Ward Feed Yard

Founded in 1962, Ward Feed Yard is located outside of Larned, Kansas. Come with us on a tour of this facility and meet Chris Burris, manager of this highly successful custom feeding operation.(Dan) Hey there folks, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson, thanks for joining me this morning on That’s My Farm. And today we’re going to be outside of Larned, Kansas. And we’re going to be at Ward Feed Yard. Ward Feed Yard has a deep history in cattle feeding in the state of Kansas. We’ll meet with manager Chris Burris. He’ll talk to us about Ward Feed Yard and some of the management practices they’ve implemented to improve cattle performance, cattle health, and other things related to feed yard and cattle. Thanks for
joining me and I hope you enjoy the show.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Dan) Hi there and welcome to That’s My Farm, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University and I am here today with Chris Burris, who is the general manager here at Ward Feed Yard just outside of Larned, Kansas. And Chris, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule. (Chris) You bet, you bet. That’s no problem. We welcome having you. (Dan) Running not just
one feed yard but you all have two feeding systems here at the location.
Big job. (Chris) Yeah. We have two facilities outside of Larned, Ward North and Ward South. We’re not real creative for names, but it helps the direction of where cattle go. (Dan) So, talk to me a little bit about the background of and some of the history of Ward Feed Yard for our viewers who aren’t familiar, maybe with it. (Chris) Ward Feed Yard was founded in 1962 by Wayne Ward and his family. It started off as a small operation and progressively got to about 28,000 head. Lee Borck bought into the feed yard in, I believe, the late ’70s, and have grown it to where it was today. In
2009, well actually before that, Innovative Livestock Services is our
parent company and a partnership began with the Murphy family over in Great Bend. Grew the Innovative Livestock into four yards in Nebraska, and four yards over here in Kansas as well. In 2009 we purchased the yard south of us to become a 50,000 head facility, Ward Feed Yard North and then Ward Feed Yard South, all operating out of our North Yard. (Dan) So, we talked about company cattle and customer cattle and what custom cattle feeding
is… somebody else may own the cattle and you all will tend to them and feed them and market them and take care of those types of things, to help people with investments and things of that nature. You all still do quite a bit of that, I take? (Chris) We do. Seventy percent of our cattle in the feed yard are owned by our customers, 30 percent would be our company owned cattle to help keep the yards full and keep our efficiencies up and our costs low. But one of the things, why I do what I do, is I want our customers to be successful, which in turn makes our employees and our stock
holders successful as well. We try to do that through our risk management of commodity management futures, control the risk, but also we provide grazing opportunities to get some cheap backgrounding, cheap cost of gains on the cattle. And then just bring the cattle in the feed yard and try to get them to market weight as efficiently as we can. Of course, then we also have the relationships with packers that we help with marketing the cattle
and getting as good a market premiums of those cattle as we can. (Dan) I think it’s important that people… you know it’s one thing to have, you have the customer care and customer service to work with your customers, but you also have the relationships forward to help those customers market those fat cattle in a way and in a grouping that really is efficient. We are going to have to take a break. But after the break let’s come back and let’s discuss this a little bit more. It’s great to be down here and be in Larned. (Chris) We’ll do. (Dan) And thank you for watching That’s My Farm.
More in a minute.

(Dan) Hi folks, welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here with Chris Burris and we’re at Ward Feed Yard and we’re outside of Larned, Kansas, in the central part of the state. Chris, we talked about your custom feeding operation and what it entails. But who are some of your customer base and where are they located? (Chris) I’ve got a variety of customers here that feed with us. There’s a small percentage that are just investors. They’re hands off, just looking for opportunities in the market, where we can buy something with margin on the cattle and try to help them
be successful by just return on their investment. Another style of customer we have is a retained owner, so that’s the other side. (Dan) Yep. (Chris) That’s the guy from the cow/calf that sends his cattle in. He’s got a lot invested in his time and in genetics in the cattle and send them to us. And then we take those cattle from calf, clear up to a market animal that’s going to hang on the hook really well. The majority of our customers are going to be a customer that maybe buy a calf, background them at home either on wheat, rye, or a grazing situation. Or a farmer feeder that they put in their own resources at home and put the cattle behind a bunk and then when they are ready and they are finished with them and done all they
can, they send them to us to finish them up as efficiently as we can. (Dan) So, a lot of different opportunities, about as many as you can imagine.
