Fine-tune the Feed Yard with Self-Audit for Peak Performance

James Grothe, Dairy Beef Specialist

As we deal with market changes and profitability, we can work with clients to ensure that they avoid any unnecessary losses due to missed management opportunities. A self-audit is one that the client can perform by examining his feedlot and working facilities to see if improvements can be made for cattle comfort. We all know that with improved comfort comes less stress, improved health and better performance. One other factor that is sometimes not discussed is the stress and safety on the people working with the cattle can also be improved.

The first thing we need to keep in mind is that a feed yard is a hotel and restaurant for cattle. Keeping that in mind and using this outline will allow the cattle to achieve their genetic potential.

  1. Feed yard overall condition from the ground to top of fences:
    1. Proper bedding allows cattle to stay dry, clean and healthy.
    2. Keeping the pen limited of mud and obstructions allow cattle to get to feed and w ter. Kent Feeds has seen in a trial that from adding cement in a feed yard on Holstein steers resulted in less mud and an increase of 1⁄4 pound of average daily gain.
  2. Cleanliness of bunks and waterers. If they are filled with fines or old feed that is molding, it will reduce feed intake. Water is the same and can carry many more health issues if dirty and not cleaned on a regular basis.
  3. The cattle will not lie down if they aren’t comfortable:
    1. Watching cattle to see if they are comfortable in the flow of pen and surroundings. Do cattle spook easily and run? Does it look like a lot effort for them to get up and come eat?
    2. Monitor stools for proper condition for the ration being fed.
  4. Working facilities need to able to handle cattle with little stress. To measure the stress in the working facilities, you monitor the number of cattle that require the use of an electric prod to see if it is more than 10%. They should flow through easily and with little commotion.
    1. Proper lighting and flooring conditions will reduce distractions and shadows. Scared cattle produce manure so look for a spot in the working chute that has more than other areas and determine opportunities of improvement.
    2. Squeeze chute operation – Is there excessive force when closed or slammed in the face? If more than 10% escape, then there is opportunity to change the method and/or pressure.
    3. After calves are processed, what is the cattle exit speed? If they run, there is a higher chance of lower gain and more health issues.

Value each of the factors listed with 25 points each and score different feed yards to see if there is opportunity for improvement. I have a simple worksheet that some clients and I use to both monitor and track feed yard conditions. This will challenge everyone involved to achieve and keep the score above 90. The higher the score, the better the performance of feed they eat will be and that will add more value to Kent Beef Feeds.