USDA once again updates its Feedlot 2011 study, giving us a further look into health-management information on the U.S. cattle feedlot industry that's far-reaching enough to assume confidently it fits well to the average feedlot. This latest set of data, just released in July, further compares the results of USDA's three studies over time--1994, 1999 and 2011--and summarizes some trends in health and management practices.
One fairly steady statistic over the last 20 years that might surprise the average critic of today's "inhumane" feedlot environment: Over 95 percent of cattle placed on feed in all feedlots ended up being harvested for market. Total overall deathloss has remained steady since 1994 at only about 1 percent for all feedlots. The rest are either moved back to grazing or shipped early to realize salvage value.
What's effective in keeping those calves alive through the feeding period? In 2011, between 70 percent and 90 percent of feedlot operators said they believed pre-arrival processing like vaccination, bunk acclimation, deworming and castration was extremely or very effective in reducing sickness and death in the feedlot. In comparison, in 1994 only about 50 percent of operators believed pre-arrival practices were extremely or very effective.
Why the change in attitude over the two decades? Promotion of the idea that calves need to be properly backgrounded surely has started to sink in. But it's also tempting to at least take note of another statistic that's changing: The percentage of custom cattle, though still the largest share of calves for the largest feedlots, has fallen steadily over the years, as the share of owned cattle has increased. Compared with only about 25 percent of cattle in 1994, nearly 60 percent of cattle on feed were owned by the feedlot in 2011--about two-thirds of the cattle in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head, and well over half the cattle on feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 head or more.View All Blogs »