Nice early start today, left the hotel at 6.30am and headed straight up to the JBS lamb plant at Greeley. David was unable to host us today so Willard Goad from USDA has been looking after us.
The JBS lamb plant is the biggest lamb plant in the Western states, killing aroung 1500 a day currently but able to do about 3600 a day when busy.
Kevin Quam who is the MD for the site gave us a tour of the factory. What was interesting about this plant is that the butchery and packing rooms are leased out to another company so JBS only deal with kill and carcasses. THe kill floor was very modern and they are the only lamb plant to have a chain running through as it is an old beef facility and has kept this feature to run the lamb side.
Walking through the carcass fridges we again saw the large carcasses of 125 pounds, but we also saw their new season lambs which were nearer 60 pounds.
The lamb industry in America last year saw the higest prices they have ever had, and this has been part cause of their low prices this year. Caterers took lamb off the menu and the domestic customer has stopped buying because of the price. The price of imported lamb (ie Australian), is so low that domestic production just can't compete. This has caused the price of lamb to crash for producers as nobody is buying it at the moment. Skin value has also decreased in the same way it has in the UK.
We also had a look at the JBS beef facility which kills near 5000 head a day, at a rate of about 400 per hour. We only had chance to see the grading halls here. They grade beef when the carcass is chilled, and they cut into the rib eye to get an idea of the marbling. This is then used to calculate a yield grade for the whole carcass. This plant are using cameras alongside the graders to develop the grading technology, but still rely on human judgement for grading the animals.
After lunch we met Randy Hammerstien who is a market reporter for USDA and he took us to visit Harper Livestock. This is a sheep feedlot business run not far from the lamb plant in Greeley. A very efficient business run by Father and Son, very well maintained. The feedlot employs 10 people for various jobs, one is to keep the water system clean, one for fence maintenance - these are both job which would take a substantial amount of time.
Harper Livestock has a permit to hold 65,000 head but currently holds 45,000 lambs. This is a mixture old and new season. The stock are fed twice a day with a mixture of corn, distillers grains from the methan factory, have 24hour access to water and roughage. On arrival they are vaccinated and if there are any ailing animals at the lot, then they are brought out, treated (antibiotics) and kept in a sick pen for recooperation, then when better go back into the main lot.
After this visit we went to see a beef feedlot - they had 90,000 head of cattle here, their own automated feed mill - and this was one feedlot the company owned, and not the biggest one. The stock were all very healthy looking, very content in their lots but it is strange for us to see any animals when they are not on grass!
I will attach photos I have taken today but I am afraid they won't convey how vast these places are. I was unsure as to what my thoughts and feelings would be on seeing these massive feedlots, but having seen them the welfare systems are good, they are calm places with well looking, content stock. Very impressed.
This evening we went to Kenny's steak house. We had steak, and it was superb, so tender and very tasty - but I am sure their ounces are heavier than ours because it seemed large for a 6oz!!
Tomorrow we leave at 5am and head for Cheyenne and Casper in Wyoming - cowboy country here we come!!!
Interesting points about the surrounding area:
In 1800-1900 (ish) Colorado Springs was announced as a TB town, so sufferrers of TB would travel here as they could breathe easier due to the higher altitude having thinner air.
The Coors factory is in Colorado, the river runs down from the Rockies and into the factory so it is all mountain water used the make the beer.