The month of August can mostly be described as the calm before the storm at the feed yard. It is during this time that we finish up maintenance projects in preparation for the fall run of cattle. In Nebraska, many cattle move off of grass pastures and into feed yards from September to late November. The grass becomes less plentiful and the grazing season draws to an end.
As the grass growth slows, cattle not involved in breeding herds are typically loaded onto semi-trucks at the ranch and shipped to feed yards in order to save the remaining grass for the mama cows and bulls. The fall run starts with yearlings (15-18 month old cattle) in August and September and then transitions into calves (8-10 month old cattle) in October and November.
Large numbers of new cattle into the feed yard equates to longer hours and a large work load. Newly arrived cattle are exercised/acclimated, processed (vaccinated, de-wormed, tagged and sometimes implanted), and health is watched very carefully as animals become accustomed to their new life.
In addition to the increasing chore list relative to cowboying at the feed yard, the numbers of feed truck loads increase significantly as well. We have 7 different rations for our cattle depending on their age/size and how long they have been at the feed yard. Rations are similar to casseroles — they are a blend of a variety of feed ingredients.
At our feed yard, our core ingredients are: Wet Distillers Grains, Rolled Corn, Alfalfa, Ground Corn Stalks/Wheat stubble, Grass Hay, and dry Supplement pellets. When cattle arrive (regardless of size), they are given a casserole that has more forage (alfalfa and ground corn stalk/wheat stubble, and grass hay) and less grain (rolled corn) blended with wet distillers grains. Throughout the time that the cattle spend at the feed yard, the percentage of forage is lessened while the percentage of grain increases.
Increasing the grain allows for the beef to be more tender and the flavor to be enhanced.
As we prepare for the fall run, I remind myself and my crew a few core work principles:
- Initiative: Always look for ways to contribute –this is imperative in effectively handling the chore load in the fall. Don’t wait to be asked to do something – if it needs done, Do It!
- Attitude: A positive outlook is critical to maintaining good morale — this leads to effectiveness in cattle care. Taking care of all of the little things while having pride in your work makes the difference in the lives of your animals.
- Teamwork: We are a team and a family at the feed yard — focusing on what is good for the group allows for unselfish efforts and a degree of unity amongst the crew. Each one of us experiences times of great fatigue during the fall months, but teamwork creates a culture where we cover for each other so that the quality of our work never diminishes.