Cow-calf producers have a lot of decisions to make to ensure their herd turns a profit. One of the biggest decisions they might make is selecting a backgrounding operation or a feedlot to finish their calves. In addition to making sure their nutritional needs are met prior to weaning and shipping here are some tips on selecting a partner in feeding and finishing your calves.
1 – Share common goals. It is important that the backgrounder or feeder you select should have common goals and philosophies in animal husbandry as you do for your own operation. This includes everything from genetics and feeding to herd health and nutrition. Some yards specialize in high-quality cattle; some in high-risk; and others yet, might have a focus on specific marketing programs. Select a yard or backgrounder that fits your animals’ needs and your marketing goals.
You want to make sure that your cattle have the opportunity to perform to their highest potential so you can make a profit through retained ownership. If your end-product is destined for an all-natural market, you would want to be sure that the lot you select to finish your cattle knows your goals.
2 – Provide services. A great backgrounder or feedlot will provide more services than just caring for your cattle. Does the lot offer short-term financial assistance? Do they have their own marketing programs such as U.S. Premium Beef? Do they feed high-quality cattle for branded programs like Certified Angus Beef? If you are paying for a service, make sure you are getting the most for your money.
3 – Trust. Once you’ve signed an agreement for someone to background or finish your cattle, you’ve got a partnership, and like any partnership, trust is imperative.
Make sure you trust the owner, manager and employees who will be caring for your cattle on a daily basis. Often times, you ship your cattle hundreds of miles away. If you can’t trust the people caring for them, then you need to start from scratch to find someone you can trust.
Starting from Scratch
What if you are new to the cow-calf enterprise and don’t have a relationship built with a backgrounder or feeder, or you don’t want to do things just like dad or grandpa did? The best way to find a reputable partner is to start communicating with others in the industry. Attend professional meetings and conventions and talk to other producers with similar goals as you. Read industry publications and ask questions. Read the advertisements in publications because the good business people will invest in good advertising. In addition to reading and attending professional industry meetings, contact the feeder or backgrounder and talk to them directly. Visit their operation. A first impression will go a long way for you and your relationship building.