How to Start a Feedlot

Feedlots provide living quarters for livestock raised for market. With compact facilities, a feedlot houses more animals per acre than free-range livestock production. Although convenient in terms of feeding, medical care and calving, feedlot managers face special problems that free-range livestock owners do not. Before you start a feedlot, there are conditions to meet, should you want to sell your livestock for human consumption.

Check with your county zoning board for guidelines and regulations for starting a feedlot. In many areas, adjacent landowners receive notification of your proposed business and a hearing will take place where disgruntled neighbors can protest your business.

Prepare answers to the questions your neighbors are likely to ask. The main concern of most residents is the smell of the feedlot and the impact of livestock waste on the quality of the water supply. If you can present viable assurances at the hearing, you may receive your zoning permit.

Purchase the equipment you need to maintain the facility. A tractor or skid-steer with a front bucket is imperative for scooping and removing waste. Tank heaters will keep water from freezing if your feedlot is in a cold climate and you’ll need to erect loading chutes for transportation.

Plan adequate room for the livestock and separate pens where you can transfer the animals while one pen is undergoing cleaning. Livestock create a lot of waste and your facility will undergo inspection on a regular basis if you are selling the animals for market. It’s nearly impossible to clean a pen with the livestock still inside so a series of connected pens allows easy movement of the cattle.

Provide adequate feeding and watering stations for the cattle. Your end profit is a result of livestock that weigh on the heavy side, since you will sell them by the pound.

Consider your water and feed sources. If you have sufficient land, you can grow your own hay and grains for the livestock. Purchasing them is more expensive and in an area where hay and feed are scarce, the cost may be prohibitive. In addition, secure a means of watering before you put up the pens. Without water, your cattle will not survive. A seasonal stream is inadequate and wells go dry.

File your business name with the state in which you reside and file your farm business with your local farm agency. As regulations become stricter on feedlots, fewer new ones receive approval.


Check your livestock daily for illness. At the first sign of a problem, separate the animal from the rest of the stock and call in your veterinarian.

Be prepared to be on-call 24 hours a day to begin with. Operating a successful feedlot means you must be in close proximity to the animals at all times or you must hire someone who is.

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