(Chris) We do. And when you are covering that many customers, people ask where do your cattle come from? And being here in the central part of the United States we have the opportunity to grab cattle from Virginia, to California, Idaho to Florida. (Dan) It’s amazing. And I don’t think people understand if you look over the last 15 years, the percentage of customer cattle in most yards has decreased. The number of people that are…and for you to maintain 70 percent of your head count in a yard, you’re doing something right. And have really good relationships with people that you’re
working with. (Chris) That’s something we’re kind of proud of. I understand that not everybody… and I feel very fortunate, that 70 percent of our cattle here are customer cattle. And it’s all about relationships.
Establishing a trusting relationship with a producer, and he knows and understands our belief system, our values that we’re going to provide and try to get as much success for him as we can, (Dan) And there’s the relationship but you still have to perform. (Chris) That’s right. Be accountable. (Dan) Right. And taking care of the bottom line of the customer is vital to getting them to return as well. Not always is that in our hands though. (Chris) No, there’s a lot of outside variables that affect us and the best thing we can do is try to understand the risk that can happen. And then do our best to hold those risks as low as we can. If we are talking about markets and the prices then you know we have people on staff, I’m a broker myself and we’ll look at risk management strategies for those folks, so where they can maintain and capture that margin. (Dan)
We’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to get into some of the more day-to-day operations and some of the things that are going on here at Ward Feed Yard. Appreciate you taking time out of your schedule. Thank you for watching That’s My Farm We’ll be back after the break.

(Dan) Folks welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here with Chris Burris and we’re at Ward Feed Yard and we have been discussing the history and talking about customer cattle feeding, but the one thing with cattle feeding the combination of total management of feed delivery to the pen, and animal health and BRD and all those different things roll right in to that risk or roll right into that management of the risk, whether we think of it directly or indirectly. (Chris) There’s so much that can happen
that will prevent an animal from being healthy, so we believe it’s our job to try to make an environment that is as comfortable for that calf as we can. He comes in from a long ways on a truck, he’s tired, he’s away from his environment that he is used to, and so we do everything we can to make sure that they can find fresh, clean water right away, they have plenty of space, they’ve got a comfortable place to lie, it’s dry and they can find the bunk and there’s fresh feed in there, right away. And you know, it’s
kind of a management over medicine type of thing. Folks want to ask what medicine are you using? What’s key? And we just think making those cattle as comfortable as we can, and put value behind every one, every pen is… gives a start to a good successful program. (Dan) And we’ve always said management doesn’t come in a bottle. And with what we have coming on the horizon with the judicious use of anti-microbial and people wanting… the City of Seattle voted that they don’t want antibiotics used, at least to a minimum. You know with the pressure that we have, things that we can do
management wise to keep those cattle healthy and prevent using antibiotics, at some point we have to use them and we do a great job with them in our industry. But managing for them is important. (Chris) It is. We just have to do things right and we can also…we want to be as efficient as we can. We want to get as much energy in that animal after he gets acclimated to his environment. We want to get as much energy into that animal as we can, but if you push him a little too hard, sometimes you can have a digestive upset and bring on some BRD type issues, or spill over into a secondary type
infection that make that calf sick. But with that being said, there is a
fine balance between getting as much efficiency… get as much average daily gain low conversion on that animal as we can, without upsetting the apple cart. We kind of pride ourselves in that we feed… once cattle get to a finish ration, we feed them 94 percent concentration. I tell our crew that not everybody can pull off a 94 percent concentrate, but we do it by consistency. The crew watches the moistures on their ingredients, they make sure the rations are loaded to the exact formulation and we hold them accountable to that. There’s certain jobs in the yard that might get boring if you will, but if they watch those details they can make it a game and
make it fun out of it. (Dan) Yep. (Chris) We believe that making all those variables as consistent as we can allows us to feed a higher concentrate ration which keeps our feed conversion low and our average daily gain high.
