During the next few years, my interest in the cattle business grew even stronger. I focused on college courses in nutrition and managing feedlot cattle. The semester of graduation, I secured a job with JBS Fiver Rivers Cattle Feeding. I would be working in their feedlot in Dalhart, Texas with 60,000 head of cattle. That is like have 60,000 kids to feed and look after each day.
I was hired on as a management trainee, working in the cattle department. During my time there, I was charged with managing the receiving and shipping operations of the feedlot. I looked over the care of cattle as they walked off the truck, arrived in the pens, went through the processing barn to receive their ear tags and vaccinations and took them to their “home pens” where they would stay for their duration of their time in the feedlot. I would also help with shipping cattle out when it was time to go to the slaughterhouses. In between those tasks, there was plenty of record-keeping to manage, pharmaceutical inventories and helping with the pen riders and veterinary crews when I had a chance.
I learned some interesting things about managing cattle and people while in the feedlots. One of the biggest things my boss and mentor taught me was the importance of following my passion. No matter what that takes.
Your passion is something you would do even if you had to sleep in your car and work for no wages. Find out what that passion is and pursue with all you have. –Jason Floyd
I actually mentioned that in an interview with American Angus Association once, and Jason caught up with me at an industry meeting later on. He said not to be mentioning his name on television without warning him about it. Well, sometimes you just have to share good advice when the opportunity arises!
As ironic as it might be, it is likely my following Jason’s advice that led to me leaving the feedlot and ending up in Montana today. However, those experiences and lessons learned will not soon be forgotten.
Aside from all of the important lessons learned while working with and feeding cattle in the feedlot, if there’s one thing I’d like for beef customers to know about the branded products they’re purchasing in grocery stores, it’s that there are people just like me, dedicated, passionate, responsible, and caring, who raise the cattle that become the beef behind labels like Cargill, Tyson and other big brand names. Those cattle begin with families like mine back home in Arkansas and end up in the very capable hands of people like my co-workers in the feedlots of the Texas Panhandle.
There are many misperceptions and outright lies floating around about the structure of our modern cattle industry today. True, at times, it is not the cleanest or freshest smelling place in the world to work, but it sure is not a dark, cruel, decrepit factory, as so many folks would have us believe today. There are many great people, just like me who work in those feedlots and the world should get to know them better. Who knows? Heck, my path and interest in cattle nutrition might even lead me back there one day.
Over the next few days, I have at least two more posts to share. The first will take a close up look at some aerial photos of the JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeders feedlot in Dalhart, Texas and I will describe what you are seeing from satellite cameras above. The second will recap my tasks and responsibilities of working in the cattle department in that feedlot. I still remember the layout and function of that feedlot as if it was yesterday.
If you have questions or concerns along the way, leave them in the comments section below. If you would like to submit them anonymously or privately, use the blog contact form in the selection bar at the top of the page. I look forward to the conversations inspired by these posts and hope you plan to engage.
To learn more about cattle feedlots and the topics discussed, check out these previous posts.