Matsler says the initial cow or bred-heifer ration consists of about 40% sorghum silage, 40% cotton burrs, 16% steam-flaked corn and a supplement.

“Once the cattle are well along in the program, we switch to about a 40% corn ration with less forage,” he says.

Part of the feeding package includes a blood-test pregnancy check from the yard’s consulting veterinarian. At the rancher’s discretion, open cows would be sold and shipped to Caviness Packing Co., a regional processor that’s seen an enormous cow-slaughter run since last spring.

Meanwhile, bred cows and first-calf heifers would remain on feed to defer use of available forage on the ranch or until ranch pastures produce some grass from eventual rains.

Such a program is an alternative for ranchers who may want to feed their cowherds in the absence of grass, says Ted McCollum, Texas AgriLife Extension livestock specialist based in Amarillo.

“Basically, a feedyard offers constant care for a rancher’s cows,” he says. “Feedyards have the ability to handle and deliver quantities of feed that a rancher may not be able to handle.”

They can also locate the feed via a network of commodity brokers. That’s been a common complaint among ranchers, whether or not they can find cotton burrs or hay. 

“Feedyards can do that, and always have someone checking the cattle and delivering feed,” McCollum says.

Matsler and his associates assist herd owners in evaluating their options for the calves – ship them home, sell to the feedyard or someone else, or leave them at the feedyard under a retained-ownership program.

“Most older cows wind up going to the packer,” Matsler says. “But most bred heifers will go back to their original ranch. Producers have put a lot into their herd genetics and realize it will be difficult to replace those animals with the same type of quality.”