The cowboys (and girls) are still plying their trade
While beef prices in the USA have collapsed recently, some of the most progressive beef farmers we visited such as John Schroeder, part owner and manager of Darr Feedlot in the Platte River Valley, Nebraska, are turning to technology to counter market forces.
The hope is that in the future it will help reverse the $500/head (€440/hd) loss the farm is currently enduring. John currently has 40,000 head of cattle on his feedlot with an annual turnover of over 100,000 cattle.
While he does own some of the cattle on the farm the majority are owned by a group of local cattlemen. John charges customers $0.30/animal (26c/animal) per day, plus feed costs and any additional health costs.
From the moment we arrived on the Darr feedlot, it was evidence that John was a man who was very proud of the management advances made on his farm over the last number of years.
He was excited to show us the 76,000 tonne of crimped maize being pitted while we were there and the pit of 56,000t of maize silage in the distance. However, he really came into his stride when he started to explain how he is using advances in science and technology to take his farm to the next level.
He explained how all animals were given an electronic ear tag costing $1.40 (€1.23) on arrival to the feedlot. These tags stored data such as past body weights, antibiotics used, hormones administered and the animal paternal information.
He is also using a more advanced electronic tag costing $80 (€70.50) which will in addition to the normal electronic tag also monitor body temperature which is automatically downloaded to a central computer four times per day.
This is invaluable on the farm as it helps to swiftly detect any animal that may be unwell, when it detects body temperature changes.