Albers Feedlot has been around for nearly 100 years. The 20,000-head feeding facility north of Wisner is a family operation. Jeff Albers grew up working with his father, Herb, at the feedyard. Now, Jeff serves as president and general manager. His sons, Blake and Perry, both work at the yard, just like their father did.
"We started custom feeding in 1981," Jeff Albers recalls. "Our growth over the years has been in phases. When I was growing up, we were feeding between 2,500 and 3,000 head. We started building pens north of the operation when I was a freshman in high school. My junior year, we built three more pens," he notes. "We built new rows of pens each year as our customer base kept growing. We used posts from our pasture fences to initially build new pens."
With that kind of steady growth and experience in feeding cattle over the years, strategic planning has been crucial to the company's success. When twin killer tornadoes struck the area, including Pilger and Wisner, in 2014, it served as a way to jump-start disaster planning for many local feedyards and farms. Albers Feedlot was no exception.
"When the storm struck, everything that was 50 feet in the air was hit," Albers says. "Our grain legs and downspouts were all destroyed. We basically couldn't use much of the feed mill after the storm hit. So, we had a payloader-driven feed mill for a while." Although the feedyard did not lose any cattle that day like some of the neighbors did, the cleanup job was massive. "From the main tornado, we lost about 400 acres of crops, so we had to replant," says Albers. "That was the easy part. Picking up debris took a long time and only got done with the help of a lot of volunteers."
The experience placed disaster planning on the front burner for Albers. "We always try to learn from a problem so we can have plans in place," he says. "We periodically go through what we call our storm protocol, which means no electricity and cattle that are aggressive." The feedyard staff members go over the planning for such storms at least twice a year, so everyone is on the same page if disaster strikes.
The first step is safety for the workers, so they can find shelter during the storm. The next step taken under storm protocol after the storm has passed is to get water to the cattle. This requires regular checkups during each season of generators, wells and pumps. "We have to go out and start the generators so we can pump water. Then we make sure our wells operate properly," Albers explains. "We use standby generators, batteries or solar power for our electric fence."
After storms, cattle are usually aggressive and agitated. "We switch to a storm ration, which is high in roughage. Prairie hay seems to settle the cattle down," Albers says. "We use one feed truck as a stationary mixer and use two other trucks to deliver the feed. We just automatically hook up the hay wagon." According to Albers, after the 2014 tornadoes struck, two men hayed cattle the entire next day, and again the following day.