Kansas cattle feeder, Jim Allen, rolls with the tide and helps his company grow and adapt

Much has changed over the past 40 years at Garden City Feedyard. The cattle, feeds, technology, ownership and most of the people have undergone multiple transitions. Amid all that change, however, yard manager Jim A. Allen has provided a consistent presence, helping the operation grow, evolve, innovate and adapt. His service led to his selection for the 2016 Arturo Armendariz Distinguished Service Award.

Garden City Feedyard has undertaken some ambitious projects over the years, and General Manager Mark Boos says Allen’s leadership and positive attitude helped ensure the success of those projects and achievement of seemingly impossible goals.

Consider, for example, the logistical and practical challenges involved in tripling the feedyard’s occupancy from 30,000 to 90,000 head—in just five months. Or how about managing a shipment of more than 10,000 cattle to Russia or putting up 250,000 bu. of high-moisture corn in one day? Allen helped Garden City Feedyard through each of those challenges and several more during his long career.

Allen grew up in the cattle feeding industry, as his father operated a farm and small feedlot in Kansas. He pursued his interest in cattle production at Kansas State University, earning a degree in animal science and spending summers working on a feedyard. In 1970, he took a job at A.I.D. Feedyard near Ulysses, Kan. In 1975, he moved to what is now Garden City Feedyard.

Allen established his role at the feedyard and endured several changes in ownership and “about six or seven different managers” in the ensuing years. In 1994, AzTx Cattle Co., owned by the Josserand family of Texas, purchased the feedyard with expansion plans in mind. Based in Hereford, Texas, AzTx currently operates Hereford Feedyard, Garden City Feedyard and a cattle-export business.

In 2001, the feedyard underwent a major expansion. As the feedyard tripled its capacity from 30,000 to 90,000 head, with proportional increases in staff members, feed trucks, milling capacity and commodity procurement, Allen led by example and kept the operation’s feeding program on track. That year, Boos says, the feedyard began placing additional cattle in June and by October was full to its
90,000-head capacity.

During the early 2000s, the feedyard transitioned from feeding almost all beef-breed cattle to finishing large numbers of Holstein steers. They also began developing Holstein heifers for dairies.

In 2009, with the domestic dairy market struggling, the company began exporting dairy heifers to
Russia on behalf of a client. Since then, Garden City Feedyard has exported more than 70,000 head of beef and dairy cattle to Russia, with Allen managing the logistics of a complicated feeding program. Those logistics included maintaining multiple quarantines, feeding export-bound cattle separately, using designated feed trucks and other equipment exclusively for export
cattle and, of course, keeping detailed management records.

The aforementioned 10,000-head shipment to Russia required loading 250 trucks with cattle for transport to the port at Galveston, Texas. Boos notes all of the 70,000 exported cattle were individually identified and tracked, and shipped with 100% accuracy for health testing and management records to meet export requirements. Pictures and videos of the cattle export program are available at www.axtx.com.

In 2012, the heifer-development team synchronized and AI’d 15,057 females at the feedyard in just 12 days, with Allen helping coordinate the activities of 10 AI technicians. 

The following year, the team bred 8,434 head—again AI-ing heifers at the rate of 1,200 head per day, using a CIDR program for synchronization and heat detection after the
first service.

Allen’s experience in exporting cattle to Russia led to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2014, when he traveled to the country as a cattle-feeding consultant.

While there, he spent three weeks working with a large Russian cattle company establishing its first beef feedyard. Allen helped the group develop feed manufacturing, mixing and delivery protocols along with standard operating procedures across the 40,000-head facility. He says his Russian hosts were enthusiastic, anxious to learn and optimistic that grain-based cattle finishing would complement the productivity and quality of their
Angus-based cow herds.

Over the years, Allen has held multiple titles and performed virtually every task around the feedyard. From procuring cattle and feedstuffs to marketing cattle and maintaining facilities, he has shown constant attention to detail.

His primary role though, has been in managing the feeding
program, and he excels at that. Looking back, Allen acknowledges the job has changed dramatically over the past four decades—from reading bunks and recording feed deliveries on paper tablets to today’s precision measurements, fine-tuned rations containing multiple feed ingredients, computerized feed records and
electronic communications.

As for his induction to the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame, Allen says he’s surprised and honored, noting numerous employees deserve recognition and many have helped him succeed throughout his career.

Boos says Allen represents the third critical link in the operation’s management team, in addition to himself as manager and wife, Robin Boos, DVM, as the yard’s consulting veterinarian. In his nomination letter for the award, Boos wrote of Allen: “Currently, he has no immediate plans to retire. This makes the management and ownership of the yard extremely happy, because they don’t think that anyone else can produce a resume equal to this man.”