DUBUQUE, Iowa — Five Rivers Cattle Feeding is a farm of many families.
The company has 11 feedyards in six states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Idaho and Arizona.
“We are the largest cattle feeding company in the world, and we hold about 1 million head of cattle at one time,” said Tony Bryant, director of nutrition and research for Five Rivers Cattle Feeding.
“We make about 25 million pounds of feed every day, and we have to be consistent in how we feed cattle,” Bryant said during a presentation at the Reds Rolling on the River National Red Angus Convention. “We buy and sell about 30,000 head of cattle per week.”
The history of the company dates back to the 1940s and 1950s.
“The Monfort family was a pioneer family in the packing industry and cattle feeding,” Bryant said. “They built the first really big feedyard north of Greeley, Colorado.”
In 2005, Five Rivers Cattle Feeding was formed.
“In 2018, we were acquired by Pinnacle Arcadia Cattle Partners, which is a mutual fund for teachers’ pension funds,” Bryant said. “This has been a good change for us because we are back to the feel of a small company.”
“Five Rivers is unique because we buy and sell all our cattle at the feedyards and we’re responsible for buying all the commodities,” he said. “It’s pretty intense and a lot of pressure.”
The company started its Aspen Ridge Natural Program through the Kuner Feedlot in 2011.
“It is a never-ever program, so the cattle do not receive hormones, antibiotics or animal byproducts back to birth,” Bryant said. “The program is third-party verified.”
Five Rivers also has a non-hormone treated cattle program, and these cattle are source and age verified.
“We are looking for double certified cattle for natural and NHTC,” Bryant said. “It’s more legwork for the producers, but it results in more utilization of the carcass.”
More of the company’s customers are demanding traceability of the cattle.
“With double certification, part of the carcass can stay domestically and parts like the tongues which people in the U.S. don’t typically want to eat can go to China,” Bryant said.
“Then the packers can pay more for the feeders and the feeders can pay more for the cattle,” he said. “It’s a good thing for the whole industry to use as much of the carcass as we can and add value to the whole carcass.”
Some cattlemen fear the process to achieve non-hormone treated cattle verification.
“The first time you do it, it’s a little intense, but once you get approved, it’s pretty easy,” Bryant said. “It’s more recordkeeping, and I think we’ve only had one producer out of thousands that wasn’t approved.”
Selling non-hormone treated cattle provides value for cattlemen.
“You can differentiate your cattle and get more revenue for them,” Bryant said.
Facts Are Facts
Today’s consumers are more educated.
“That doesn’t mean they know the truth, but they read a lot more,” Bryant said. “And people are definitely more opinionated.”
About 200 tour groups visit the Kuner Feedlot each year.
“We get people with different backgrounds, and it’s amazing how in depth consumers have gotten to ask the right questions,” Bryant said. “I have people say to me that the feedyard is better than they thought it was and the cattle have a good home.”
Providing tours of the feedyards is important for the company, Bryant said.
“Our job is to dispel myths they’ve been told or read on social media,” he said.
Traceability is vital for the cattle industry, Bryant said.
“We’re the only major country without traceability,” he said. “Consumers want to know where cattle come from, how they were treated and if they had a good home.”
Placing healthy cattle into the feedyards is a priority for Five Rivers.
“I can’t state that enough — vaccinating cattle properly is important, and we’re big proponents of two rounds of vaccine,” Bryant said.
“Weaning is a big deal, and we have more success the longer the cattle are weaned,” he said. “I bought a lot of cattle two years ago that were 45 days weaned, and now I’ve pushed that to 60 days. The difference those 15 days made was a huge deal for health.”
Bryant places both weaned and unweaned cattle into the Five Rivers feedyards.
“But I only have so much room for unweaned cattle,” he said. “So, I pick and choose which ones I take, and I’ve turned a ton of those down the last few weeks.”
For more information about the Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, go to: www.fiveriverscattle.com.