(Dan) Yep. And consistency and feed delivery, feed ingredients, mixing is the key to the game. (Chris) Variables kill you, they really do. (Dan) Yeah, no different than us. (Chris) Right. (Dan) Well we’re going to take another break. Folks, we’re with Chris Burris. We’re at Ward Feed Yard, we’re outside of Larned, Kansas. We appreciate you joining us today on That’s My Farm and we’ll be back after the break.

(Dan) Folks welcome back to That’s My Farm I’m Dr. Dan Thomson here with Chris Burris. We’re at Ward Feed Yard, south of Larned, Kansas, in the central part of Kansas and we’re talking about custom feeding. We talked about some of the things we do with feeding management. You know, it is people. Gary Gentry used to say the three most inconsistent things in the world are cattle, weather and people. And that’s what we deal with on a day to day basis. So on the people side of things and people management, how
many folks do you all have employed at a facility like this? (Chris) We employ about 50 people between the two yards. (Dan) So that’s a pretty big staff. (Chris) It is a pretty big staff. But we do have great
people and that’s why we believe that it is as much as our success as
anything, is our people. (Dan) You bet. (Dan) So as a manager you have the task of the overall accountability and fiscal responsibility of the operation, but there also has a lot to do with human resource management and motivating of people on the farms and I hear it everyday, keeping people hired, keeping them motivated. What are some of the things that you think are keys? (Chris) You’re right; it’s a tough, tough job. I mean, we’ve got animal health crews that are out there riding in 50 mile an hour winds, cold temperatures, wet, rainy and yet they still come to work everyday.
Part of the reason cause they love it, but a lot of the reason, they
understand why they’re doing it. I try to share as much as I can with our folks of who our customers are, who they are working for. When people feel a responsibility towards another individual, they work harder at it I believe. And they believe in what they do. We share a lot of information with them, their closeouts, the successes of the yard, you share that with them. That gives them a sense of pride; that gives them a sense of purpose and once they do that and I develop trust between me and my crew, that’s the best way I know how to motivate them. Those folks. (Dan) Absolutely and
then you start to think about there’s the customer that is feeding the cattle with you, then there is the consumer that’s eating our finished product. (Chris) Yeah. And I always found that relating back to a person making an investment within our industry and the person that is making the investment to put what we do in our industry on their kitchen table is really powerful when you are talking to people that are working with you in these types of situations. (Chris) It’s all about relationships. When people understand the person that’s producing their food, not just about
where it’s coming from, but the person that’s producing their food, there is a trust that begins to be built. (Dan) And you all go quite a ways for different types of things to build that trust with the consumer and with the packer. You all have been innovators and leaders in those areas for the entire beef industry. (Chris) We try to maintain relationships through marketing agreements, even clear to the retailer to help tell our story, what we do, how we do it, just try to build confidence in our products.
(Dan) Well, with the beef industry in the place it is…beef’s not cheap. (Chris) No, it’s not. (Dan) And as we discussed, moving those types of relationships as beef prices increase, having those relationships with the consumer, providing that wholesome, nutritious product is at a premium every day. (Chris) It is, it is. It’s going to purchase more beef at higher price every day. (Dan) Well, I appreciate you being on the show. You spent a good chunk of your day. We’ve stretched you out a little bit. We’d definitely like to come back sometime and have you on here when we get
another topic. (Chris) You are welcome back anytime. (Dan) Thanks. Folks, thanks for watching That’s My Farm and if you want to know more about what we do on That’s My Farm or see archived episodes you can find us on the web at www.agaminkansas.com. You’ve been watching That’s My Farm, I’m sure glad you joined us. I am Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University and I’ll see you down the road.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission.
The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.