USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) has released four info sheets from its Feedlot 2011 study. Feedlot 2011 took a broad look at animal health and management practices on feedlots throughout the major cattle feeding region of the United States, with much of the data broken out by feedyard size group.

Large feedlots accounted for 82.1 percent of the January 1, 2011, inventory of feedlot cattle in all U.S.

feedlots but only 2.8 percent of all feedlots. The 12 participating States accounted for over 95 percent of the inventory of cattle in large feedlots. Small feedlots accounted for 16.0 percent of the inventory on all U.S. feedlots and 92.9 percent of all U.S. farms with cattle on feed.

The info sheets cover four key areas of feedyard health management:

Biosecurity on U.S. Feedlots

This portion of the study examined biosecurity practices including housing management, vaccination protocols and disease testing, management of Mexican-origin cattle, contact with other animals, visitor management, equipment sharing and cleaning, information sources and contacts in case of an outbreak, proximity to other operations with livestock, and worker contact with  livestock on other operations.

Among the key findings, 17.1 percent of feedlots had some animals leave the feedlot and return to a breeding or stocker operation. Of these, 49.6 with breeding cattle and 44.1 percent with stocker cattle provided a segregated area that prevented direct contact with cattle on feed for slaughter. Among those that fed any breeding cattle, 70.2 percent housed some of these animals in pens that allowed nose-to-nose contact with cattle on feed for slaughter while 59.3 percent with stocker cattle did the same.

Emergency Preparedness and Management on U.S. Feedlots

Researchers found that less than one of four feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head had an

emergency-procedure plan in place, while about two thirds of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more did. Feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head were also less likely than larger operations to have active relationships with local emergency management officials or to be able to vaccinate a large number of animals in a short period of time. Conversely, feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head were better prepared to supply feed for basic nutrition and backup power for an extended period of time than the larger feedlots.

Importance of Pre-arrival Management Practices to Operators of U.S. Feedlots

Operators on 69.3 percent of all feedlots believed that pre-arrival processing information was very

Important, while an additional 23.8 percent rate the information as somewhat important. Asked about specific pre-arrival management practices, a large majority of cattle feeders rated these practices as extremely or very effective:

  • Introduction to feed bunk – 81.2 percent
  • Respiratory vaccinations given two weeks prior to weaning – 85.4 percent
  • Respiratory vaccinations given at weaning – 80.4 percent
  • Calves weaned four weeks prior to shipping – 79.1 percent
  • Calves castrated/dehorned four weeks prior to shipping – 91.6 percent
  • Calves treated for parasites prior to shipping – 71 percent

Quality Assurance in U.S. Feedlots

Operators on 52.4 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head were very familiar with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, compared with operators on 69.4 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head. Overall, only 4.6 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head and 0.3 percent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head had operators who were not familiar with the BQA program. Among the larger feedlots, 96.1 had engaged in at least some formal BQA training for employees, while 70.1 percent of the smaller feedlots had some of that training.

For more information, visit the NAHMS Feedlot website.