All-Around Livestock Sales and Services was established three years ago by Charles Munro of Standard, Alta. to provide pen-checking services to feedlot clients on a contract basis.
Munro admits that it took some door knocking to sell this new concept. Greg Appleyard of Cattleland Feedyards, north of Strathmore, Alta., took him up on his offer, giving him responsibility for 5,000 newly weaned calves the first year. The number was doubled the second year and Munro hired one rider to assist on the job. With the Cattleland contract extended to 20,000 head last season, he now employs three riders.
The arrangement has worked out so well that Munro is preparing to expand the pen-checking service to other feedlot clients and offer specialized services to ranchers, including pasture riding, custom calving, branding and artificial insemination.
Munro’s past experience and knowledge of cattle and horses has enabled him to pursue his dream of operating his own business. He estimates that he AI’d 30,000 cows during his five years as an AI technician with Eastern Breeders 25 years ago. During that time, he also operated a dairy barn in the Ottawa area. In the mid 1980s he moved west to work at Horner Ranches and eventually ended up riding pens at 3L Ranches. You may also recognize Munro’s name in connection with the quality working horses he trains and sells.
The idea for a business that specializes in animal health services grew from Munro’s experience working on cowboy crews at feedlots.
“Cowboys are just another personality type. We love working with cattle and horses and that’s what we do best,” Munro says.
Being part of a specialized team builds morale among pen riders and they don’t have to worry about being shuffled to cover off other jobs during slow times as often happens when they are employed by feedlots, he explains.
The concept definitely appeals to cowboys. Already he has lined up a number of qualified riders who are willing and ready to work as his business expands. He offers continuous training on the job, riding with his employees and occasionally bringing in other professionals who offer new ideas and insights into practices at other feedlots.
“I value my employees and I do expect a lot from them, so I work with them to try to accommodate their needs if they have other projects on the side,” he adds. Another plus for his riders is workmen’s compensation and an employee benefits package, which isn’t always part of the terms of employment with feedlots.
Pay per head
The contract with the feedlot is worked out on a cost-per-head formula. All-Around Livestock provides complete health care services according to the feedlot’s protocol. The feedlot covers the cost of the consulting veterinarian, drugs and supplies.
Munro’s team is responsible for checking pens, pulling and treating animals as required, and logging each treatment into the feedlot’s computerized health management records. Privacy of information is a priority.
“We can actually save the feedlot money because we specialize in health services and have experienced and knowledgeable people. With the price of cattle and the price of
drugs, you don’t want to be treating cattle that don’t need treatment. We want to let the animal use its own immune system, but if it’s in trouble we have to know when to step in and help it,” he explains.
Munro guarantees his company’s work through a death loss clause and will pay a penalty if death losses exceed the agreed-upon target. This ensures that he and his riders have a vested interest in the cattle. In turn, the feedlot can sell a death-loss clause to its clients.
The feedlot employs the cattle boss and has its own crew for processing cattle on intake. Munro’s team takes over from there to get the cattle settled in. They’re also in charge of moving stock where and when the cattle boss arranges for routine sorts, implanting, weighing and shipping. Not having to manage the cowboy crew frees up the cattle boss’s time to take care of other jobs.
Contracting with All-Around Livestock also relieves the feedlot owner of the responsibility of providing horses for the crew. The cost of supplying capable horses that can safely and efficiently handle cattle, as well as the feed for the horses is figured into Munro’s contract price. Each employee is allowed to keep two horses at the facility. Cattleland provides pens and the barn, which doubles as the pen checkers’ headquarters.
Munro looks after the payroll for his employees year round. This has two advantages for the feedlot owner. He deals with only one invoice a month from All-Around Livestock rather than numerous employees. By contracting animal health services on a per-head basis, the cost to the feedlot drops as the number of cattle on feed drops and Munro shoulders the responsibility of paying his employees through the seasonal slowdowns.
It’s the little details that make the difference for the feedlot. This understanding is reflected in his top pen-checking tip: “Consistency. Not just at the beginning of the year when the calves are fresh and everyone is keen, but consistency through the year.”