussed feedlot management practices, relationships between ranchers and feedlots and the future of the beef industry during The Casual Cattle Conversations Podcast.
Lappaseotes has a degree in agricultural business from Colorado State University and currently manages a feedlot west of Bridgeport, Neb.
Health in feedlots
Lappaseotes notes sickness in feedlots is inevitable, but there are strategies ranchers can implement to protect their herd.
“There are so many external environmental factors we can’t control,” she says. “Feedlot managers and ranchers have to figure out a way to do the best they can to manage this.”
Lappaseotes recommends ranchers follow an effective vaccination and mineral program prior to the feedlot.
“If cows don’t get the correct minerals throughout the gestational period, the calf is starting out behind in the minerals they need themselves,” she says. “If ranchers start the calf off behind, then they’re always a step behind the healthier calves who had access to full minerals.”
Lappaseotes encourages ranchers to share the history of their calves with the feedlot if they’re able to.
“It’s helpful on the feedlot end to know the history of the calves,” she says. “This includes what vaccinations the calves have had prior to coming to the feedlot.”
Lappaseotes notes she may alter protocols for the calves depending on the information received from ranchers. Aside from providing information, she also recommends ranchers visit the feedlot and take a look at what their calves look like in February or March.
“If ranchers know what feedlot their calves have gone to, they should see what their calves look like after they’ve been on feed for quite a while and how they’ve changed,” she says.
She notes this gives ranchers a chance to ask questions and understand the challenges the feedlot may have faced.
“Transparency is getting better,” Lappaseotes says. “There’s more of an opportunity to transfer data back and forth between ranchers and feedlots as younger generations take over.”
First few weeks
Lappaseotes reminds ranchers feedlots receive thousands of calves during a short period of time, limiting the feedlot’s resources and staff. Staff at feedlots are receiving calves throughout the night, she says.
“It’s important ranchers understand what happens at the feedlot level,” she notes. “A lot of these guys start to get pretty beat up and wore out, especially if they’re short staffed during those first 45 to 60 days.”
Sickness typically occurs during the first few weeks after the calves arrive, and weather conditions can be a challenge, says Lappaseotes. She notes every feedlot has different protocols set in place for the first few weeks.
“If it’s a calf which just came off its mom, I like to let them settle down for about a week and get comfortable,” Lappaseotes says. “Less stress helps to make sure the vaccines work more efficiently.”
She mentions many feedlots don’t hold these calves back because they’re running short on receiving pens or on staff, and they have a short time frame to get the calves worked and processed.
“The first three weeks are make-or-break for a calf,” Lappaseotes says. “If the calves reach 21-days and still are pretty healthy, they’re going to be better off throughout the feeding period. More times than not, the 21-day mark is when we will see sickness set in.”
She also mentions she will sort the calves into groups if there are noticeable differences in weights of the calves and have enough calves to sort.
“Sorting helps the calves on the lighter end because it takes the competition away from the bunk with a bigger, more aggressive calf.”
Future of the industry
“I think feedlots have understood there are a lot of issues in the industry, and people realize it’s time to stand up and change,” Lappaseotes says. “We need to find a way to come together and change.”
Lappaseotes says many ranchers are striving to be in control of where their product goes next. She explains ranchers are able to promote and showcase what they do with the help of communication and new technology.
“I think within the next five to 10 years people will be able to identify a piece of steak and say it was born on this ranch, raised by this person, etc. There’s a lot of opportunity here,” she says.
Lappaseotes mentions individual animal identification systems are a tool for ranchers and feedlots to take advantage of.
“Starting to individually identify those animals from the ranch is a big deal and a change for a lot of the ranchers,” she says. “The value of transferring data back to the rancher from feedlots is immense. If ranchers start to understand what they can do better on their operations, it makes the industry as a whole and the quality of these animals better moving forward.”
Lappaseotes acknowledges the importance of communication within the beef industry, saying, “Bridging the gap between ranchers and feedlots is huge.”
As ranchers look towards the future, there’s a younger generation bringing new ideas and technology into the industry.
“There’re a lot of people wanting to come back and raise their families in agriculture. We have to create opportunities in the industry to make sure producers can make a living and feed their families because it’s a fantastic way to grow up,” Lappaseotes says.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.