Challenges, innovation help southern Alberta feedlot owner succeed | UFA Co-operative Ltd.

Challenges, innovation help southern Alberta feedlot owner succeed

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UFA Monday Members profile: Shawn Murray

UFA Monday Members profile: Shawn Murray

For Picture Butte feedlot owner Shawn Murray, the future is all about precision.


Trevor Bacque

December, 2018

In his business of running cattle at JF Murray Farms, something he’s proudly done his entire life as a third-generation cattleman, Murray knows the more precise you can be, the better. It’s why he’s recently adopted UFA’s Microbeef Feedlot Technology (MBT) onto his farm. The all-in-one computer system gives him control and detailed record-keeping like never before and helps him manage his 10,000 animals with ease.

“We like it. Our biggest thing is the accuracy of it compared to our prior system. It gives us some flexibility with how we use the machine,” says Murray, adding the transition was seamless. “The MBT probably adds more detail and its broken all the different micronutrients, whereas we used to just track one supplement. UFA is very good at monitoring inventory, we’ve never had any issues.”

For Murray, relationship at UFA dates back more than 30 years “probably from day one” when he was just getting going in the business with his father. He sources everything from gas to fencing to micronutrient inputs from UFA and the relationships he’s built with the customer account managers in Picture Butte and Lethbridge.

“Thirty years ago, UFA was more farmer focused … and recently they’re bringing that back into focus—back into agriculture,” says Murray. “The MBT, for example, has been a good project for UFA. It captures the market that they can supply the micronutrients into the beef industry. That to me is smart business. Anything you can do to enhance somebody else’s efficiency or profitability, or both, and they can be that supplier, it’s smart.”

Micro Technology

Beyond his MBT setup, Murray also leverages buying power by teaming up with five of his farm neighbours to purchase inputs in quantity to secure bulk discounts. In the feeding game, margins are razor thin and Murray always thinks outside the box to stay ahead of the curve.

“Like any business, if you’re going to stay the same, or if you don’t change with the times, you’ll disappear,” he says. “You have got to keep thriving to succeed, push your boundaries. I don’t think economies of scale is going away any time soon. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

For Murray and the operation at JF Farms, they’ve certainly expanded and now they’re bringing in the fourth generation, his two sons, Austen and Broek have become involved within the last four years.

Where Murray faced pressure from market consolidation and tight margins, he believes his kids will have to answer the bell with regards to public trust and consumer perceptions around sustainable beef production.

It’s reasons like this he touts the MBT system as an example of how they are being as efficient and attentive to the animals as possible, all while giving them the most humane treatment.

“Going forward, we have to make things a routine; whether that’s herd health or how we communicate to public. It has to be something we can be proud of and show it off at any point in time. We are more efficient, we are using less and we are producing more—everything’s changed. Thirty years ago from what I did, we measure things totally different, but I think it’s a good challenge all around,” he says.