Before I’ve had my morning coffee (er, morning Diet Coke) Nebraska cattle feeder Terry Beller has probably already mixed rations, fed cattle, priced corn, bought cattle and maybe even returned a phone call or jumped in a tractor cab.

Terry Beller, owner-manager of Beller Feedlots

I know a lot of people who DO a lot. I’ll even admit I’m a busy gal, but the thing that amazes me about cattle feeders is the sheer number of decisions they make on a daily basis (and many even before the sun comes up). Although they weigh everything, they must be decisive–and fairly quick–because as soon as they’ve made one, there’s another waiting for their opinion.

Choices include (but aren’t limited to) feedstuffs, health programs, who to buy cattle from and for how much. Equipment needs, the latest government regulations and financing plans also demand attention.  Most have employees they have to consider. Then feeders have the responsibility of being the final link before harvest, the final stewards of those genetics that have been bred into those animals.

And they’re astutely aware of that fact. “You take pride your business,” Terry told me once. “Number one, I feed these cattle like they’re my own, and I care for them like they’re my own.”

Feedstuffs...just one of the many feedlot decisions.

It’s about doing the right thing (hmm…sounds like those ranchers I know…) but it’s also about that almighty bottom line.

Nobody stays in business if they can’t turn a profit, so all of those decisions have to come back to returning some of that black ink we like to talk about. Producers like Terry know that it’s a balance of controlling costs AND increasing income that makes it happen. One way to the latter: focusing on quality. They keep that in mind as they consider all those daily decisions.

If a feeder wants to maximize quality and earn premiums for it, they’re probably thinking about:

  • Individual animal management
  • Being judicious with their use of implants and beta-agonists
  • Sorting to grid marketing groups

Of course, they can only maximize genetic potential, not create it, so all improvements must start at the ranch. And many feeders I’ve talked to are interested in helping there, too. They’ll share carcass and performance records back with ranchers, in hopes that they’ll use that to better those cattle over time.

A feeder has many day-to-day judgments to make, but whether or not to produce quality isn’t usually one of them. It’s not a split-second decision, but rather an overriding philosophy that guides all those other choices.

Lucky for you and I, folks like Terry enjoy a good steak as much as anybody:

“People are so proud to put that delicious meal on the table. It’s a big part of people’s lives to socialize while they’re being fed great food. It’s something they look forward to. It’s just an amazing business.”

 And we’re proud to have him in it with us! Come along tomorrow and we introduce you to some more feeders who share Terry’s mindset.

 May your bottom line be filled with black ink,


Beef’s a Trip Archives:

Day 1: Starting at day one

Day 2: Who are these people?

Day 3: Stockholders

Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose

Day 5: Deciding to care

Day 6: Quality focus doesn’t have to skip the middleman

Day 7: Stocking for quality

Day 8: SOLD!

Day 9: What have you done today?

Day 10: Working together to make ‘em better

Day 11: Keep on truckin’

Day 12: Packers want quality

Day 13: The target

Day 14: Packers up close & personal

Day 15: It’s not all about the beef

Day 16: Further processors

Day 17: From here to there–and a lot more

Day 18: He’s on your team

Day 19: Beyond prices, grocery stores uncovered

Day 20: Getting quality in the carts

To find a list of all of our friends blogging their way through the month, check out Holly Spangler’s “30 Days on a Prairie Farm” series.