Based in the Show-Me State of Missouri, Circle A Angus Ranch is out to show customers what its cattle can do.
David Gust and his family own the Circle A operation, headquartered in Iberia, Mo. In addition to selling about 400 registered Angus and Red Angus bulls each year, Circle A manages about 8,000 head of commercial females on three ranches in Missouri and one in Iowa. “We use the same genetics we sell,” says Jeff Windett, Circle A’s commercial marketing manager, “and we know what the cattle will do in the real world.”
Circle A, he adds, keeps extensive records on the commercial herds and their offspring as they move through feedyards and into packing plants, and the data have shown that the calves perform well in the feedyard and produce high-value carcasses grading about 90 percent Choice or better.
Based on those results, the company opened a feeding facility this spring, in part to finish their own calves but especially, Windett says, as a means to help customers capitalize on the value of bulls and females they purchase from Circle A.
The fully covered feedlot, located on the company’s ranch near Huntsville in northern Missouri, measures 1,700 by 120 feet with capacity for about 3,000 head. The Circle A team plans to finish some of the company’s steer and heifer calves in the feedlot, but intends to focus primarily on feeding customers’ calves from Circle A genetics.
This year, Windett says, Circle A is purchasing 100 percent interest in customer calves, as they fine-tune their feeding systems in the new facility and develop markets. By next year, he says, they plan to offer retained-ownership programs for customers. As of mid-June, feedlot occupancy was about 1,800 head, and Windett says he expects the facility to fill to capacity by fall.
The wet and humid northern Missouri climate is not conducive to feeding cattle in open pens. But Windett says the covered facility provides outstanding comfort and protection from the elements, with shade and cooling breezes in summer and protection from snow, rain and mud during winter. He expects comfort to pay off in cattle health and performance, and so far it has. Pull rates for cattle placed in the facility this spring and summer have been near zero, he says, and daily gains are averaging over 4 pounds. The feedlot is located 35 miles from an ethanol plant, allowing them to control production costs by feeding wet distillers’ grains in cattle rations.
Sawdust bedding provides a comfortable and absorbent surface for the cattle, and Windett says crews clean the manure-sawdust mixture out of the pens about once a month. They compost the material and use it for soil improvement on the ranch’s pastures and crop fields.
Comfort is just one reason the cattle stay healthy and perform well. In addition to genetic requirements, Circle A limits its purchases of groups of feeder cattle to those verified as weaned and preconditioned through a full VAC-45 program, averaging at least 600 pounds at delivery. Purchasing calves directly from customers, Windett says Circle A offers significant premiums over market averages, up to $45 per head, based on genetics, preconditioning and documentation for USDA’s Quality Systems Assessment and Process Verified programs.
Another goal is to collect performance and carcass data to help customers continuously evaluate bull performance. Circle A, Windett says, focuses on customer service and quality. The feeding program is a means of extending service to customers by helping improve their profits, while also producing beef that meets the demands of the consumer market.
Windett says response from customers has been overwhelming, and Circle A management already is considering expanding the feeding facility. In the meantime, the company has such confidence in the value of its customers’ calves that it will continue buying qualified cattle to keep the feedlot operating at full capacity.