“If it ain’t right, fix it” is a saying often heard at Darr Feedlot, this year’s BQA Feedyard Award winner.
Located in Cozad, Nebraska, the team at Darr Feedlot recognizes their responsibility to protect and promote the integrity of the beef industry and meets that challenge head-on by advocating for the adoption and implementation of the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. Darr Feedlot not only executes BQA practices in their operation but also encourages their customer cattle suppliers do the same.
Founded in 1982 as a 2,500-head custom feedlot by local beef producers, Darr Feedlot has grown extensively over the years, now operating two main yards with a current feeding capacity of 48,000 head. The feedlot also utilizes satellite yards for specialized programs, bull development and calf growing programs.
“What sets Darr apart is their willingness to meet consumer demands by participating in third-party auditing, value-added programs and testing new cutting-edge technologies that help them ensure they are providing the best animal welfare management,” said Jesse Fulton, Nebraska BQA state coordinator.
From the basics of training employees on the significance of health management to developing facility designs, BQA principles are at the core of daily operations.
“BQA starts with every employee, and we train each employee to have high standards,” said John Schroeder, Darr Feedlot’s manager. In addition, the feedlot is proactive in continuous education, partnering with industry professionals and leading stockmanship experts to host employee training on proper cattle handling techniques and facility design.
Growing consumer confidence in beef has been a long-standing initiative for the BQA program. Recognizing that consumers are further removed from the farm and ranch, Darr Feedlot has taken it upon itself to help close the gap by hosting tours and participating in open conversations with consumers, influencers and other guests. During these tours, Darr Feedlot always explains the care the cattle receive and addresses the hard-hitting questions, like antibiotic resistance and judicious use of antimicrobials.
“BQA is earning the trust of the consumer, and finally, after 40 years, we are going to get paid more for doing the right thing,” said Craig Uden, a partner at Darr Feedlot. “More and more people want to know how their steaks and burgers are being produced.”
Another notable quality of Darr Feedlot is its commitment to research and technology. For example, the yard partners with animal health companies to conduct mixer studies utilizing a food-grade dye that shows the consistency of feed mix after one-minute, two-minute and three-minute intervals. Also, Darr Feedlot tracks each individual animal with an electronic identification (EID) tag. Having the ability to tie all data collected on an animal to customer operations helps them better understand final carcass performance results.
“From ownership to management to boots on the ground, there is never any doubt that the expectations for doing things the right way are unwavering at Darr Feedlot,” said Jared Walahoski, DVM.