For cattle on a feedyard, perhaps few things are as important as a steady mill operation.
It’s 5:30 a.m. when Manuel Joven arrives at the feedyard and makes his way to the feed mill. His crew is running rolls, prepping boilers and flaking corn for the day’s feed. For the more than 50,000 head of cattle that call the feedyard home, perhaps few things are as important as a steady mill operation.
A calm, laid-back morning is a sign the day is off to a good start, and as Joven puts it, “The mill should be very consistent. You want to predict what time you will make your first round of feed, second round, third round and special rations. You want to predict what time you will be done at the end of the day.”
For Joven, managing the feed mill is the culmination of years of learning. Born in Mexico, he moved to Texas when he was nine years old and worked summers in the feedyard while in high school. His dad, brother, uncle and cousin all work alongside him, and Joven credits each of them for teaching him the ropes.
“My dad operates the loader, so that’s how I got my background with the loader,” he says. “I’ve got an uncle that works in the mill with me, so I picked up a bunch on gear boxes, motors, belts, drags, chains — everything that goes on in the mill, I learned from him.”
Similarly, his brother drives a feed truck and his cousin is the head doctor.
“They know how to do the work,” Joven says. “I learned that from them. Now I know how to do the work as well.”
Every morning, Joven climbs to the top of the mill and observes the yard. From there he can see if everything is running smoothly, take note of where the feed trucks are and where cattle are moving. It’s up top where Joven listens to the mill.
“A bearing could start making a different noise. An auger may be rubbing against a trough,” he says. “You may just go up there, enjoy the breeze and come back down and all is good. But you stop doing that, there’s going to be one day that you could’ve prevented something.”
Joven loves what he does and the industry he works in. He says the more time you spend paying attention to details, the quicker you respond to challenges before they become problems.
“Little things you start looking at, like inspection doors, the bearings, the motors, the gear boxes,” he says. “Just touch them. If they’re getting hot, it is probably because they’re not lubed correctly.”
Joven has had a steady mill crew for five years, a milestone he is proud of considering that long hours and manual labor can lead to high turnover. Keeping his crew around for the long haul keeps for calmer, more consistent days.
“It’s tough. It’s not easy. You just got to have a passion for it,” Joven says. “But keep the guys safe, keep the guys motivated and it turns out to be pretty good.”
Carmen Fenton is the communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She's also mom to Ella Jane (9), Hays (8) and Lane (2).
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will aid agricultural producers impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. On May 19, 2020, USDA published a rule that specifies the eligibility requirements, payment calculations and application procedures for CFAP.
The program will be administered by the USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA).
To help inform you of the program requirements and application process, we created a short webinar outlining the three-step process. We've also outlined the steps below, and a printable version can be downloaded here.
STEP #1 – Locate your local FSA service center
USDA service centers are open for business by phone appointment only. FSA is also working with producers by phone, email, mail and fax.
STEP #2 – Submit completed forms to FSA
Complete the forms below and submit them to your local service center. If you are already established with FSA, it is likely many of these forms are already on file at your local FSA service center. However, if your average AGI for the previous three years is more than $900,000, Form CCC-942 must be signed by your CPA or attorney to verify that 75% of your income is from agriculture.
STEP #3 – Complete the CFAP application
Key elements of CFAP for cattle are provided in the summary below; however, as this process evolves you can find the latest information on USDA’s website.
1. Application window: Accepted by USDA-FSA from May 26 – Aug. 28, 2020. A USDA Fact Sheet on CFAP for Livestock Producers is now available on the USDA website.
2. Application form: USDA’s payment calculator spreadsheet and application form (AD-3114) are now available on the CFAP page on the USDA website. If you need more space on the application form, a continuation sheet for AD-3114 should be used (attached as many copies of the continuation sheet as needed). A video of the payment calculator is also available on the website.
3. Eligibility: Less than $900,000 AGI (average of 2016, 2017 & 2018); however, the AGI limit does not apply if more than 75% of income is from agriculture.
4. Payment limit: $250,000 per person.
5. Corporate payment limit: Maximumof $750,000 for corporations, LLCs, and LPs based on at least three shareholders with a $250,000 limit per person, if not already maxed out as individuals.
