Feedlots are depicted as gross, dirty, small and dangerous. That is not the case at all.A feedlot is a type of animal feeding operation, or AFO. Feedlots actually allow for 125 to 250 square feet of space per animal. This may not sound like a lot, but cattle are gregarious animals. They enjoy the company of other animals. Even cattle in large pastures will group together.
How confining are feedlots?
Here are some numbers that a farmer who runs a concentrated animal feeding operation calculated.
New York City, NY spans 302.64 square miles and is home to 8,405,837 people which equals 27,775 people per square mile.
Manhattan, New York spans 22.96 square miles and is home to 1,626,159 people which equals 70,825 people per square mile.
The feedlot portion of her farm spans 0.156 square miles and is home to 2,772 bovines which equals 17,769 cattle per square mile.
Cattle are more confined in a feedlot than they would be in a pasture, but that does not automatically mean that they are unhappy and unhealthy.
Why/How are feedlots used?
Feedlots are used to help cattle put on weight quickly. At feedlots cattle are fed grain with varying levels of protein that are adjusted over time. The lowest level of protein and grain is fed when the cattle first come into the feed yard. This provides the cattle’s digestive system with time to adjust to their new diet. This is necessary, not because grain is bad for a cow’s diet, but because completely changing a diet in any animal, including humans, can be unhealthy.
This type of diet allows the cattle to grow quicker than if they had lived off grass for the rest of their life. This provides for the delicious marbling that we love in our steaks. How is this possible? Because “..we focus on providing a readily digestible, high-energy diet; reducing the amount of energy expended to find food, directing more toward growth, and managing the cattle to minimize stress and health problems,” explain Ryan Goodman, in his blog.
The cattle that come to feedlots come from green pastures. That means that all cattle are grass-fed at one time, they just are not finished on grass.
How are cattle treated?
Cattle are not abused at feedlots, they are actually cared for extremely well. In feedlots there are cowboys whose only job is riding around and checking each pen multiple times a day. This means that cattle in feedlots are constantly being looked at, so if any problem arises it is easily noticed and fixed. Some people might even argue that cattle are treated better in feedlots, because they have constant supervision and care.
I have personally seen many feed yards, mainly out west, that proved to me they’re similar to other farmers and ranchers; they care for their cattle every day, no matter the weather.
If you are interested in touring a cattle feedlot, feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with someone that can help. Or you can visit this website for a virtual tour! After seeing the truth about feedlots, first-hand or virtually, I hope you better understand why and how they are used. Just because there is a higher concentration of animals does not mean that abuse occurs.