Efficiency, Accuracy Improves Communication for Washington Couple
Along the Snake River near Colfax, Washington, the McNeilly family has ranched for nearly 160 years. Dick and Suzy McNeilly, along with their nephew, Tyler Startin, and three full-time employees keep busy year-round caring for 325 cow-calf pairs and 1,400 cattle on feed.
The McNeilly family embraces the cattle ranching lifestyle and relishes seeing the result of their efforts when their cattle grade high when harvested.
“It’s important to know that we’re doing it right. Cattle are part of our livelihood,” Suzy says. “We truly manage our cattle with respect.”
Old school management program
Dick and Suzy married in 2009. When Suzy first started pitching in around the ranch, their management approach was traditional pen and paper. The McNeillys sought to modernize the operation and invested in another management software program. Unfortunately, that program created more headaches than solutions.
“I’m knowledgeable with computers, but this program was so old school that it wouldn’t let me change things,” Suzy said.
Constantly fighting the computer program, Suzy begin to dread feedlot season on the ranch because it was a major source of stress. Dick stumbled onto Performance Beef through online research – it changed the way the McNeillys run their business.
Suzy worried about the transition to Performance Beef, but it went off without a hitch. The intuitive and simple platform was a welcome change.
“When Performance Beef came along, I like to joke it saved my marriage. Using the program has made managing our cattle so much more efficient and effective,” she says.
Easy feedlot management
Invoicing is simpler with Performance Beef because Suzy can print out short summaries or more detailed reports for their custom-feeding clients. She can enter data into Performance Beef from her computer, while the rest of the crew can enter information from an iPad. Either way, the information is available in real-time.
The iPad connects to their feed wagon, so they can track exactly how much or what ingredient was given to which pen of cattle. This up-to-date tracking makes communication about ranch activities much easier for the McNeillys.
“I’m a data person, so I pull up the data and show Dick that this is the information you gave me,” Suzy says. “If we had an operator error or if Dick didn’t want to put a price on a pen yet, we can go back in and change things. That’s huge.”
Another benefit of Performance Beef that Suzy loves is the customer service available by phone, text and email.
“They don’t make me feel stupid,” she says. “They take away the frustration of working with technology.”
A focus on health
The McNeillys also use the animal health features in Performance Beef to track all treatments cattle receive upon arrival and throughout their stay.
“It’s a no-brainer to use the health features to manage our cattle because it helps us understand the financial aspects,” Suzy says. “We can clearly see how much we’re spending on medications, our death loss rates and can make notes to better manage our herd’s health.”
The health data also helps the McNeillys make decisions about where they source their feedlot cattle or when working with their vet.
“If we bring a group of cattle to the feedlot and they’re getting sick more, and we have multiple years of issues, then we can evaluate if that’s a producer we want to buy from,” Suzy says. “If we’re having more respiratory problems this year, we can discuss with our vet if we need to be using a different medication.”
Management at your fingertips
Now that Suzy is an expert at navigating the program and entering data, she spends less time managing data. She’s free to do other things around the ranch. The dread and stress of feedlot season is gone.
“I smile a lot more now during feedlot season,” Suzy says.
The McNeillys are looking to add more pens to their feedlot and Performance Beef is definitely part of that plan.