Like a restaurant, every feedlot needs chefs and waiters, so to speak. Known as the feeding and milling team, they play an essential role in delivering the right ratios, determining ‘bunk calls’ and managing stocktakes. So what does it mean to be in the feeding and milling team on a feedlot?
The role of the feeding and milling team is to prepare and allocate high quality, scientifically created feed rations to cattle within a feedlot. Think of the role as a ‘chef’ or ‘nutritionist’, but for livestock.
Each feedlot also has ‘waiters’ in a sense; a team that handles the delivery of feedstuff and controls storage systems. These staff are typically skilled in driving the trucks, using milling equipment, preparing the grain for cattle and ensuring well mixed rations are fed to the right animals, at the right time.
Just like the job in a restaurant, getting the order is everything. If the ‘waiter’ makes a mistake by serving the wrong table, or gets an order wrong, or even takes too long to serve, they will have very upset customers!
This restaurant is open 24/7. It’s an around-the-clock operation. Feed bunk (i.e. trough) management is the process of determining feed allocation for pens of feedlot cattle for a 24-hour feeding cycle. It’s the responsibility of the feeding and milling team to be consistently maximising feed intake, whilst minimising feed wastage and digestive disorders (such as bloat and acidosis). A process called ‘bunk calling’ is a critical input for this process, as it is used to decide feed allocation for each pen of cattle, and the human callers’ actions directly determine feed intake and carcass weight gain of pens of cattle being fed a grain fed diet.
Working in this area, staff are typically highly organised, efficient and precise. The manager of the team, we’ll call them the ‘head chef’, directs the staff and ensures the quality and regularity of the feed rations produced. They also organise the upkeep of equipment and machinery, and oversee stocktakes and deliveries of the feed.
Knowledge and interest in animal nutrition is a pretty common attribute across everyone who works in the milling and feeding team. While many of these jobs can be taught in the field, Feedlot TECH offers a variety of online training courses in this area of expertise to learn the fundamentals and gain a valuable head start. Currently, access to select Feedlot TECH online training courses is free for all NFAS Accredited feedlots. Feedlots owners/managers, as well as staff, are encouraged to register and enrol in the short courses at feedlottech.com.au.
As the demand for red meat grows globally, more and more livestock are cared for in feedlots. In fact, 2022 saw record numbers of cattle fed in Australian feedlots.. According to the ALFA & MLA National Quarterly Feedlot Survey results, the national number on feed has trended over one million head since 2018, leading to grain fed beef production supplying over 50% of the domestic market.
As a result, many feedlots are expanding, so there is currently a spike in the number of jobs being advertised with pressure on for feedlots to find more feed and milling team members. Keen to join a team? Check the Jobs Board for current opportunities, or take a short course on Feedlot TECH.