6. Payment calculations to determine payment limit is equal to the SUM of:
7. Initial payments: USDA will issue an initial payment equal to 80% of the total amount calculated in Parts 1 and 2. If funds remain available after the initial payment, USDA will disperse the remainder of available funding.
8. Supporting documentation: If requested by USDA, the applicant must provide documentation to (a) prove marketing of commodity, (b) inventory of livestock, (c) share of ownership, or (d) establish applicant’s value at risk in the commodity.
9. Issue with definition of fed cattle: The rule includes a definition “Slaughter Cattle -- fed cattle means cattle with an average weight in excess of 1,400 pounds which yield average carcass weights in excess of 800 pounds and are intended for slaughter.” On May 19, USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey said, “The intention here is to look at market cattlethat were sold...certainly some market cattle do not average 1,400 pounds when you are selling them.” He went on to explain that it will be a self-certification and mentioned a 1,250-pound steer as an example of being in the slaughter cattle -- fed cattle category.
If you have any questions, please contact Ben Weinheimer at email@example.com or (806) 358-3681.
The following is a status update on TCFA events in light of concerns surrounding COVID-19. Please know that the health and safety of participants is our number one priority.
This list is subject to change as we learn more.
TCFA Fed Beef Challenge - Originally scheduled for April 8
TCFA Feedyard Tech, Spring Semester - Originally scheduled for April 14-16 and 21-23
TCFA Spring Safety Seminar
TCFA Feedyard Camp - Originally scheduled for June 23-26
TCFA Junior Fed Beef Challenge - Contest day July 24
TCFA Convention - October 4-10, Grapevine, Texas
Ongoing efforts to keep you informed on news surrounding the beef industry and COVID-19.
May 13, 2020
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10,000 pounds of ground beef. 10,000 pounds of potatoes. 4,700 gallons of milk. 2,000 dozen eggs. 2,000 pounds of cheese. The City of Amarillo, High Plains Food Bank and Hillside Christian Church joined forces with local agriculture producers last week to provide these commodities to families in need.
Amidst the economic and social challenges our communities face due to COVID-19, those in agriculture remain committed to giving back. Why? They care about feeding people. And when there is a need, they find a way to help. This commitment along with community volunteers and local hunger initiatives; the High Plains Food Bank Pop-Up Pantry was able to serve 2,000 families in the Amarillo area.
“When the agriculture community recognizes a need, they find a way to respond,” said Wayne Craig, executive director of Cactus Cares. “Each of our industries has a commitment to serve our community, and this is just one way we can reach out and help our neighbors.”
According to the HPFB, requests for food assistance increased nearly 20-fold throughout the Panhandle network since mid-March. In addition, HPFB’s distribution has increased 34% since March, and in April distributed over 845,000 pounds of food, the highest amount for that month in the organization’s history.
“The High Plains is rich with agriculture production,” said Zack Wilson, executive director of the High Plains Food Bank. “We’re thankful to team up with our local farmers and ranchers as well as Hillside Christian Church to facilitate a drive-thru food pantry that will help fill the gap for families who may need a little extra to get them through this tough time.”
McKenzie Hettinga, a dairy farmer from Farwell, Texas said those involved with the event were grateful to provide some stability as the community works through this time together.
Supporters of the event include Affiliated Foods, Baptist Community Services, Cactus Cares, Cal-Maine Foods, Caviness Beef Packers, City of Amarillo, High Plains Food Bank, Hillside Christian Church, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc., Jax Transport, Larsen Farms, Nutra Blend, Sarah Farms, Snack Pak 4 Kids, Southwest Dairy Farmers and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Let’s set the record straight on a few things.
First, TCFA supports voluntary COOL. We know that U.S. beef is the best in the world in terms of quality, consistency and sustainability and we support a label that highlights those high standards.
However, that label should be market-driven, not mandated by the federal government.
Market-driven programs have proven to be effective, not only for the ranching and feeder families that are the very foundation of our nation’s beef supply, but also for consumers who enjoy high-quality, affordable, nutritious beef. One of the best examples in the history of beef production and marketing is Certified Angus Beef....a voluntary marketing label that has added millions and millions of dollars to the value of beef through increased demand for quality beef.
