Tucked away in Wisner, Nebraska in the heart of Cuming County is this month’s Rancher Spotlight with the lens shining on Feller Cattle Company. Tom Feller started the company in 1985 with help from his father, Doug and his uncle Bob. Tom is a fourth generation cattle feeder whose roots in cattle feeding trace back to the turn of the 2oth century.
The business philosophy of Feller Cattle Company is summed up by a quote from Tom Feller, “The business of cattle feeding is about investing in each other. Nurturing these relationships into long lasting profitable partnerships is our challenge and ambition.” Successful beef production is built on great partnerships. Cattle feeders need cattle producers and vice-versa. Feller Cattle Company builds those relationships through their commitment to finishing great cattle.
Today their feedlot has capacity for 15,000 head and is open 24/7, 365 days a year with cattle coming in, shipping out, feeding twice a day, and riding pens. They typically receive cattle from six months to sixteen months of age and the duration of time to finish them can range from an average 600 pound steer to finish around 220 days, to a 900 pound steer finishing in around 140 days. The term “finish” means getting cattle to market weight by feeding a diet of corn, hay, distillers, and protein/mineral/vitamin supplements until the cattle reach a desired weight, marbling, and grade quality.
The cattle are kept in pens that average 120 to 180 head per pen and each animal has approximately 400 square feet per animal. The space allows the animals to roam and play. When it comes to feeding space, calves are given about a foot and half of bunk space, but when they are closer to finishing that average is reduced to one foot of bunk space. This ensures they have plenty of room to eat, and not feel stressed or stifled.
A consulting veterinarian and nutritionist help ensure that cattle are thriving and protected from diseases. All cattle are vaccinated when they arrive to prevent bringing anything into the rest of the herd. However, cattle have to be monitored for “withdrawal” when they get ready to leave the feedlot. Feller Cattle Company assigns each cow an id number when they arrive, and with the use of computers they track each individual animal through its stay in the feedlot. If an animal has been treated for sickness and has not had the proper withdrawal time (a time it has to remain untreated before it can be harvested) then the computer alerts the staff and they remove the animal until the hold time is cleared.
The biggest concerns to the feedlot are two things: misconception and drought. Feller Cattle Company strives to show that the animals are their primary concern. Without the animal, there would be no feedlot. From the spacious design of the facility, to the no expense spared feeding and health programs the care of the cattle is the primary focus. Tom says, “I think the fact that we (as an industry) would not take care of our cattle is a misconception. Those animals today are worth $2,200 plus a head. Our feed is top quality; we have invested millions in equipment to care for their pens, feed, and comfort.”
The second biggest concern is drought. Drought causes high feed costs, and high feed costs make it hard to do business. Being able to source premium feed inputs is essential to producing great beef, and anytime you have drought you then have to pay more for the quality you need.
When we asked Tom how he felt about Herefords in his feedlot he had this to say. “Modern Herefords have improved in the last ten years, the breeders made that happen”, Tom Feller. Tom also added, “Hereford cattle excel at Feller Cattle Company because they are more efficient, have more meat per carcass, good dispositions, and are weather acclimated.” Feller Cattle Company prefers to finish Hereford influenced cattle because they perform in the feedlot averaging 3.5 to 4 pounds a day of gain, and Herefords bring a premium which can be a big deal to a producer’s bottom line in a tight market.
If you are looking to know more about Feller Cattle Company then check out their website at WWW.FellerCattleCo.Com.
In the mean-time, all of us at CHB send our prayers and support for those of you that are having to battle through these harsh winter storms. Keep your head up and your ears covered.