Maintaining a high profile based on deeds, Jerry Bohn and the staff at Pratt (Kan.) Feeders keep finding ways to increase beef quality, while making money for customers and better steaks for consumers.
Nothing succeeds like success. Gary Fike, beef cattle specialist at Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB), explains how numbers support this 38,000-
head CAB licensee winning the 2012 Feedlot Partner of the Year Award for those with more than 15,000-head capacity.
“From last June through May, Pratt Feeders enrolled more cattle with complete data than any other partner in the Feedlot Licensing Program, at 23,015 head. That shows a huge commitment,” he notes, “a 36% jump from their historical average volume, which was already at a high level.”
Pratt also won the Partner award in 2004 and 2010, and a Quality Focus Award last year.
“It’s not easy to increase quality at the same time as quantity, but that’s what they did, moving up 4 percentage points to nearly 36% CAB or Prime,” Fike says. “More than 2 million pounds of branded boxed-beef products originated at this one yard.”
Bohn attributes some of that trend to more intensive management.
“We are identifying the outlier, heavier cattle to market earlier,” he says. “That allows us to feed the rest to a more optimum endpoint.”
Higher quality and higher percentage Angus genetics coming in have more than kept up.
“I don’t think we have seen a marked advantage in feedyard performance from crossbreds versus our better quality Angus cattle anyway,” Bohn says. “And when the Choice-Select spread is as wide as it has been recently, that gives the Angus a leg up, too.”
Two years of hot summers and drought brought concerns about the effects on cattle and grading, but Pratt Feeders took action to maintain animal comfort. Setting up shades in several pens, Bohn gathered data on cost effectiveness and benefits.
“It looks like those cattle held their consumption better than in the rest of the feedyard,” he reports. “We also put out some extra water tanks in other pens to try to mitigate the heat as best we could.”
Bohn was a proponent of higher quality beef at seminars across North America.
“The industry’s goal is to produce consistently higher quality beef for consumers, and to do that, I think the message has to get out that we need to ramp up the quality in our cattle population,” he says. “We’re seeing that happen very slowly, but we still have a lot of genetic variation and too many poor cattle.
“I think it’s important for all of us to speak out and encourage and help get better returns to the people who are producing the kind of beef we’re looking for,” Bohn says, adding a window of opportunity may present itself for improving more herds. “We need to get this drought headed in a different direction, and then we can begin to grow the cowherd again. I hope people will see the advantage in building back with higher quality heifers.”
Every month or two in the past year, Bohn was either speaking out in some beef industry venue or hosting chefs and other end-product folks at the Pratt feedlot.
“We have to be transparent and tell consumers exactly what we do,” he says. “Hosting these groups is our attempt to do what we can to educate the chefs, restaurant operators, retailers, school kids—all of those groups need to learn more about our industry. And we really enjoy doing it. We’ve gotten to meet some really cool people.”
As fall approached, Bohn was hosting an international delegation of CAB partners, and overseeing a GeneMax™ sorting demonstration on feedlot and carcass results. That was to fit into the feedlot’s presentation for the National Angus Tour in October.
“We try to manage cattle individually, and DNA testing certainly goes quite a way down that road,” Bohn says. “It’s probably the wave of the future.”
Pratt Feeders and CAB are on the same path as far as Bohn can see.
“As I said in Canada last winter, ‘If you are going to tie your star to somebody, it might as well be the most successful branded beef company in the country.’ We’re proud to be a part of it,” he says, “and we are going to continue to work at generating more cattle for the program.”
Assistant Manager Dave Latta and his wife DeGaye attended the CAB Annual Conference, at Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Sept. 19-21, where Dave accepted the award on behalf of Pratt Feeders.
Source: Steve Suther and Lyndee Stabel, Certified Angus Beef