Farm Progress

In the aftermath of twin tornadoes that struck in 2014, Albers Feedlot has developed a storm protocol in case natural disaster strikes again.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

July 17, 2017

3 Min Read
GETTING THEM FED: Nebraska Cattlemen members look over the feedmill and processing area during a recent midyear tour of Albers Feedlot. This feedmill area was struck hard by a tornado in 2014.

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.

 

 

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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