What Does a Cattle Feedlot Manager Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & Mmore

Image shoes a cattle feedlot manager holding a pitchfork and wearing a cowboy hat; She is overseeing a herd of cows. Text reads:

Image by Brianna Gilmartin © The Balance 2019

Cattle feedlot managers oversee the routine care and feeding of beef cattle kept in a feedlot environment. They may be responsible for managing thousands of animals at any given time, depending on the size of the facility. Their primary concern is ensuring that proper husbandry techniques and feeding programs are in place to promote optimal growth for each animal in the herd.

In the cattle business, feedlots are the final stage of production prior to slaughter with a focus on efficient growth and weight gain of the animals. Cattle feedlot managers focus on minimizing the stress and health problems of cattle.

Cattle Feedlot Manager Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:

  • Source feed and forage
  • Hire and manage personnel
  • Repair fencing and equipment 
  • Ensure that the feedlot is clean and well maintained
  • Work closely with the veterinarian in treating the herd
  • Treat minor cattle injuries
  • Monitor behavior of each member of the herd

Cattle feedlot managers must work within a budget to source feed and forage. They are responsible for hiring and managing feedlot staff, as well as ensuring that sanitary conditions are met and maintained, guaranteeing animal welfare in accordance with all applicable laws and governmental regulations.

They must also work closely with the veterinarian to ensure optimal herd health, which includes monitoring cattle closely to watch for early signs of health issues. Additional duties include marketing cattle to buyers, handling sales calls from livestock feed sales representatives, making shipping arrangements, and keeping detailed records of cattle and expenses.

Cattle Feedlot Manager Salary

A cattle feedlot manager's salary may vary according to education and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes this job under farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers. According to this category, cattle feedlot managers earn the following salary:

  • Median Annual Salary: $67,950 ($32.67/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $136,940 ($65.84/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $35,440 ($17.04/hour)

Payscale also provides a salary for cattle feedlot managers as follows:

  • Median Annual Salary: $50,000 ($15.00/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $60,000 ($28.85/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $42,000 ($20.19/hour)

Source: Payscale.com, 2019

Feedlot manager positions often include a variety of fringe benefits in addition to the usual salary package. These perks may include free or low-cost housing near the facility, paid utilities, use of a company vehicle, paid vacation, and medical insurance. In some cases, a feedlot manager may be eligible to receive a commission on sales that they broker.

Education, Training, & Certification

To become a cattle feedlot manager, you will need the following education and experience:

  • Academia: Most advertised positions for feedlot managers require a two- or four-year degree in animal science, agricultural marketing, agribusiness, or a closely related area. Coursework may cover animal management, such as artificial insemination and husbandry; business management, and agricultural and food science. Some employers will consider candidates that have several years of professional experience in lieu of a college degree.
  • Training: Aspiring feedlot managers can benefit from completing beef cattle internships during their college years. For example, Cattle Empire, located in Kansas, offers internships to qualifying applicants. A background in livestock judging or 4-H showing can increase your chances of employment.

    All feedlot managers should have a strong knowledge of bovine nutrition, ration formulation, forage management, body condition scoring, beef sire lines, and bovine genetics. They should be extremely familiar with the specific needs of young, rapidly growing cattle. 

    Cattle Feedlot Manager Skills & Competencies

    To perform this job successfully, you should have the following skills:

    • Computer skills: Necessary for record keeping, research, and marketing
    • Physical and mental stamina: Required for managing the health and quality of the herd, as well as repairing feedlot fencing and equipment
    • Leadership skills: Needed for managing feedlot personnel
    • Familiarity with the herd: Important for knowing the personalities and idiosyncrasies of each member of the herd
    • Analytical skills: Necessary for assessing the health of the herd and
    • Interpersonal skills: Required for working with others such as veterinarians, farmers, customers, scientists, and other feedlot staff

      Job Outlook

      The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that job growth for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is projected to show little or no change up to 2026. The efficiencies of large-scale crop production have led to the consolidation of acreage under fewer, but larger, farms. Small farms operate with slim profit margins and are vulnerable to poor market conditions and will likely continue to close over the next decade.

      Feedlot managers with significant practical experience, a good reputation in the industry, and strong management skills will continue to secure the best job prospects in the field.

      Work Environment

      Cattle feedlot managers work in feedlot facilities, mainly located on large farms. Some of their work may be performed in an office where they handle business-type responsibilities, such as record-keeping and sales. Indoor work may also include treating sick or wounded animals or fixing equipment;.

      They also spend time outdoors herding cattle. Their work may be affected by bad weather conditions, which can be hazardous. Animals can become frightened and act out, or they may be sick and irritable.

      Work Schedule

      Cattle feedlot managers work full-time, year-round. Overtime hours may be required for animals needing medical assistance.

      How to Get the Job

      APPLY

      Look at resources such as Indeed, JobRapido, and AGCareers for the latest job postings. These sites may also provide career assistance such as tips for writing resumes and cover letters as well as techniques for mastering interviews.

      NETWORK WITH OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY

      Attend conferences and other events held by organizations such as the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA), the National Farmers Organization (NFO), and the American Angus Association (AAA). These organizations provide networking opportunities that can lead to employment in the field.

      Comparing Similar Jobs

      People interested in a career as a cattle feedlot manager should consider these similar careers, along with their median annual salary:

      A feedlot manager can easily transition into many different roles in the cattle industry, including herdsman, extension agent, ranch owner, ranch manager, livestock feed sales representative, auctioneer, appraiser, and many other support positions on farms or ranches.