Preparing For the Fall Run…

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Filed under CAFO, General

12 responses to “Preparing For the Fall Run…

  1. Just drove thru the sand hills very green and lush looking for this time of year raising beef here is as natural as the bison herds of past I love all the countryside and the sand hills stand out with their wildness and closeness to the past

    • The Sand Hills are a truly beautiful place. They are uncharacteristically green right now because we had plentiful August rainfall. The “fall run” from that region will be later than normal this year because of the rainfall and plentiful grass!

      Glad that you were able to see Nebraska’s unique beauty!

  2. Good Luck with “fall run 2014,” Anne and crew!

    We are hauling hay and will be for a while. We are looking at preconditioning calves Friday and Saturday and shipping yearlings early next week.

    • Sounds like you are right on schedule, Robyn! There is always so much to do this time of year 🙂

      Good luck to you all with your own fall chores!

  3. This is the first year I won’t get in on any of the fall run at the feed yard. It was the busiest time of year, but it was my favorite time of year. It will be an odd fall for me this year, I may have to come visit you 😉

    • You are welcome to come anytime, Terryn! We’d love to have you. I am sure that you will keep busy enough with ranch chores that you won’t get bored 🙂


  4. Katheryn

    Thank you for letting us know the “how to and whys” as it is important to educate others in our everyday lives. Bless you and your crews as your work load increases.

    • I so much appreciate your support, Katheryn, and will be sure to pass along your well wishes to my guys!

      As for my blogs, I am never sure what readers will be interested in learning, but I try to share something of substance. Thank you for loyally reading and supporting me — it helps to motivate me to take the time to write when I hear back from readers — especially this time of year when we are busy.


  5. Dustin Favinger

    I love the core values you have. They are so applicable to nearly situation we will find ourselves in. Thanks for sharing.

    • I agree, Dustin, those core values are “life skills” and determine both our outlook and our effectiveness in sharing our gifts. Attitude–Initiative–Teamwork, there are so many important ideas tied up in those three words.

      Good to hear from you — Glad that you enjoyed the post.


  6. Rex

    This post suggests other posts.
    More important than quantity of grass driving weaning is quality of available feed. The nutritional quality of grass declines as the grass matures and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a cow’s weight, muscle and milk quantity while she is milking and difficult to keep a calf thriving. Your feed yard casseroles are packed with far more nutrition than we can logistically provide on pasture.
    Yesterday, we started weaning the first calf heifers. There is grass up to my waist in the pasture and lots of new growth of the cool season grasses, but Nan was concerned that the cows were beginning to loose condition. We have a choice of putting the calves on a back grounding field with a growing casserole of oats, legumes, sorghum, millet and collards or putting then there with the mommas. If we use it for pairs, they will all thrive but we will have to have another high quality feed available when they are done. If we only give it to the calves they will be happy, the cows will be able to gain weight on the pasture and the field will last three or four times as long.
    Your feed yard is an essential part of some sandhills rancher’s stewardship and animal welfare programs.

  7. Pingback: Fall is My Favorite | Faith Family and Beef

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