It seems like everywhere I turn these days I see more and more evidence for a roll back to the smaller family farm (not that they have to be as small as mine). This time the story comes from the May issue of “The Stockman Grassfarmer”. The article, titled “Small Feedlots Being Done In By High Priced Feeder Cattle”, gives a glimpse into the state of the feedlot industry in the United States. A couple of things that really “hit” me after reading the short article were that small feedlots these days are for 10,000 to 15,000 head, just 200 feed lots (100,000 head or more capacity) finish most of the nations beef, and that it requires $12 million in capital to fill a 15,000 head feedlot.
Check out this quote from the article:
“Top Producer Magazine recently had an article chronicling the decline of “small” feedlots in the 10,000 to 15,000 head range in the Great Plains. This comes 30 years after those then-large feedyards eliminated the 200 to 1000 head Midwestern farmer feedlots.”
So, following that logic (and I feel safe doing so) the next in line to go out of business is the 100,000 head feedlots that will be replaced by super feedlots that have a 200,000 head capacity. It would promoted as a step towards maintaining the cheap food that Americans love, but think of all the problems that would ensue.
But, above all the $12 million figure is the one that blows my mind. I totally understand why it takes that much, but it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder why more people aren’t doing grass-finishing. It makes me wonder why more people aren’t doing Managed Intensive Grazing. It makes me wonder why more people aren’t High Stock Density Grazing.
In the “King Corn” movie the huge feedlot owner stated that they would grass-finish animals if that is what people wanted, but that it would cost more. I tend to disagree. But, I’m not out there doing it on a super-sized scale. Although I do know that there are people that do it…