It’s a hot August morning in western Kansas, and feed trucks are already making the rounds at Poky Feeders. This Scott City feed lot holds 100,000 cattle, which makes it one of the largest in an area that’s known for cattle feeding, according to General Manager Grant Morgan.
“Our business is extremely competitive. There’s all different kinds of people up and down the highway we’re sitting on that could feed cattle for you,” says Morgan. “So, we’re measured every day.”
That competition drives the Poky Feeders team to look for ways to innovate to gain an edge. Case and point, the lot’s new state-of-the-art feed mill is one of the most technologically advanced mills in the world. For years, this growing business taxed its former mill, running it 24 hours per day to keep up with demand. Finally, Morgan’s team broke ground on Poky’s new mill, which opened three months ago. It’s an investment that Morgan says is significant but is already earning its keep.
“The quality of product that we can produce now with the automation—with the capabilities we have today—it should take off about two-tenths of a feed conversion per animal,” says Morgan. “With the number of motors we have, the natural gas we use, all those things will save significantly from what our previous mill was.”
The timing of Poky’s new automated system is no accident. With several factors complicating the agricultural landscape, American AgCredit Chief Research and Analytics Officer Don Close says the business of feeding cattle isn’t getting any less challenging.
“With the consistent escalation in population, efforts are going to have to be made to do more with less,” says Close. “Water limitations, food source limitations and labor limitations are landing at the same time to increase the challenges to farmers or production agriculture.”
Evolving is nothing new to Poky Feeders. Morgan notes adopting a philosophy of constantly changing is how the business continued to thrive in a remarkably competitive industry that he predicts will soon feature autonomous feed trucks and remote feed loader operators.
Morgan embraces what’s next as a means to stay relevant. That’s a trait he says has been handed down through generations.
“The competitive drive we have as an organization is a culture that started from my old man 40 years ago. We drive to push it every day. We wake up to be first.”