We’ve all heard the saying: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”
In the beef industry, we could turn it to say: “Everyone talks about producing for the consumer, but just a few do anything about it.” Dave Wood, of Harris Feeding Company and Harris Ranch Beef Company, is one of those few.
Wood, one of this year’s Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame inductees, has helped build the Harris cattle-feeding operation into one of the largest and most progressive in the country. At the same time, his vision and leadership paved the way for Harris Ranch Beef to become a widely recognized and respected name in branded-beef products.
Wood has spent his entire career with the Harris operation, working his way up since accepting a position as a feedyard pen rider after graduating from Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo in 1970. He moved up to feedyard manager in 1978, then became the company’s chief operating officer and, since 1989, has served as chairman, beef operations. Wood also owns extensive cow-calf and stocker operations, completing the circle of pasture-to-plate beef production.
Harris Feeding Company, near Coalinga, Calif., is the largest cattle feeder on the West Coast and 16th largest nationally, finishing about 250,000 head of cattle per year, with a one-time capacity of 120,000 head. In 1985, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Food and Drug Administration to implement a residue-control program that included testing for chemical residues in feedstuffs. And while FDA no longer provides oversight, the company continues to test incoming commodities and finished rations on a routine basis.
The company takes pride in its animal-welfare practices at the feedyard, which include installation of shade structures and an automated sprinkler system to control dust and keep cattle cool. The feedyard contracted with Colorado State University animal scientist and animal-welfare specialist Temple Grandin, PhD, to help design handling facilities and conduct employee training programs on proper animal-handling techniques.
The feedlot produces roughly 50,000 tons of certified organic compost each year, which is sold to area farmers to fertilize organic vegetable and fruit crops. Wood chips generated from local orchard trimmings are applied to drovers’ alleys and cattle-working areas to provide enhanced footing for cattle and horses and to mitigate fugitive dust. Emphasis is placed on securing feedstuffs from local farms, when available.