Chico Becerra: Defining dedication
First-time visitors to a modern feedyard probably first notice the cattle – lots of cattle. Next they might notice the machinery – the rumbling computer-controlled feedmill supplied by immense bins of grain and other feeds, trucks delivering grain to the yard, tractors loading other trucks and scraping pens, feed trucks pouring their mixed rations into bunks that stretch to the horizon.
But as the visitors take a closer look, beyond the cattle and machines, they’ll see the people who make the operation work. They’ll realize the health, welfare and performance of cattle, and ultimately the success of the business, depend on people performing a variety of tasks the right way, at the right time, every time.
In some businesses, employees who procrastinate or perform inconsistently are an inconvenience. In a feedyard, they’re a potential disaster. As the day-to-day demands of feedyard work challenge employee morale, a positive attitude becomes a key asset. And when an employee’s positive attitude and strong work ethic help inspire the rest of the crew, everyone benefits.
That is the legacy of Erasmo “Chico” Becerra, winner of the 2011 Arturo Armendariz Distinguished Service Award through the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame. Becerra recently retired from his long career as a feed-truck operator at Hale Center Feedyard, a Cactus Feeders Inc. facility near Hale Center, Texas.
Becerra emigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1972, and after a time living in Colorado and Utah, pursued his interest in cattle by signing on to drive a feed truck at a Kansas feedyard in 1979. After six years, he moved to Texas, to work at another feedyard, and in 1990 accepted a job at the Hale Center facility, then under different ownership.
“I’ve been driving feed trucks the whole time,” Becerra says, noting that he’s seen enormous changes to the feeding process over the years. Today’s feed trucks, equipped with GPS units and computers linked to the mill and front office, allow improved precision for delivering the right quantity of the right ration to the right pen, and, he says, reduce the chance of making a mistake.
Becerra always held a strong interest in the welfare of the cattle he fed, and notes that feed-truck drivers are on the front lines for observing their behavior. “We see the cattle every day,” he says, adding that he routinely reported anomalies such as excess feed left in bunks, empty water troughs, cattle showing signs of illness or other problems. One of the most satisfying aspects of the job, he says, was to see that cattle were performing well. “It makes me feel good to know we’re doing things right.”
When Becerra retired in early May, he was surprised by how much he missed the team atmosphere and camaraderie at the feedyard. For several days, he experienced a sense of loss and grief, saying it felt “almost like losing a family member.” Since then he become more comfortable with retirement, finding other ways to keep busy, spending time with family and, of course, occasionally visiting his friends at the feedyard.
That sense of family among the feedyard staff comes as no accident, says Hale Center’s general manager Kevin Kuriyama. Cactus Feeders is an employee-owned company, he notes, and “we refer to the staff as associates rather than employees. I remind them we spend more of our waking hours with each other than we do with our actual families,” he says, stressing the importance of mutual respect and support. “Managers can provide direction, but we need people to carry it out.”
Kuriyama says Becerra is excited to be selected for the Distinguished Service Award, with that excitement shared by all the feedyard’s staff, but he remains humble. “He’s quick to give respect to others, but never demands it,” he says. He’s much, much more than a feedtruck driver, and more than an employee. He’s a good man and a good friend.”
fuente: dovers cattle network