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A new tool for the feeder cattle crowd

By Staff | Jun 22, 2014

Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center, seen here responding to a question during the June 10 Feedlot Monitoring Program (FMP) workshop, Orange City, says the new FMP version is a valuable producer aid in today’s “competitive” cattle feeding industry.

ORANGE CITY – Beef cattle feeding is no longer just a matter of just putting feed in the bunkers.

It is a competitive business demanding the best the cattle feeder can do, according to Dan Loy, director of the Iowa Beef Center,

Loy was among the presenters in a Feedlot Monitoring Program software work shop sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Orange City on June 10.

Looking at the cattle feeding picture of today, Loy pointed to a 25 to 30 percent excess bunk space nationally as one indicator of the competitiveness seen throughout the industry.

“Iowa producers have been able to take advantage of available low cost feed and proximity next to ethanol co-product outlets,” he said. “The competition in the southern plains, however, uses some very sophisticated management. Feeders (in that region) are able to hire consultants that can work closely with producers and manage the producers’ cattle very closely. Given the competitiveness of present day feeding we conducted a survey of feedlot consults four years ago to determine what separates the best managed feedlots from those less well managed.”

Larchwood cattle producers Alvie and Alice Meyer, right, listen along with Beth Doran, Extension beef specialist, as Garland Dahlke, computer specialist, Iowa Beef Center, explains the new FMP software program.

Those findings, he said, have since been used for the updating of FMP software by Garland Dahlke, the Center’s computer specialist.

Among major changes in the program are those allowing individual animal monitoring and projections with newly added features to track drug inventories and cite animal health treatment protocols, said Beth Doran, Extension beef program specialist

“Three or four things came to the top in our findings,” Loy said. “One was consistency, doing the same thing very well every day like taking time for good feed bunk management including daily observation of the cattle and cattle health and daily care and management of the feedlot. An important second factor we found was sound information management within the feedlot program.”

The overall goal successful use of good information on feed records, cattle weights and records and environmental information depends on making decisions in a timely manner, which can do a lot to help improve a beef producer’s profitability, according to Loy.

“Cattle feeding is a margin business, and cattle feeders often excel in various aspects of margin activities,” he said. “They may be very good at marketing. They may be very good at procurement and getting feeders purchased properly. They may be very good at feeding these cattle efficiently. Producers have also taken advantage accurate feed weights on feed and the nutritional value of feedstuffs to allow them to be able to make and cost effectively. It’s a matter of just doing these things better and more efficiently all the way through.”

Larchwood cattle producers Alvie and Alice Meyer lean in for a look at the new FMP software program as Garland Dahlke, computer specialist, Iowa Beef Center, explains the changes and newly added features of the program.

Loy said it can often be very difficult for an individual producer to excel without putting together a good team of consultants, employees, animal health care specialists and veterinarians. The updated FMP software is seen as another advantage for future efficiency and feedlot profitability, according to Loy.

“A willingness to change and adapt to change is instrumental in being competitive in today’s cattle industry,” Loy said. “While younger producers may perhaps more readily grasp technology and take advantage of it, we at the same time are seeing feeders in the business for 20 to 30 maybe even 40 years willing to change and adapt. Some have been working with the very early versions of the software for years. It’s a matter of adapting to be competitive.”

Beef producers Alvie and Alice Meyer, of Larchwood, said they are looking forward to use of the new FMP software in their cattle feeding program.

The Meyers are currently working with a third-generation cattle operation that includes a 900-head cattle feedlot and 30 stock cows.

Current management practices undertaken by the Meyers include walking lots daily, feeding twice a day and making annual fall purchase of feedlot cattle.

“The new program as we see it can give us the way to accurately keep accurate records and keep things together, to track everything and to be more efficient,” Alvie Meyer said.

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