Factors to consider to run a thriving feedlot agri-business
Feedlots are premised on the idea of feeding high-energy diet to attain a desired market weight within a given time. Feedlots require great capital investments and therefore can also mean lots of losses when not well planned and managed. The time taken to gain this weight depends on the feeding model adopted, the breed and the starting body weight.
Think accessibility when choosing a site for your feedlot. So why is accessibility a big deal?
The daily operations of the feedlot require transport of staff, feeds and animals. Poor selection of a site may present environmental pollution challenges and subsequently government may not issue the farmer with a business permit. When designing a feedlot consider having roads within the feedlot for ease of movement.
When selecting the starter stock bear in mind that it is quality and quantity of beef that matters at the end of the day. The breed determines quality of beef produced.
There are several breeds well adapted to the Kenyan environment. They include the Boran, Simental, Sahiwal and Zebu.
Also take note that the quality and quantity of beef is determined by the genetics and the type of feed given to the animal. Some of the areas to assess during the feeding stage is muscle scoring.
Muscle scoring is the assessment of thickness and shape of the muscles in relation to frame size of the animal. It evaluates the degree of muscularity without the influence of fatness. Some customers have certain preferences and this should be considered to meet the market tastes.
Given that feeding contributes greatly to the production costs, it should be factored into the planning.
It takes a while before you start reaping from feedlot after your first sale. The heavier burden during the grace period comes from costs like feeds, veterinary, maintenance and staff allowances.
Water is an important component in a feedlot. It should be available throughout. To miminise costs chose a site with a reliable water source like a borehole or a river.
A well selected site
A well selected site that is accessible greatly reduces operational costs, increases livestock production and hence profits.
Diseases are a major constraint to successful feedlots. Fortunately, feedlots ensure herds are separated or quarantined hence reducing spread of diseases from other herds. If you are sourcing animals from other areas into the farm, note that this may increase chances of disease spread. It is important that diseases are prevented before they emerge or managed well if they hit the herd.
To be on the safe side with disease management, at the onset of the project enrol services of a veterinary surgeon to be available when animals are coming into the feedlot and throughout their stay.
Other factors to consider are the safety of the feedlot farm, perimeter fencing, gates, lighting, signage and security cameras.
What it takes to rear high quality bulls
Beef production involves growing, feeding and managing steers and heifers from weaning until they enter a feedlot where they are placed on a high concentrate finishing ration.
Proper feeding enhances weight gain by enabling the calves to grow enough muscles and bones before laying down a fat covering and marbling. This weight gain is very important in beef production and, therefore, should be monitored and bolstered right from calving to finishing phases of rearing.
The feeding regime, however, depends on the system of rearing, which can be intensive or extensive. Under intensive system, practising creep feeding which involves providing additional nutrients in form of hay, grains or mixed rations may be necessary to result in heavier, well-conditioned and uniformity at weaning.
After weaning, the steers are fed mainly on high quality forage, including hay, until they enter the feedlot for finishing. A variety of feed resources should be utilised to provide a balance of protein, energy and vitamins while mineral salts should be provided adequately.
Extensive system involves grazing cattle on forages for a certain period or the animals are fed on milled diets in a drylot.
There are several different designs of beef animal housing for smaller herds which can be chosen based on the prevailing weather condition at the location of your farm, topography for drainage or manure handling, age of the animals and the availability of feeding material.
These structures should include the crowding pen, holding pen when awaiting farm operations and the loading chute during marketing. Dairy zero-grazing units can also be used as they have adequate lighting and ventilation and if they are constructed with respect to the above-mentioned factors.
Apart from the main housing unit, other necessary structures put up around the farm include hay feeders preferably portable, a crush, watering equipment and a scale for weighing the cattle. The beef animals should be housed differently according to ages as calves, steers and finishing animals.
All these housing components should meet the animal and farmer’s operational needs without exceeding available resources. Maintaining optimum stocking density is important for long-term profitability of the farm.
Another essential aspect is maintaining good health for the bulls within acceptable standards of animal welfare. Beef animals get affected with non-notifiable, endemic and notifiable diseases such as foot and mouth, bluetongue and anthrax, among others.
Embracing good farming practices and regular monitoring of the animals for signs of illness is the best way to prevent diseases and control spread in case of an outbreak.
Signs of notifiable diseases should be immediately reported to the nearest veterinary office. New animals should be sourced from reputable ranches with certified, registered and well-kept records to make it easy for tracing infected bulls in the event of a disease outbreak.
Bio-security measures and hygiene provide other options for preventing disease outbreaks in the farm. These are restricting visitors, vehicles and equipment in and out of the farm and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and wearing protective clothing while within the pens.
Most importantly, ensure the beef animals are vaccinated regularly and internal and external parasites are controlled.