About 50 Alabama farmers toured some of the nation’s top cattle ranches and feed yards in Kansas on the Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual Beef Tour May 15-21.
The tour included stops at 11 feed yards in southwestern Kansas. For cattlemen like Michael Dansby of Lowndes County, visiting the feed yards was an opportunity to see where his cattle may go when they leave Alabama. Several large feed yards were part of the tour, including Pratt Feeders in Pratt, Kansas, which can hold up to 40,000 calves.
“The best part of this trip for me was getting to see the feed yards up close,” said Dansby, 38, who has brood cows and a stocker calf operation. “We talked to the managers of the different places we went, and it was interesting to see how they run such big feed yards. Learning what they feed, how they feed and being able to ask questions about why and how they do things was invaluable. I made a lot of contacts with people in the business, not just from Kansas, but others from Alabama who were on the trip. That’s always good.”
Likewise, Winston County Farmers Federation President Darrell Lee said it was a great trip, adding, “I met some super people.”
Lee has about 250 brood cows on his farm in Addison. He said he typically sells his calves at a local stockyard and also sells replacement heifers from his farm.
“This was my first time on the Beef Tour, and it was an eye-opening experience,” said Lee, 57. “I had never been to a feed yard, so just that many cattle in one place was a little mind boggling. I’ve been to some big sale barns, but nothing compares to seeing so many cows at once.”
Federation Beef Director Nate Jaeger organized the tour. He said the tour gave Alabama farmers the opportunity to learn new cattle handling techniques, health care practices, genetics, nutrition and marketing. More importantly, he said, it helped farmers learn that what they do on their farms affects beef when it’s harvested.
“This tour did a good job of showing our members diversity in the cattle-feeding business,” Jaeger said. “I think it will lead to some attendees retaining ownership of all, or a portion of, their cattle in the future because they see an opportunity to improve their bottom line and potentially their genetics, based on feed yard- and carcass-performance data.”
Lee said he plans to take some of what he learned on the tour and put it into practice on his farm.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve what we do and for ways we could save money,” he said. “You can learn a lot from a trip like this.”