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From gate to plate: Innovation helps this family manage their beef businesses better

By Micro Technologies

For Foote Family Meats, their brand is their promise
cows  on farm

A brand is more than a name on a package. It’s a promise that what’s inside is what the buyer wants; that the quality guarantee behind the name is everything it’s supposed to be. This applies as much to the brand on a steer’s hip as it does to the beef that the steer provides.

The Foote family knows this adage well. That’s because Tim Foote, along with his son Garrett and daughter-in-law Megan, works in the beef business from gate to plate through Foote Family Meats.

The Foote family stands behind that brand promise by using the very best technology, so they know exactly what their cattle are eating and the care they receive, and how that affects the quality of the end product they sell through their branded meat business.

It starts at the gate

Tim Foote Cattle Company is a backgrounding operation with two locations headquartered north of Texico, New Mexico, just across the border from Texas. “We buy cattle from across the country off of ranches; we get cattle from California to Florida and every state in between,” Tim says.

The cattle come in weighing from 350 to 700 pounds and grow to 750 to 850 pounds before heading to finishing yards in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. “Now we keep approximately 25,000 to 40,000 head at a time, depending on what time of the year it is,” he adds.

The steers and heifers graze grass during the spring, summer, and fall and wheat pastures during winter. The operation grows much of the feed that goes into the ration after the cattle go to the backgrounding feedyard.

The cattle go on a starter ration upon arrival. “There’s more micronutrients that are implemented at that point,” Garrett says. After 28 days on feed, cattle move to a grower ration and feedyard workers adjust micronutrients to ensure animal health and efficient growth, but also control input growth.

Garrett is just one of the many moving parts of the operation. “I manage and oversee the day-to-day of our farming and cattle operation,” he says. In addition to handling all aspects related to the feedyard, such as feed management and animal health, he is transitioning to managing much of the office work. He tracks the cattle and expenses for constant improvement, striving to make their operation more efficient.

With all the moving parts needed to keep an operation that size humming, using technology is critical to keep track of … Well, just about everything. That’s where they rely on an integrated feedyard management solution.

It continues with technology

This system helps optimize animal performance potential by providing beef producers with real-time information and statistics on feed, animal health, and other data in a single inventory system. It adds accountability to their brand promise by ensuring consistency, accuracy, ration flexibility, real-time data and, perhaps most importantly, verification.

“The main thing is it’s allowed us to keep current and accurate records of cattle expenses so that we know the breakeven amount of each set of cattle,” Garrett says.

“With the technology that we have now, we can really precisely enter the amount of product that we’re going to feed to the cattle and get the right amount of vitamins and nutrition in the ration,” Tim adds.

That’s done with a micro ingredient delivery system, which adds accurate amounts of micro ingredients, like vitamins and minerals, as the feed undergoes processing. The system integrates flexibility to customize the amount of micro ingredients per the nutritionist’s recommendation and reports the data to ensure efficient inventory management.

Both the Foote and Rogers (Division) and Tim Foote headquarters have a digital, wireless inventory system as well as a micro ingredient delivery system. According to Garrett, this type of inventory system for their animal health products works well for keeping up with their inventory. He especially appreciates that it automatically reorders as their operation gets low on certain products, such as vaccines or antibiotics, based on the maximum and minimum numbers he previously set within the computer.

On the Foote operations, workers are constantly going in different directions, from feeding to doctoring cattle when necessary. “In order to make it work, you need to split up and get more stuff done,” Garrett observes. “But at the end of the day, you’re not really sure whether guys fed correctly or what they doctored.”

With the technology powering their integrated feedyard management solution, however, he’s able to analyze the day’s data. If he sees that workers pulled multiple head out of a single pen for treatment, he has a head start on stopping an illness outbreak.

“It’s really allowed us to know more precisely where we are at, at all times, as far as how the cattle are doing, how much money we’re making on each set,” Garrett says.

The real-time information and statistics on feed, health, and other animal data in a single inventory system give him more certainty throughout the year instead of waiting until yearend. “Anything you can do to help ensure that . . . you’re turning a profit on your operation is important,” he says.

Foote Family Meats
Foote Family Meats

It ends at the plate

With the addition of Foote Family Meats (footefamilymeats. com), the operation now connects cattle production with beef consumption. Garrett handles the live cattle side then hands it off to Megan, who delivers the cattle to the processor and takes it from there. They met while on a college livestock judging team and, after several years working off the ranch, returned to help Tim with the operation.

“Before making the decision to come back, Garrett and I decided that we wanted to find ways to try to diversify our income and business, aside from what we were doing directly with his dad,” Megan says. “So that’s when we decided that we wanted to go in the direction of direct sales with the beef that we grow here in our operation."

Foote Family Meats

Thus began Foote Family Meats, a direct-to-consumer beef company. At the moment, local customers can buy beef in nearby Clovis, New Mexico, directly from the Footes’ mobile meat trailer. Customers nationwide can buy their beef online or over the phone and have it shipped to their doorstep.

However, plans are afoot to open a retail meat market in late summer 2022, Megan says. In addition to offering their own fresh local beef and other proteins, the venue will serve as a resource for shoppers to learn more about different cuts of meat, cooking methods, and the beef industry as a whole, making Foote Family Meats’ customers better informed consumers.

What’s more, Foote Family Meats has recently started providing beef to large-scale food programs looking to source local New Mexico beef in bulk. “Accu-Trac has allowed us to be in a position to easily track and verify which cattle are 100 percent New Mexico beef for these programs,” says Megan.

“As our meat business grows and with us buying cattle from all over the country, having the technology in place to easily verify the origin of the cattle and share reports is extremely helpful.”

Foote Family Meats beef undergoes processing at a Department of Agriculture (USDA)-inspected facility and gets stamped with an in-house quality grade. Beyond buying individual cuts, customers can also buy bulk boxes and a whole or half of beef.

“A big topic and concern for customers now is knowing exactly what it is that they’re getting and how the cattle are cared for and what they were given,” Megan says. One topic that arises is the concern — or rather misconception — about the use of antibiotics in beef animals.

Though frustrating for people in agriculture who know the truth, this is a teachable moment for Megan. She explains how they raise cattle and that no matter where consumers buy their beef, it doesn’t contain antibiotic residues.

With Foote Family Meats, she can make that statement knowing she can back it up with verifiable data. One of multiple functions in their integrated feedyard management system ensures that they’re not sending any animal in for processing that’s still within the withdrawal period after receiving an antibiotic.

“That’s really important to us because, at the end of the day, our goal is to provide a high-quality product for the consumer,” Garrett says. “It’s also the same product that we consume ourselves. It’s safe for everyone involved, and our interactive health reporting system helps us do that.” 

Man walking next to feedlot

Learn more about the technology solutions employed by Tim Foote Cattle Company and, ultimately, Foote Family Meats

Photos by Taylor Pettigrew