The Australian feedlot sector is open, transparent and proud of its systems and practices. We invite you to explore Feedlot TECH to learn more about feedlot careers, training and the sector. Find answers to the most asked questions on this page. If you cannot find an answer to your question, contact us.
The definition of a beef cattle feedlot is, as outlined in the National Beef Cattle Feedlot Environmental Code of Practice, a confined yard area with watering and feeding facilities where cattle are completely hand- or mechanically-fed for the purpose of beef production. Cattle choose how much food (called a ration) and when they want to eat from the feed bunk.
The result being a place where cattle are provided a balanced and nutritious diet for the purpose of producing beef of a consistent quality and quantity.
Feeding grain helps to provide nutrition when grass is unavailable, and also helps to meet the market specifications for product quality and consistency.
Grain is fed to cattle for a number of reasons, but primarily because adequate grass is not always available year-round in Australia. Grain is natural, highly digestible, meets many nutritional requirements of cattle, and is readily available as a by-product from human grain production. Grain is also easily transported and can be stored for reasonable lengths of time without major quality impacts.
Feedlot cattle diets are developed by animal nutritionists and comprise of grain (such as wheat, barley, sorghum), fibre (such as hay and silage), protein (such as sunflower and lupins), water, vitamins and minerals. Whilst cattle require short periods of time to become accustomed to a grain-based diet, this process is easily managed by qualified feedlot nutritionists and professional feedlot managers. It is easy to forget that grain is essentially the seed of grass, hence is a natural product that cattle have been eating for millennia.
Grass fed beef tends to vary in flavour, texture and tenderness due to Australia’s considerable differences in availability of grass, grass quality and type, soil type, topography and climatic conditions.
Grain fed beef generally has a smooth texture and delivers a more consistent eating quality as a result of the professionally formulated diet and environment of grain fed cattle. Grain fed beef is generally higher in intramuscular fat (marbling) than grass fed beef due to the high energy rations that grain fed cattle eat.
Beef provides a wide range of essential nutrients including: iron, zinc, omega-3s, protein, B vitamins, selenium and vitamin D. there is no nutritional difference between grass fed and grain fed beef.
All Australian grain fed beef cattle are raised on grass at the beginning of their life. In fact, they spend the majority of their life on grass, before transitioning to a feedlot to be finished on grain for an average period of between 50-120days. Depending on their breed and consumer tastes, some cattle can spend as little as 35 days or as long as 400 days or more at a feedlot.
Most beef on offer at a supermarket is grain fed (unless labelled otherwise) and comes from cattle that are around two and a half years old.
Feeding pens in feedlots can measure up to 6,00m2 each in size – that’s about the size of 14 basketball courts! (source) The feedlot Code of Practice requires a minimum of 9m2 per animal in open feedlots, however most feedlots provide around 13-15m2 for the extra comfort of their animals.
All feedlot cattle are housed in a pen as a ‘mob’ (group of cattle) and have plenty of space to display natural behaviours. They are able to have contact with and socialise with other cattle, and are often seen resting together, nuzzling each other or playing together by bouncing around, prancing and kicking their heels in the air!
Yes! Quality beef comes from happy, healthy, quality cattle. Quality is purely an outcome of care- raising happy, healthy cattle is the only way to produce top quality beef.
In the grain fed beef industry, it is imperative that all livestock are well cared for from the time they arrive at the feedlot to the time they leave. Every aspect of their welfare is planned and monitored by trained staff, including socialising, their health program and diet.
The National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) and the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle have very strict standards that determine the minimum care and conditions cattle in Australian feedlots must receive.
There are a wide range of jobs, roles and responsibilities within the lot feeding industry and within feedlots themselves. The main areas to work in a feedlot are livestock, feeding and milling, maintenance and environmental, and the office and administration. Click here to learn more about these feedlot department areas, roles and responsibilities.
The daily plan of operations at a feedlot will differ depending on the size, number of cattle, facilities and number of staff that the feedlot has. Routine is key in a feedlot and very important for cattle health and welfare. Depending on your department or role, a feedlot day will usually start early, with the responsibilities and activities being centred around what is necessary to keep the feedlot operating smoothly. Each feedlot department/area must complete their roles and responsibilities in order to keep the feedlot operating efficiently.
