Strength in Numbers

Feedlot Health partners include (left to right) Stuart Hall, Luis Burciaga, Kee Jim, Calvin Booker, Matt May, Eric Behlke, Tye Perett, Kent Fenton (Missing is Dr. Brian Wildman and Dr. Breck Hunsaker)

( Feedlot Health )

At Feedlot Health Management Services (Feedlot Health), numbers matter. Not just the numbers of cattle under their care (a lot), or the number of highly qualified veterinarians, nutritionists, animal scientists, other professionals and support personnel serving clients, but also the vast trove of individual-animal and group data they collect, analyze and apply every day.

The practice, located in Okotoks, just south of Calgary, employs 38 DVM, and(or) PhD consultants, along with about 65 paraprofessionals, researchers and support staff, some in the home office and others located in service areas across North America.

While an individual Feedlot Health consultant might serve as the primary contact for a specific feedlot, none of their clients work with only an individual consultant, and this embodiment of a true team approach is one of the many features that sets this group apart from others that offer some of the similar services. In this team approach, each and every day, all of the consultants draw upon the collective experience of the entire group to address challenges or solve problems for their feedlot and calf grower clients.

Feedlot Health traces its roots back to 1983, when Canadian veterinarian Kee Jim set up a practice in southern Alberta, just as cattle feeding began expanding into the area. Most area feedyards placed freshly weaned calves in the fall, and Dr. Jim saw an opportunity to help them manage against respiratory disease, a key constraint on profitability at the time.

As the Western Canada feeding industry grew, Jim added veterinarians to his practice and developed a value-added service model for feedlot health consulting. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Feedlot Health expanded into the United States, later followed by services for feedlot and calf grower clients in Mexico, Brazil, and Kazakhstan. Feedlot Health now manages worldwide animal health and production programs for about 4 million head annually.

Managing Partner Calvin Booker, DVM, says that as the practice expanded, Feedlot Health added PhD-level animal scientists to the consulting group, while also prioritizing data-driven services and strategies. With its integrated service team, Booker says, clients have access to the collective expertise of the full slate of veterinarians, nutritionists and paraprofessionals. So, instead of working with independent veterinarians and nutritionists who might have competing interests, clients interact with a team dedicated to client profitability.

Feedlot Health also developed a novel payment structure, in which clients pay for services based on the number of cattle in their operation, rather than consultant billable hours. Once contracted, the client has access to the full range of support and services as needed. Those services include analysis and application of individual-animal data Feedlot Health collects from all its client operations using proprietary software. The system uses decision-making models built on years of data on millions of cattle, incorporating market factors, weather conditions, cattle types and disease trends. It also provides cohort benchmarking, comparing year-to-year within a feedlot and real-time comparisons with all client cattle in the database.

Clients customize their level of service by selecting from a range of “service modules.” These include:

  • Animal Health Management: This includes data-driven protocols for disease prevention, treatment and control, which are customized based on disease risk and bio-economic modeling of protocol strategies, to enhance animal welfare and optimize health outcomes.
  • Feeds and Feeding: Feedlot Health nutritionists monitor testing of all incoming feed ingredients and formulate rations based on biological responses and economic parameters.
  • Performance Enhancement: The team customizes use of implants, beta agonists, ionophores and other performance technologies based on economic models incorporating cattle types, nutrition and marketing targets. They also provide crew training and ongoing evaluation of practices and protocols.
  • Individual Animal Management: Feedlot Health uses a unique and proprietary sorting algorithm designed to optimize management, implant and beta-agonist response, marketing and pen utilization.
  • Procurement and Marketing Strategies: The team uses historical health, production, and carcass characteristic data along with comprehensive economic modeling, strategic implementation of performance enhancement technologies and research studies to provide clients with more accurate information to make cattle buying and selling decisions.
  • Animal and Facility Certification: The Feedlot Health team helps ensure industry compliance with value-added market programs, along with audit preparation and verification processes.

The research division of Feedlot Health also manages small and large-scale clinical trials on behalf of cattle feeders and animal-health and nutrition companies.

When cattle deaths occur on client feedlots, necropsies are a vital tool for gaining insights and building useful data. Feedlot Health veterinarians train crews on standardized necropsy procedures, including digital pictures, and all dead cattle undergo a post-mortem exam. Depending on the location, either a Feedlot Health veterinarian or paraprofessional, or the feedlot staff, conducts the necropsy, with digital images reviewed by Feedlot Health veterinarians and diagnoses entered into the database.

As with any other performance or health information, the necropsy photos and files become available to the entire Feedlot Health team, drawing upon their diverse training and experiences as needed to diagnose and solve problems. One more way the practice capitalizes on its strength in numbers.

For more information, visit the Feedlot Health website at www.feedlothealth.com

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