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Angus Beef Cattle in Pasture

Alabama Pasture to Rail is a retained ownership program, which enables beef producers to gain valuable postweaning performance data, herd health information, and carcass measurements on representative cattle from their breeding program. Participants can use this knowledge to benchmark their herd for these postweaning traits and to make genetic selections for improvement.

Why Participate?

Southeastern cattle comprise roughly 25 percent of calves fed in United States feedlots. However, most southeastern cow-calf producers sell their calves at weaning and receive little feedback on the performance of their calves postweaning. A need to better understand the varied segments of the beef supply chain is greater today than ever. Consumer interest in regional and local beef supplies have exponentially increased. Knowledge is power. Southeastern cow-calf beef producers with postweaning performance data are positioned to make the genetic selections to yield prosperous calves for the feed-yard and/or freezer beef retail operations.


Alabama Pasture to Rail is an educational program conducted by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with cooperation from the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (AL BCIA) for the benefit of beef cattle producers. The program directive is to provide learning opportunities about postweaning traits for producers, without the need for individual investment to finish an entire pen or load of calves. Specifically, the program offers the following:

Individual animal data for postweaning gain, health performance, and carcass merit to assist producers with production and management decisions for herd genetics, health, and nutrition.

Producer training of best management practices, which complement custom feeding programs. The program also demonstrates health protocols for feeder calves to add value and booster food safety and quality assurance confidence for beef consumers.

Rules & Regulations

  • A consignor may enter no less than 3 steers and/or heifers, provided that each calf weighs a minimum of 700 pounds on the day of delivery. Calves weighing under this weight will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Consignments are due three weeks prior to shipment of cattle. A consignment fee of $30 per head is required at nomination for ear tags, health certificates, and for administration expenses. The consignment fee is refundable until 10 days prior to shipment.
  • Calves must be weaned and backgrounded for a minimum of 60 days prior to shipment. Calves must be properly vaccinated, castrated (bull calves only), and/or dehorned (horned calves only) and healed from these procedures prior to shipment.
  • Calves will be processed and shipped from central locations around Alabama. Specific locations will be determined based on the paid nominations received. All calves will be weighed, tagged, and graded at the shipping location.
  • Calves are shipped to Hy-Plains Feedyard, LLC in Montezuma, Kansas as soon as feasible after processing. This transport is a 15 to 25 hour ride (as determined by the location of the centralized Alabama shipping site).
  • A minimum of 47,500 pounds of feeder calves is required to ship a load of Pasture to Rail consignments. Transportation costs are prorated per animal based on the weight of an individual calf as a percentage of the entire load. If for any reason a load is shipped with less than the required 47,500 pounds, any loaded calves weighing less than 700 pounds will be charged at the same transportation rate of a calf weighing 700 pounds for that load.
  • Calves shall be fed to an end-market weight and listed for sale to packers as determined by the management team of the Hy-Plains Feedyard, LLC.
  • Multiple harvest dates may be utilized in efforts to harvest calves at their optimal size and weight. Multiple harvest dates will delay the final settlement and payment for the earliest harvested calves.
  • All cattle consigned to the Alabama Pasture to Rail Program shall remain the property of the consignor. Thus, consignors do assume full responsibility for loss by death or injury. Peril insurance coverage for all cattle shall be provided at the feedlot. However, many issues resulting from nutritional and health factors (bloat, respiratory, etc.) are generally not covered by peril insurance. Accidental death and injury items (lightning strikes, smothering by snowstorm, tornadoes, and electrocution) are covered by peril insurance. Additional livestock insurance coverage (bloat, broken limbs, water belly, enterotoxemia, respiratory, etc.) is available and shall be the sole responsibility of the consignor to purchase prior to shipment.
  • Price protection, in the form of hedging or forward contracting, will not be used to protect cattle prices for Alabama Pasture to Rail loads at this time.
  • All consignors must submit a signed Hold Harmless Statement form along with required consignment forms.

About Hy-Plains Feedyard

Hy-Plains Feedyard, LLC is located in Montezuma, Kansas, approximately 30 miles west of Dodge City. It has a 50,000-head capacity. Hy-Plains sells cattle on a carcass grid, when possible. If not available, cattle sell for cash and carcass data is purchased. Cattle can be sold to one of three plants:

  • Cargill
  • Tyson
  • National Beef

Health Management Prior to Shipping

Health is a key component of successful retained ownership. Sick calves do not accurately perform at their genetic potential and skew performance and carcass data. Calves treated just once for disease will reduce potential profitability. Producers are strongly urged to work with their local veterinarian to build a strong herd health plan. Further, consignors should carefully adhere to all required health guidelines.

Required Health & Management Actions

Consignors must complete the following at a minimum of 21 days prior to delivery.

  1. Castrated and dehorned (must be healed)
  2. Dewormed
  3. Vaccinations
    • IBR, BVD, PI3, and BSRV
    • 7-Way or 8-Way Clostridial (blackleg)
    • Histophilus somni
    • Mannheima hemolytica
    • Pasteurella multocida
  4. Booster vaccinations (per label instructions)
  5. Booster vaccinations (prefer 1 injection of modified live vaccine)
  6. Booster vaccinations (21-60 days prior to shipment)
  7. Weaned and backgrounded (minimum of 60 days)
  8. Beef Quality Assurance (follow guidelines)

A Calf Health and Processing Record form should be completed and submitted with required consignment forms. List product information, dates, and data on this form to record and document the health actions performed for your consigned calves. Follow all label directions for preparing, mixing, administering, and storing all vaccines and animal health products. Consult the product label for handling instructions, dosage amounts, routes of administration, storage parameters, expiration date, and safety precautions.

Further Recommendations (Not Required)

  • If getting an immune response is problematic on your farm, a vitamin A-D-E shot could help to jumpstart the immune systems of your calves.
  • Feeding a high-quality mineral in a backgrounding program is helpful to support immune systems in weaned calves.
  • While not required, testing for persistently infected Bovine Diarrhea Virus (BVD) can pay big dividends for the overall long-term health of your breeding herd. To test your calf crop, you will need to collect an ear notch sample from your calves and submit them to the Alabama Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Auburn. The BVD-PI test cost is $5 per sampled head, and sample tubes are needed to submit the ear notches. To submit BVD samples, order sample tubes, and for more information, visit the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries online at agi.alabama.gov/animalindustries/avdl/ or contact your local veterinarian.

More Information

For more information and requests regarding the Alabama Pasture to Rail program, contact Rickey Hudson–an Alabama Extension animal sciences and forages regional agent and coordinator of the Alabama Pasture to Rail program–at hudsorg@aces.edu.