Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program Class 16 Tour South African Beef FeedlotWed, 19 Feb 2014 09:43:57 CST
Class 16 of the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program continues their travels in South Africa and one of their stops on Tuesday was at the Chalmar Beef Company. Class member Chris Hitch of Guymon provides his take on the feedlot they toured, based on his knowledge of the US feeding industry.
"The feeding operation we visited was Chalmar Beef Feedlot. This is a medium sized feeding company of about 18000 one time head capacity separated into 2 yards of about 9000 head per, but they are a mostly vertically integrated enterprise with the ability to pasture 10,000 light calves (less than 450 lbs) as well as slaughtering capacity of 15,000 head annually.
They have set themselves up in a niche market of focusing on premium eating experience for their customers. This means selectively buying calves of breeds that are more docile and likely to produce tender, flavorful beef.
"The most popular breed of cattle in the Chalmar lots is the Bonsmara, a local composite breed. Many other breeds are available but most are Brahman influenced. Chalmar avoids these cattle as they are wilder and produce tougher, less palatable meat. Also of note is that while much of the beef in S.A. is grain fed, the cattle are killed around 950 lbs. That means the meat leaner and more susceptible to toughness. Therefore, it is much more important to Chalmar Beef to be very selective about the cattle they source for feeding in their yard, and the Bonsmara cattle are very gentle and easy to handle as well as producing a nice tender meat.
"The feedlot system they have is very similar to the US system, but with some important differences. The primary difference is that the two yards feed two distinct weight classes of cattle.
"The first feedlot feeds all the younger cattle weighing 500-700 lbs. The second feedlot located next to the packing facility feeds the cattle from about 700-1000 lbs. This allows the feedlots to be very focused and efficient on the type of cattle and the phase in the feeding process the cattle are in. While this isn't revolutionary compared to the average US system, it is uncommon for a feeding company to operate like this. As a feedlot owner, I can see some definite disadvantages, like increased trucking costs, but I can also see some very clear possible advantages for a yard, as well, such as running very lean crews on the feed and cattle side since all the cattle in the yard would be on the same ration and much less likely to be sick as compared to the starter yard.
"Our group only toured the finisher yard, and it was a modern feedlot. Various ingredients are measured and put into a mixer box made by Rotomix. The ingredients are mixed and then delivered to a bunk system identical to the US system. The machinery to load and haul feed were smaller than what my feedlot has, but probably very similar to what a feedlot of similar size in the US might have. The cattle are fed two times per day. The only notable difference any US feedlot owner will immediately see is the absence of horses. There are none on the feedlot. S.A. never developed a horse culture with its cattle culture. The animals are handled on foot. Otherwise, there is very little difference in what they do and how they go about it."
To learn more about the Chalmar Beef Company, which includes not just backgrounding and feedlot facilities- but also further down the beef pipeline to the consumer, click here for their company website.
Class 16 continues their international study experience across South Africa, returning to the US later this month. Click here for the OALP website to learn more about the program and to get an application for Class 17.
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