Our day began in Hereford, Texas at the White Energy Ethanol Plant. This plant produces 100 million gallons. There is not enough corn in the area to supply the plant so over 25 rail cars a day are brought in from the Mid-West. That is one rail train every day. Every 10 days a rail train loaded with ethanol heads out to Houston. Then they market 100 truck loads of by-product which is about 35% dry matter and 65% water. Most of this is to cattle feeders in distiller grains. So the process produces 1/3 ethanol, 1/3 carbon dioxide, and 1/3 by-product. There is zero discharge because all the water is recycled. The process is grind – hydrate (enzymes added) – cook (yeast is introduced) – ferment (continuously agitated). Bugs produce the ethanol. It then sits for 60 hours –stored in beer wells where the temp is raised to 162 degrees – ethanol boils off – put through ceramic beads – then ready to be blended with gasoline. A centrifuge separates the solids from the liquids – solids are the wet distiller’s grain – the remaining liquids are water, fat, sugar, and starches. Mr. Holland refers to this as co-product because what used to be considered a lesser product of production is now equally valuable as a product to the cattle feeders. Of course, there was debate over corn – cattle ranchers vs. ethanol. The issue has not been resolved before today – and it was not resolved today. As with all families – there seems to be a little dissention building – and it’s more than a little sibling rivalry. We are each fighting for survival.
The Caviness Beef Packing Plant has been family owned and operated for 50 years. They process cows – bulls – and a few contracted fat cattle. Dairy’s cull an average of 30-35% of their herds a year where as a ranch typically culls about 10%. Caviness markets to food service such as McDonalds, Burger King, and Arby’s. The biggest % of their production is ground beef. They are also a supplier to the Federal government for the school lunch programs. Caviness has been at the forefront in their efforts for humane handling of the animals. They have also been aggressive in providing systems that ensure traceability to exemplify quality assurance, safeguard the industry, and meet the consumer’s needs. They are a highly regulated industry – 7 full time inspectors – one full time vet. About 1600 head are harvested a day. They have buyers in the country and at the sale barns. They market products domestically and internationally. The new plant was built with environmental issues in mind – capture methane and use it – air control to capture odor from the rendering and put the air through a scrubber before it is released. They have 700 non-union employees working 6 days a week. I think the key word for this family operation is respect and dignity – it is the way they treat their employees, the animals, and the way they regard their community.
The Advanta Seed tour gave us a glimpse at the sorghum seed industry. The seed is harvested and brought to the plant – a sample of seed is taken from every truck. The seed is air dried – rotated from top to bottom – cleaned – packaged and shipped to all parts of the world. Advanta is a worldwide leader in sorghum technology. Advanta has developed proven sorghum hybrids for a wide range of growing conditions. The seed is designed to provide the best disease, pest, and stress tolerance for higher yields.
I was so impressed with our Mc6 Cattle Feedyard Tour. This feedyard has the capacity for 55,000 head but at this time they are feeding only cattle for an All Natural program – no antibiotics – no steroids – no feed additives. Whole Foods is their current client. Of course, Whole Foods also has strict guidelines for the humane treatment of the animals – pen spacing – hospital pens separate and removed – required shade and wind breaks – no hot shots – clean drinking water – transportation standards.The calves must be weaned at the ranch and back grounding of the calves is essential – source and age verification. There is an EID tag and a visual tag with ranch origin and lot number. They are fed 3 times a day. Because of the genetics which requires 50% angus, there is an 80% increase in daily gain and 94% grade choice. Steers are harvested at around 1400 lbs. and heifers around 1275 lbs. The first line of defense against sickness is good pen riders. A sick calf is first separated and administered Vitamin C and a B complex. If this fails and antibiotics have to be administered, the calf’s ear is notched 3 times and the calf is disqualified. At this time, the program seems to be netting them a $50 a head premium. It certainly made me take notice of my own program. I am currently doing every step except weaning at the ranch. This really gives me pause to consider the cost of that last step to qualify for an All Natural Program. That one step is a game changer for me with new doors of marketing opportunity.
Getting to actually see wind turbines going up – listening to the Cielo Wind Power representative – gave me a fresh look at wind power. Very exciting!! Like many others, I have only heard how it is not cost effective because of the difficulties to store and transmit. It appeared in this area wind was being harnessed quite effectively and millions had been invested to lay lines to transmit. Mr. Ken Cearley did speak to us about the environmental impact – management of wild life – and protection of the lessor Prairie Chicken. Cielo seemed to value the partnerships with an attempt to work with the local government and wildlife specialist for a harmonious relationship between energy technology and the environment.
Next we went to the Pacific Cheese Factory. Cheese is actually made in Dalhart and shipped in 640 pound blocks to be cut into – 40 pounds – then 3 in. cubes – or shredded. Dalhart makes 1 million pounds of cheese a day. One pound of cheese requires 10 lbs. of milk. Pacific Cheese cuts or shreds, packages, and ships.
Our last stop of the day was the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum in Amarillo. It is truly a beautiful facility steeped in history. It showcases the history and today’s activities of the American Quarter Horse. This tour was special to me. My ranch horses are all registered Quarter Horses and I am a member of the Association. I have always wanted to see the Museum. It was also special because a dear friend of mine was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the late 80’s for his work with some of the foundation genetics. His name was Gus Scroggins – a true Texan who loved and spent his life raising and working with Quarter Horses. He had a major impact on me and my love of the Quarter Horse.