It’s not hard to be impressed with the business attitude at Border Line Feeders just outside Ceylon, Sask. Through one of the toughest stretches in recent times in the beef industry, a young management team has built an enviable record of business success.
Launched with 7,000 head capacity in 2005, they expanded to 12,000 in 2007. With new offices in the works for this year they’ve set an expansion target of 20,000 capacity for the predominantly custom feeding business by 2011.
One consistent message in any discussion of the operation is business management standards. This is an outfit that has built high operating standards across the board, in the environment, manure and water management, on-farm food safety, human resources, research and development, and community support. It’s an approach that they believe is a critical part of their success today and the longer term.
The feedlot has its roots in a story common across many rural areas — a need for rural economic diversification and local growth. “The local investors saw an alternative market for grain and cattle,” says Dawn Hillrud, Border Line’s human resource manager. “Today 400 shareholders, mostly local investors, give our feedlot a resilient business base but also help connect the business directly with community needs and values.”
On the environmental side, Border Line (www.borderlinefeeders.com)has used every opportunity to enhance their operation’s image. They operate under an endorsed Environmental Farm Plan and have a formal manure management plan as part of their intensive livestock permit. They also work closely with provincial and federal authorities to manage water resources.
“We test the volume of water pumped from our production well into our reservoir on a regular basis and have monitor wells nearby which we check for production and water quality,” says Hillrud. “That information is passed on to water management authorities.”
Manure is spread on farmland in the area and that requires organization and business relationships. “We have to source that cropland and ensure it meets our standards,” says Hillrud. “All of our silage is produced locally. We work with quite a number of producers, and shareholders are given first options for manure use. We work with authorities to ensure we don’t spread on sensitive areas that could affect nearby standing water or groundwater.
“We are not all that far from the community’s water resources, so we have to be particularly aware,” she says.
VERIFIED BEEF PRODUCTION REGISTERED
Border Line has been involved with Verified Beef Production (VBP), Canada’s on-farm food safety program for a number of years. They were officially registered in September 2007, meaning they are audited to prove they are meeting the VBP program’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) based requirements.
“VBP is a good image to have and it’s a good program to work with,” says Hillrud. “We found the training process easy to follow and workable. We use VBP guidelines to keep food safety at the top of our minds. In fact, we’ve built VBP concepts right into our official training plan because they are good concepts to work by.
“We want our team to know that sharps are taken care of, what procedures to follow if a needle is broken off in an animal, or how to determine the withdrawal times for drugs. That’s important to us as a business and to our industry.”
HUMANRESOURCE S MANAGEMENT
Perhaps the most innovative area for Border Line is their human resources plan. There is typically a significant turnover in staff in the feedlot industry and Border Line wanted to change that, says Hillrud. “We consider ourselves leaders in this area. We have a broad comprehensive benefits plan, and we have a pension plan.
“We have developed a work/life balance plan where we encourage our staff to go out and participate in the community. For example, we’ll support them in paying things like hockey fees, hunting licenses, dance classes, pottery classes and rodeo entry fees. So people go out into the community, relieve stress, have some fun and hopefully promote fitness in the process.”
Hillrud, whose training is in human resources, did the research and administers the program. “We do a lot of modern workshops on communications and conflict resolution. I think our employee retention rate is higher than most feedlots. We’ve also worked with immigrant workers with great success.”
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
To keep on the leading edge, the feedlot has established relationships with the University of Saskatchewan, cooperating on research trials. They have also worked with industry. Working with a local veterinary clinic, they have built that information into health protocols that have produced death loss well below the industry average.
Border Line manager Ryan Thompson’s family roots run deep in the cattle business and the Saskatchewan community, but he knows today’s cattle feeding business community is broadly based.
“We’ve been fortunate to have strong local customer support but also to draw from across western Canada, other provinces and from the U. S.,” he says. “In the long run we hope our business approach will help us keep the people that have gotten us this far, and build for the future.”
Article courtesy of National Verified Beef Production Program, phone 1 306-737-2290 or visit their website www.verifiedbeef.org