Feedlots: U.S. Praise for SA system cuts no beef with animal scientist

2011-04-14 00:00

AMERICAN cattle feedlot consultant Dr Dave Hutcheson has hailed the South African feedlot industry for maintaining a very high standard of quality control in their feed.

The feedlot system is an animal feeding operation used to “finish” livestock for sale by fattening them more quickly by intensive feeding on grain. The system has operated since the 1960s and accounts for about 80% of the beef produced in the country.

Speaking at a cattleman’s conference of the South African Feedlot Association in Pretoria recently, Hutcheson said it is clear that the South African feedlot industry is improving.

Business Day recently reported that the South African livestock farmers are investing heavily in feedlots to keep up with the increasing demand for beef.

Hutcheson said that when he first visited South Africa in 1989 the local feedlot industry fed 600 000 to 700 000 head of cattle and was on the brink of huge expansion; today it feeds between 1,5 million and 1,6 million.

“It is imperative to improve feedlot economies by reducing health costs and death losses through the improvement of feed efficiency. Feed costs account for the largest portion of producing a kilogram of beef and feed management is a major prerequisite to maximise efficiencies.

“Management is responsible for overseeing a quality control system for the feedlot. This involves personnel being properly trained to ensure a high level of organisation, documentation and the policing of various procedures and processes necessary to produce the highest quality of feed fed to the cattle.

“Producing beef in cattle feedlots reduces greenhouse gases per kilogram of beef, reduces land use per kilogram of beef, and consequently leaves a smaller carbon footprint due to a smaller release of greenhouse gases,” said Hutcheson.

However, the system has its critics. Dr Andre Mentz, an animal scientist, cattle farmer and author, has described the feedlots as a major embarrassment.

In a commentary in the animal magazine Animal Voice, he said the feedlot industry should be unacceptable anywhere in the world. — WR.

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