Decatur County Feed Yard in Oberlin, KS, is a 24,000-head commercial feedlot specializing in retained ownership. That traditional emphasis coupled with extensive experience in sorting cattle by weight and ultrasound served as the basis for the formation of The Decatur Beef Alliance four years ago.

The alliance is based on a program of extensive sorting using weight and ultrasound scanning to separate cattle into outcome groups for uniformity, efficiency and maximum net return per animal, says owner Warren Weibert.

In 1997, 17,000 head went through The Decatur Beef Alliance. In 1998, Weibert projects that figure to be 25,000 head, primarily from repeat customers. Participants pay a one-time participation fee of $10, which covers electronic eartag rental, special handling, ultrasound measurements, weighing and sorting, and feedback.

Cattle are fitted with electronic eartags. Twice during the feeding period, weight and backfat measurements are taken and interfaced with a computer model. The model not only determines the sort into outcome groups for maximum growth efficiency, uniformity and optimum returns, but also the time of marketing for maximum net return.

"Economics drives it all," Weibert says. The system has allowed The Decatur Beef Alliance to achieve a combination of overall grade and yield significantly higher than the industry average.

"Maximizing net return per animal is our overriding emphasis. The extensive sorting also adds to the extensive, practical data we provide our customers. This data, which includes feedlot and carcass performance data for each animal on the same line, is information they can take back and apply on their herds," Weibert says.

Cattle are merchandised through specification grids of Excel in Dodge City, KS. Using just one, and the same, packer, Weibert explains, allows the alliance to really zero in on one set of quality specifications.

For more information contact Chad Davis or Dan Dorn at 913/475-2212.