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Six basic rations are fed, each formulated for a specific class of cattle. Robertson
operates the push-button console of the feed mixing plant.
T-Bone Feeders, Inc.
Tailor Feeding to Fit
Any Program Needed
By RAY OZMON, Field Editor
SUPPOSE YOU'D LIKE to feed out
those choice calves of yours and get
some of the benefits of the fast gaining,
high yielding characteristics you bred
into your herd, but you don't have the
feed and can't afford the expense of
building and equipping a feedlot.
In a drought year you have to reduce
numbers drastically. The market is
Hooded and the bottom has fallen out.
If you had some place to hold your cat
tle until prices stabilize you could re
duce your losses.
Perhaps you're an irrigation farmer
and normally grow out calves in the
winter on the roughage you produce and
sell them as short feds. You'd like to
carry them to market weight, but
you're not set up to fatten cattle and
don't want to fool around with them
during the growing Season when you're
busy irrigating and cultivating beets.
Hold Dry Cows
Maybe those dry cows you plan to
sell in the fall would be worth more if
you could hold them until the demand
for hamburger meat boosts up the price
of old cows.
Or perhaps, as a cattle trader,
have a chance to buy low with a good
prospect of selling at a profit later.
You need a place to hold the cattle and
put a little weight on them.
Suppose you have some calves that
have to move. The market is down.
You could probably net more profit if
they could be held for a rising market.
But you're short of feed or have to get
them off the place to make room for re
Producers in the upper Yellowstone
Valley have a facility at their disposal
that makes it possible to handle any of
these situations. It's T-Bone Feeders,
Inc., a commercial feedlot located about
15 miles east of Billings.
The enterprise has been in operation
since 1960. There are 60 stockholders,
half of which are ranchers.
The T-Bone plant is set up primarily
for fattening cattle; however, it can
take care of everything from a 250-day
feeding program to a short term hay
and water maintenance ration.
The yards can handle 4,000 head.
There are 40 pens of varying sizes de
signed to accomodate 100, 50 and 25
animals per pen. Plans are underway
to expand facilities for another 1,000
It has all the features of a well
equipped and well-designed feedlot —
hospital pen, spray pen, a squeeze
chute for branding and doctoring and
two sets of scales, one for weighing
cattle and the other for feed. Feed
handling is a push-button operation.
Chopped hay, grain, beet pulp and con
centrate are automatically mixed and
elevated into a self-unloading truck
which fills the fence-line feed bunks.
There is a 5-foot concrete apron along
the bunks. Fresh water is always avail
able. Sawdust is used for bedding be
cause it's cheaper than straw and
seems to do a better job of keeping
the pens dry.
Owners are charged for all feed, plus
$7.50 per ton for handling. They are
also billed for salt, minerals, vaccina
tions and any special veterinary serv
ices that may be needed.
Feed costs depend on the price of
hay and grain. Customers are notified
immediately of any changes. Feed
storage facilities are adequate for
7,000 to 8,000 head. However, Frank
Robertson, feedlot manager, says he
always tries to keep some storage open
so he can take advantage of a good buy
There are times when he can get
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Frank Robertson, feedlot manager, makes frequent to U rs of the yards to inspect the cattle. (MF-S Photos)
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Consigners of cattle to the T Bone Feedlot receive a complete record of their
" animals' performance. Mrs. Frank Robertson is pictured using a calculator to
figure rate of gain and cost of gain for a pen of cattle.
Midwest corn cheaper than barley.
Midwest truckers have a two-way haul,
bringing corn to Montana and wheat
or lumber back to the Midwest. This
brings the transportation costs down
to where corn is cheaper than trucked
in barley, which is a one-way haul.
Any savings in the price of feed are
passed on to the customers.
Six Basic Rations
Each owner's cattle are in a separate
pen. Six basic rations are fed, each
specially formulated to provide bal
anced nutrition for animals of different
ages and grades. Feed for a specific
pen is custom mixed then weighed and
charged out to the owner. Feed bills,
which show the exact amount of feed
delivered to the pen, are due twice a
Every effort is made to assure the
health of the cattle. All animals are
vaccinated for red nose and lepto
spirosis. Calves are also vaccinated
for blackleg. Cattle that have under
gone the stress of shipment are put on
medicated water until they get back
Dr. Arthur Hayes, Billings veterinar
ian in charge of health and sanitation at
T-Bone, makes frequent inspections of
the yards and is on constant call in
case of emergency. Robertson spends
much of his time patrolling the alleys
on horseback checking the cattle.
Animals that die are autopsied. They
want to know why the loss occurred so
preventative measures can be taken.
The owner is sent a copy of the autopsy
report. The effectiveness of their health
program is shown in the death rate,
which is less than 1 per cent.
The management assumes no re
sponsibility for the marketing of the
cattle. An owner may confer with
Robertson on prices and get his opinion
on whether or not they are up to grade,
but the final decision is up to the owner.
When the cattle are taken from the
yards, the owner receives a complete
report on their performance. It shows
their in and out weights, total gain,
average gain, death loss if any, total
animal days in the feedlot, gain per
day, feed cost per day, cost per pound
of gain and total cost.
"If the owner doesn't make money,
he has all the facts and figures to show
him why," Robertson says.
It seems obvious that most of their
customers are showing a profit, since
increased use of the T-Bone's facilities
in the short time they've been in opera
tion has necessitated expansion of the
yards and improvements in the feed
Total cost per pound of gain on six
groups of yearlings averaged 21^4 cents.
The range was from ISVi cents to near
ly 25 cents per pound. Six pens of
calves fed up to yearling weights av
eraged 19*4 cents per pound of gain.
The range was from 16 cents to 22
cents per pound.
Some of this variation undoubtedly
reflects differences in rate of gain and
feed efficiency, but Robertson says
some owners aren't content to let their
cattle lie around the feedlot and just
eat and sleep. They have a talent for
finding excuses to work their cattle.
Animals that have been subjected to
unnecessary handling and disturbance
never make as much money for their
owners as cattle that have had a mini
mum of handling.
T-Bone will weigh cattle as often as
the owner wishes; however, for maxi
mum gains, they prefer not to weigh
them at short intervals so the animals
will be disturbed as little as possible.
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