October 3, 2023
A sign in Steve Gabel’s office says, "three yards a down." It’s a football recipe for steady progress based on every little bit of work and attention to detail.
The sights and sounds at a feedyard are predictable, but you don’t expect to find such pristine facilities and people who care about every aspect of the cattle feeding business. It’s all there at Magnum Feedyard just outside of Wiggins, Colorado.
For their drive to effectively hit the high-quality beef target and determination to get better every day, Magnum Feedyard received the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) 2023 Feedyard Commitment to Excellence award. The Gabels were recognized at CAB’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in September.
"The world is run by people who show up," says Christie Gabel, quoting one of her dad’s sayings and life lessons. "It’s a good daily motto to get up and go serve your purpose."
Each family member conveys their own strengths to Magnum. Steve brings years of operations and market wisdom as Audrey keeps the books and people balanced. Case handles risk management and cattle procurement while his sister Christie recently joined as the cattle clerk.
Since 1994, Steve and Audrey have modernized the infrastructure with steel pens, concrete bunks, a corn steam flaker and hay processor.
Loads of multihued cattle once stepped off the trailers, filling pens with calves from Mexico or Holstein influence. Now, they actively seek Angus-based cattle of Northern origin with hopes to excel in quality grade and hit a 1,500- to 1,600-lb. end weight.
"I think the icing on the cake becomes the grid and its potential to return premiums for the right genetic package fed right," Steve says.
But quality isn’t the only change realized. Better genetics also improved gains and dry-matter conversions. The report card keeps improving, with pens of cattle averaging 40% CAB and 10% Prime – a big improvement from selling on a live basis.
"If you can't quantify how cattle are going to perform, you can't really manage your risk against that," Case says. "With better cattle, you have more predictable performance in all aspects."
Keeping the bunks stocked is the biggest undertaking at the feedyard, closely followed by caring for their health. Research and practice show a correlation between visits to the sick pen and ability to grade Choice, Steve points out.
"We're not capable of eliminating every potential bad day," he says. "Our job as stockmen and caretakers of these animals is to do everything to make the environment as pleasant and performance oriented as we possibly can."
That includes the little details. Driving through the feedyard, nothing is out of place. At every sunrise, the yard office is clean for the many feet that will trek in and out of the front door, checking in at the scales.
"The Gabels don’t do anything half-heartedly," says Dirk Murphy, Magnum’s feedyard manager. "They would tell you that a half-hearted work ethic receives half-hearted results."
Whether you’re a feed truck driver, pen rider, office assistant, intern or cattle buyer, your work matters. The average Magnum employee has been there for more than nine years.
"Everybody understands value in their role because mom and dad make people feel valued on top of just telling them they are," Christie says.
The office buzzes with energy from each of the Gabels, spilling out to the rest of the feedyard employees who spend the day hands-on with the cattle.
Progress is rarely a straight trajectory up – and the Gabels have seen their fair share of setbacks – but each day they bring a positive, driven attitude to get better. As responsibility continues to shift to the next generation, there’s just as much excitement and thrill to chase the moving target of success.
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