The aptly named Cattleland Feedyard is situated north of Srathmore in Alberta province, southwest Canada. In this part of the world, a typical family-owned feedlot has a capacity of 5,000 and can be run by three to five people. Cattleland has a 25,000 head capacity and a full-time workforce of 62 people.

The facility is owned by the Gregory family and run in conjunction with a trucking company. As well as the feedlot, the Cattleland empire comprises 22,000 acres in Southern Alberta – growing 100% of the silage and 50% of the grain for the feedlot – and a beef cow herd.

“We run a small cow herd on the ranch just over the fence there,” William Torres, Cattleland’s cattle manager, tells me as we shelter in his truck from the heavy snowfall. I ask him to define ‘small’.

“Oh it’s about seven or eight hundred.”

William has been working on the feedlot for nine years. Before Cattleland, he was in the military and he has applied some of the principles he picked up there to his current role.

“Some places rotate their staff, but I don’t do that – there’s too much inconsistency. I want uniformity and clarity in everything done here. The workers here have one job and they perfect it. The feed truck guys feed all day – that’s their job. The cattle processors process – etcetera,” William said.

“This is a great place to work and the Gregorys are great people to work for. There are guys here 10 or 20 years, staff turnover is low and there are a lot of nationalities represented. I myself am Mexican-American and as well as the Canadians. We’ve got guys from the Czech Republic, South Africa and France, among others.”

In terms of layout, Cattleland very much follows the North American feedlot model. Huge silos and bunkers are located around a central hub of buildings on the site, then it’s outdoor dirt pens as far as they eye can see. These pens vary in capacity from 75 to 250 head.

The cattle themselves are a mixed bag. The model at Cattleland is unique in that only 20% of the animals are actually owned by the group.

“Think of us as a hotel,” William said, “you send us your cattle and we feed them, accommodate them and provide any growth promoters that they need.”

Cattleland charges on a daily cost of feed basis. This cost is dynamic, based on six-month grain futures. It is up to those sending cattle to the feedlot to send quality, feed efficient animals if they are to maximise their returns.

Generally, conventional weanling steers produced using implants and growth promoters will arrive at Cattleland in the autumn weighing around 275kg and grow at rates of round 1.8kg daily to slaughter. Yearlings arrive in the spring slightly heavier at 410kg and achieve similar growth rates.


Cattle are fed a TMR ration twice daily, from one of six full-time feeder wagons. Grain in the diet is 100% barley, which is dry rolled with the aim to crack 70% of grains. A full-time feed manager constantly monitors and adjusts roller pressure based on the moisture of the incoming grains to achieve this. The principle forage in the diet is barley silage, with canola meal, molasses, a urea-based liquid protein mixture and a ‘micro mix’ completing the menu. This ‘micro mix’ includes antibiotics. In-feed antibiotics form part of the growth promoting arsenal that the majority of feeder cattle receive in Cattleland and indeed North America as whole. Cattleland’s in-feed antibiotic cocktail is similar to most other North American feedlots, and includes:

  • Rumensin - increases feed efficiency by altering stomach acid production. It also prevents coccidiosis. Banned in EU since 2006.
  • Tylosin – reduces the instance of liver abscesses (a common side-effect of high-grain diets) by 40-70% and increases efficiency of growth promoter implants. Feeding Tylosin has been banned in the EU since 1981.
  • MGA – inhibits oestrus in heifers and leads to increased growth rates, better feed efficiency and reduces instance of pH failures post slaughter. Banned in EU (feeding) since 1981.
  • CTC – reduces instance of pneumonia and lameness. Typically fed in response to health issues. Banned as a growth promoter in EU since 1981.
  • Hormones

    Upon arri`val at Cattleland, animals also receive hormone implants in their ear. These implants contain:

  • Trenbalone acetetate – an anabolic hormone multiple times more potent than testosterone that accelerates muscle growth and feed efficiency.
  • Estradiol – an anabolic growth promoter hormone, and a small amount of antibiotic.
  • The use of these hormone implants as growth promoters has been banned in the EU since 1981.

    During their time at Cattleland, animals will receive a number of different implants, varying in hormone ratios.

    “The performance kick you get from the growth promoters is around a pound of weight gain a day (0.45kg),” William told me, “but there are other benefits too.”

    In the corner of Cattleland is ‘hormone-free alley’ – an area surrounded by high fences which can only be accessed by a certain, dedicated feeder truck via a toll bridge-style automatic barrier. Thirty percent of the animals in Cattleland reside here and they are produced with a view toward entering EU markets such as the UK and Italy. Feed here is non-GMO and no antibiotics or growth promoters are used.

    “Being frank, those cattle are a pain in the ass from a management point of view. They get sick more often, take longer to adapt onto the high-grain diet and need around 100 extra days to get finished from the same starting point. Having said that, they are lucrative – we wouldn’t be doing them otherwise. You have to produce what your customer wants. But, this is not the way to feed the masses,” William said.

    It is estimated that implants alone are worth around US$70-100 per animal to producers. Research has demonstrated 23% higher growth rates where these implants are used, versus conventionally-produced cattle. Since 1977, the use of hormone implants in beef cattle has allowed for the production of 11% more beef from 20% fewer cattle.

    The Canadian beef industry in numbers


    On 1 January 2017, there were 12 million head in Canada’s cattle inventory. The beef cow herd comprises 3.8 million animals and there are 960,000 dairy cows in the country.


    The province of Alberta is Canada’s cattle capital, with 68% of all feedlot cattle fed here.


    The average Canadian will eat 26kg of beef in 2017. The average American will eat 36kg.


    Beef accounts for 28% of the average Canadian’s meat consumption. In Europe, beef accounts for just 19% of meat consumption – with pork representing 49%.


    There were 2.8 million cattle slaughtered in Canada last year.


    The average carcase weight in Canada in 2016 was 395kg. Steers were 417kg on average, with heifers tipping the scales at 381kg.


    Average carcase weights are up 7% in Canada since 2014, driven principally by big demand for beef from the USA.

    86 – 86%

    Of Canadian beef exporters are to the USA, with 6% to China and Hong Kong.


    Non-hormone-treated cattle take an extra 100 days to finish at the Cattleland feedlot in Strathmore, Alberta.


    A stocking rate of 20 acres/cow would be considered good on Canadian cow-calf (suckler) ranches.


    One serving of cabbage contains the same amount of oestrogen hormone as more than 1,000 servings of beef produced using hormone implants.