Mandatory COOL was federal law for 6.5 years, but that law ended up costing all U.S. cattle producers significantly with no measurable benefit to consumers. Let’s visit a few of the reasons mandatory COOL failed the first time.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Chair of the House Ag Committee, in June 2015 laying out how retaliatory tariffs in response to mandatory COOL would hurt U.S. agriculture. Congress ultimately repealed the law.
Congress subsequently repealed mandatory COOL in 2015 three days before the tariffs were scheduled to go into effect because of the undue harm the law itself and potential retaliatory tariffs would cause U.S. producers and consumers. Even though Congress prevented WTO from placing tariffs on U.S. beef in 2015, the WTO case remains active. If, at any time, the U.S. implements a new mandatory COOL program, Canada and Mexico can immediately retaliate. They don’t need any additional approval from the WTO.
As we’ve learned time and time again, increasing the government’s involvement in our day-to-day operations with a mandatory label would prove disastrous and ineffective, even more so, during a time when the entire country, especially the cattle industry, is facing unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raising beef responsibly is a top priority for cattle feeders which is why they utilize practices that are good for the environment. Improved efficiency means a lower carbon footprint and fewer natural resources used for every pound of beef.
Agriculture, land use, land use change and forestry combined in the U.S. are a net sink of CO2 equivalent emissions, meaning they remove more metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.
Other Cattle & Climate Facts
News Release: TCFA Urges USDA to Remove Payment Limits for Cattle Producers Who Suffered Losses Due to COVID-19
Amarillo, Texas - The Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) today called on U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue to remove payment limitations on producers that have suffered extraordinary losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are grateful for Sec. Perdue’s support of U.S. agriculture and the cattle industry during these unprecedented times, and appreciate USDA’s payment assistance,” Paul Defoor, TCFA chairman, said.
“We understand that USDA is in the difficult position of allocating assistance levels for each segment of agriculture; however, the $125,000 payment limit per commodity fails to recognize the size and scope of the many cattle operations in Texas and across the nation. The proposed limit will preclude most cattle feeders in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico from receiving any meaningful assistance relative to their actual losses.”
Earlier this month, a study led by Dr. Derrell Peel with Oklahoma State University projected market losses of $13.6 billion for cattle producers — $247.15 per head for cow-calf producers, $159.98 per head for stocker operators, and $205.96 per head for cattle feeders.
TCFA members annually market more than 6,000,000 fed cattle or 28% of the nation’s fed beef. Under proposed payment limitations, the average TCFA feedyard (35,000 head capacity) will recoup less than 1% of actual losses. In addition to feedyard losses, the average producer who owns and markets 2,500 head of cattle in a custom feedyard will recover less than 25% of their loss. A mere 600 head will hit the $125,000 payment limit.
“Our industry is facing unprecedented times in the wake of market disruptions. While the relief is welcomed, the caps simply aren’t substantial enough to stabilize the cattle feeding industry — an essential component of our nation’s food supply,” he said.
Current USDA disaster assistance programs, including the Emergency Assistance for Livestock andthe Livestock Indemnity Program, do not impose payment limitations due to the extraordinary and unforeseen nature of producer losses.
“USDA has precedence for not establishing payment limitations on producers who have suffered extraordinary losses as a result of disasters. Disaster assistance in response to COVID-19 should be no exception,” Defoor said.
Background on USDA Assistance
On April 19, 2020, USDA announced the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The program uses funds provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities.
The program provides $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted by COVID-19.
This includes $9.6 billion for the livestock industry, specifically $5.1 billion for cattle.
Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) represents the cattle feeding industry in the three-state region of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. This area, known as Cattle Feeding Country, is the largest cattle feeding region in the U.S. A multi-billion-dollar industry, it annually markets more than 6 million fed cattle – approximately 28 percent of the fed cattle produced in the United States.
As the global population continues to grow, so will our need for a sustainable, nutritious, affordable supply of protein.