There are approximately 400 accredited feedlots in Australia supplying certified grain fed beef, predominantly located in regions that produce both cattle and grain. This is mainly because feedlots try to reduce the time and cost associated with transporting grain and cattle to and from facilities.
There are entry level or what is called ‘general hand’ positions in feedlots that aim to teach you the basic principles of lot feeding from the ground up. Some background or experience in agriculture or the feedlot department you are interested in (e.g. cattle or livestock experience, machinery, maintenance or large vehicle experience) is useful, but not essential.
The feedlot sector values a workforce that is skilled and places importance on providing best practice education and training for feedlot employees. The industry is considered young, innovative, modern, and progressive and is ready to employ individuals who are hardworking, enthusiastic, open minded, and willing to learn.
However, there are some specific positions that may be better suited to you if you have completed further education. Graduate or trainee positions aim to provide experience across a variety of feedlot tasks and positions, as well as giving individuals insight into feedlot management and operations responsibilities.
Typical feedlot work hours are usually around 8hrs a day with a ‘smoko’ and lunch break, but this may vary depending between feedlot businesses or operations.
Staff at a feedlot usually work in a roster system. Feedlot rosters can include working 5 days on and 2 days off (usually a Monday-Friday work week), 10 days on and 4 days off (referred to as a 10-4 roster in which you receive every second weekend/set of days off) or any combination in between.
Feedlots must ensure their staff receive adequate time off work under normal WHS and fair-work regulations. Feedlots want their staff to come back from a weekend/days off refreshed and ready to give the best care for the cattle.
Depending on the location, some feedlots do have accommodation available for staff or can suggest accommodation options. We recommend speaking directly to a feedlot about accommodation and housing when you are applying for position with them.
Yes, there are lots of opportunities for mechanics and people with machinery or fabrication skills and experience to work on a feedlot. As feedlots use a lot of machinery and large vehicles, and require general upgrades, improvement and innovation, people with these skills are vital to a feedlot operation.
Individual feedlots can require you to hold a valid car licence to drive these vehicles. Please speak to the feedlot regarding their requirements for feed truck drivers and machinery operators.
A feedlot graduate program is suited to individuals who have completed university or TAFE. They aim to provide these individuals with exposure, on-the-ground experience and the opportunity to learn about the different departments, roles, responsibilities and operations of feedlots. Go to the Graduates page to learn more about these opportunities.
Some feedlots will take placement or work experience students. Please see our Schools and Universities Page to investigate these opportunities.
Many people find very successful and fulfilling careers in the lot feeding industry and quickly progress through career stages and levels of responsibility. Check out the Careers page to explore what opportunities exist to progress your career.
There are many accredited and non-accredited training course options, as well professional development opportunities available to individuals already in the feedlot industry, or people who are looking to start their career in the industry. Training is face-to-face or online through The Hub or other training providers. See recommended training courses for the feedlot industry here.
No, you don’t have to work at a feedlot to complete specific feedlot training, however it is recommended that you have experience or knowledge of the industry or supply chain. Some industry training will have requirements to complete assessments or assignments in a feedlot environment.
The ALFA Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) Training aims to provide participants with the most up to date knowledge and skills for the management, assessment and auditing of animal welfare within a feedlot operation. Understanding and ensuring optimum animal welfare is the responsibility of everyone working at a feedlot, not only the people who work closely with cattle every day.
The Industry Mentoring Program is in development and will launch soon! Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about opportunities to be involved with feedlot mentoring.
The feedlot industry has a number of awards and scholarships available for all staff levels and business sizes. ALFA and MLA are very proud to reward those individuals and businesses who aspire to develop themselves and the industry practices for betterment of the sector. Check out the full list of Awards and Scholarships to see the requirements and how to apply.
The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) hosts, on behalf of the Australian cattle feedlot industry, two biennial National Conferences – BeefEx, held in even years and SmartBeef in odd years. These conferences are great networking opportunities and cover technical and practical information and research relevant to improving individual feedlot and business operations. Check out upcoming industry events.
Anyone can attend ALFA’s industry conferences including those involved in the lot feeding industry and those that are just interested in the sector, no matter your career level or position/role on a feedlot. The conferences aim to have something for everyone, especially people who are inquisitive and willing to learn, network and look for ways to move the industry forward into the future.