The Biggest Feedlot Operators in Texas

Since the 19th century, Texas has been regarded as the number one state in the cattle industry in the U.S.A. Although some cattle feed yards existed in New England during colonial times, they first became widespread in Texas in the 1850s. By 1895, there were 84 yards in the state. Cattle were confined to these yards to increase potential carcass weight and improve the quality of the meat that was obtained after slaughter.

Key points
  • Cactus Feeders is the largest feedlot operator in Texas.
  • The Wrangler Feed Yard is a central part of Cactus Feeders operations.
  • Cattle come to Cactus Feeders from all states of the U.S.A
  • Visitors can see operations at Wrangler Feed Yard for themselves.

Ridgeback TM at Darwin cattle yards

Today, Texas is still a vital state in a feedlot industry that contributes around $12 billion to the economy in the country. The main area where cattle feeding is prevalent is the Texas Panhandle. Around 88% of the cattle on feed in the state are in ten counties which lie within around 120 miles of Amarillo. One of the largest cattle feedlot operators in the world, Cactus Feeders, has its headquarters in Amarillo.

The largest cattle feeder in Texas

Cactus Feeders was established in 1975. It is one of the biggest feedlot operators in Texas and also has feedlots in Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The company is owned by its 800+ employees.
Overall, the company produces more than one million fed cattle as well as more than 800,000 market hogs.  The cattle aspect of the company’s operations is centred on the Texas Panhandle area. Operations in other states are mostly dedicated to the pork production aspect of the company.

As technology has progressed, Cactus Feeders has embraced the opportunities it presents. This includes developing a website where it buys cattle directly from producers. This helps the company to reach further than it could by using traditional buying methods such as sale barns. Cattle producers can use the website 24/7 to offer their cattle for sale to Cactus Feeders.

Life at the Wrangler Feed Yard

The Wrangler Feed Yard is one of the 10 feedlots operated by Cactus Feeders. This part of one of the biggest feedlot operators in Texas is situated close to Tulia. It has a capacity of 50,000 head and provides work for 46 employees. These people work in various areas such as administration, the feed division, and research.

There are 465 pens in the yard, 175 of which are dedicated to research. Various breeds of cattle come to the yard from every state in the country. There are also some cattle on the lot that are imported from Mexico.

Cattle are brought to the lot in groups of 70 and are inspected on arrival. During this process, the operators of the lot make sure that the cattle meet expectations. Once this inspection is complete, the cattle are placed in the receiving pen. This is where they are fed a starter diet and where they are vaccinated, wormed, and tagged.

After a couple of days, the cattle are moved up the feedlot. They stay in this location until it’s time for slaughter.

One person is responsible for 8,000-10,000 head of cattle at the yard and inspects their pens daily. This helps to identify problems such as bovine respiratory disease (BRD) and lameness which can be dealt with at the on-site facility.

The people who work in the yard are all dedicated to providing the best possible environment. This includes operating the on-site mill, taking care of feed delivery, carrying out animal feeding operations, and checking the pens. All of this work involves taking care of cattle in order to produce high quality beef.

However, working at the lot is not just about knowledge of the animals. It also helps to have good people skills.

This is especially the case given that the Wrangler Feed Yard hosts around 100 tours each year. These tours are important in giving people an insight into beef production in the country.

They do this by providing a first-hand view of what is involved with operations at one of the biggest feedlot operators in Texas.

Visitors see how important beef feedlots are to the beef market in the country and how the Wrangler Feed Yard works to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards while also continuing to be successful and profitable. 

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