Beef provides more nutrients in fewer calories than many other food choices. For example, a 3 oz. serving of beef contributes over 50% of the daily value of protein and is also an excellent source of zinc, vitamins B6 and B12, niacin, phosphorus and a good source of iron in about 170 calories. To get that same amount of protein you’d need to eat six tablespoons of peanut butter (564 calories) or three cups of quinoa (666 calories).
But it’s not just the role beef plays in human nutrition that is important. Indeed, modern beef production is also good for the planet.
The way beef is produced in the U.S. is incredibly efficient and should be looked to as an example for the rest of the world. In fact, U.S. beef has one of the lowest carbon footprints, 10 to 50 times lower than some nations.
What is continuously distorted and misrepresented by anti-meat activists is the environmental impact of cattle in the U.S. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cattle only account for 2%. This number is low. And while there’s always room for improvement, one must recognize that all food production, and frankly all human activity, results in some sort of emissions. But not all food has the same nutrient packed, staying power as beef.
It’s also important to know that cattle are ruminants, meaning they are specially equipped with four stomach compartments, the largest being the rumen. Why is this important? Because the rumen microbes give cattle the unique ability to upgrade plants that have little to no nutritional value to you and me into high-quality protein and micronutrients that humans need.
Nowhere is this biological phenomenon on grander display than at the feedyard. Feedyard nutritionists curate precise rations for cattle during specific times of their lives using plant and plant byproducts that aren’t edible by humans. This allows for optimal growth and comfort using the least amount of natural resources possible.
There is not a single vegan or vegetarian in the world I’ve convinced to eat beef based on these words alone. And that’s not my intent. The great thing about America is that we, the consumer, have choices.
Know this: regardless of what foods you choose to nourish your body, the way cattlemen produce beef in the United States is good. It’s good for the economy; it’s good for your health; and it’s good for the environment. Cattle are not the problem, but part of the solution. Let’s celebrate that.
Carmen Fenton is the communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She's also mom to Ella Jane (9), Hays (8) and Lane (2).
For Randy Shields, understanding his employees is the key to ensuring the utmost care for 50,000 head of cattle at Wrangler Feedyard. A general manager for almost 10 years, Shields emphasizes teamwork to create and execute feedyard operations each day.
“We all work together. We've got to get the cattle fed. They've all got to be watered. The pens need to be rode. It takes teamwork to make that happen,” Shields says. “Understanding people's strengths and weaknesses, even understanding your own is probably the biggest key to me. You have to make sure you're able to see that, place the right people in the right places, and then let them do their job.”
Shields’ passion for people and the industry stems from his upbringing at the family ranch, his college education and 21 years of experience. He began working for Cactus Feeders after graduating from West Texas A&M University. Since then he has worked as cattle foreman, feed foreman, mill manager and assistant manager. In his current role he oversees all aspects of the feedyard from the cattle and feed departments to the yard crew and office management, an ideal role for Shields given his diverse past work experience.
“You've got the mill producing the feed. You've got the feed delivery department delivering the feed. You've got the cattle department going out and doing the daily duties of riding pens, taking care of the cattle,” he says. “Of course, at the end of the day, all these things come together. We do what we do to take care of the cattle.”
Although Shields’ job revolves around managing employees and overseeing day-to-day operations, his passion for the industry extends outside the feedyard. Wrangler Feedyard hosts over 100 tours a year. Teaching groups from across the world about U.S. beef production is something Shields says is crucial.
“I think a challenge we have today is that only two percent of the population is involved in agriculture. Making sure folks are informed of what we do, why we do it, and how we do it is a very important thing,” he says. “That’s the reason we do tours. We have a story to tell. If we don't tell it, somebody else will tell it for us.”
Spend a morning with Shields and you’ll quickly learn the amount of enthusiasm and commitment he puts toward managing the people and cattle under his care. He’s the quintessential man in charge — diligent, positive and willing to work with others to achieve success.
“I enjoy working with people. I love knowing that the product we're producing is the highest-quality protein source on the market,” he says. “Call it cliché, but we’re helping feed the world. All of us working toward the same goal to create a wholesome product that we can send to the public is pretty amazing.”
Madeleine Bezner is the communications coordinator for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She grew up in Dalhart, Texas where her family owns and operates a feedyard.