4 tips for maintaining summer feedlots

While the cow-calf producer is busy moving pairs to pasture, the feedlot manager is busy running his yards. Backgrounding or finishing cattle requires a high-quality feeding environment and there are many variables to manage to maintain that environment, particularly during the summer months.

Warren Rusche, South Dakota State University Extension cow-calf field specialist, says, “Cattle might possess the greatest genetics for growth and carcass merit and be fed the most finely tuned ration science can design, but if the feeding environment is too stressful, those cattle simply will not perform as well as expected. As little as 4 to 8 inches of mud can reduce performance and feed efficiency by about 13%.”

Rusche offers four considerations for maintaining summer feedyards and improving a cattle feeders’ bottom line:

1. Take advantage of summer months to fix problems before fall

Rusche says, “Paying extra attention to upcoming maintenance needs is an opportunity to improve the bottom line of cattle feeders. The summer months represent a great time to address and correct any problems that might be present in open lots. There is usually some time during the summer when the pens are drier and empty, providing the opportunity to do some prep work before fall.”

READ: Increased feedlot placements and marketings will continue

2. Address drainage issues

“Solving serious drainage issues needs to be the first order of business,” Rusche says. “The key principle is to keep upstream water from flowing into the feedyard. Water that never makes it into the pen cannot cause any additional mud problems. This would be an ideal time to examine the upstream water flow and see if any of the diversion structures need some additional maintenance.”

3. Build up and smooth out dirt mounds

Rusche says, “Dirt mounds in an open yard also need to be maintained to keep them working as designed. The cattle should be able to walk from the concrete apron to the mound without having to having to walk through any potholes or muddy area. Compacted soil should be used to build back up mounds or fill in low spots rather than using manure scraped from the pen. Cattle should have 30 to 50 square feet of mound space per head with a 4:1 to 5:1 slope on the sides.”

4. Expand concrete aprons

“Summer is an ideal time to install or expand concrete aprons,” says Rusche. “At a minimum, these need to be wide enough so that cattle can pass behind their pen mates while they are eating. Wider aprons mean that more of the manure ends up on the concrete rather than on the pen surface. Almost no one regrets pouring concrete aprons that are too wide.”

To read more tips for summer feedlot management from Rusche, click here.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

 

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