UNL Survey: Feedyard Labor Costs Increase

But operations stay competitive with other rural industries.

Published on: Jan 5, 2011

In general, Nebraska feedyards are competitive compared to other rural industries in maintaining wages for employees.

That's just one of the many findings in a labor cost study of Nebraska feedyards, conducted by Darrell Mark, UNL Extension livestock marketing specialist, and Ross Jenson, a UNL ag economics student.

Forty-eight "useable" survey forms were returned in a July 2010 mailing to 402 feedyards. Average one-time maximum capacity of the 48 yards was 10,699 head.

Mark says average compensation—salary, benefits and bonuses—for feedyard managers was more than $71,000 annually, but that amount varied considerably by feedyard size. The range in size of reporting feedyards: 150 head to 50,000 capacity.

Mark says the 48 feedyards were classified in three categories: Below 4,000 head (14 yards), 4,000 to 12,000 head (19 yards), and more than 12,000 head (15 yards).

Other survey results include:

Total compensation for other supervisor categories of labor, including assistant managers, yard foremen, mill foremen and maintenance foremen was in the $40,000 to $58,000 range on average.

Total compensation for mill operators, feed truck drivers, cowboys and maintenance personnel on was $37,000 to $47,000 per year.

According to the survey, most feedyards provide health insurance, while approximately half provide life insurance and retirement plan benefits.

Feedyards had, on average, 10.36 employees, or one per 1,029 head of cattle-on-feed capacity.

Majority of the employees receive safety-related training, animal welfare training and are Beef Quality Assurance certified.

While half of the feedyard managers reported having an annual performance review with employees, about two-thirds indicated that they adjust salaries annually.

Feedyard managers also revealed that slightly more than one-third of the yardage charges went to paying for labor. Yardage charges average 35 cents per head per day, or $20 per ton if accounted for as feed markup.

Average length of employment in the feedyards was nearly nine years.

Mark says feedyard labor costs have continued to increase in Nebraska, surpassing the rate of inflation.

To view a copy of the report, go to www.marksmarketing.net.