Fantastic Feedlot Tour

Inside Dakota Ag

The facilities on the North Dakota feedlot were super, but the operators impressed me the most.

Published on: June 19, 2013

I just got back from the 11th annual North Dakota Feedlot Tour, hosted by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association and the North Dakota Feeder Council.

We saw four new beef feedlots in central North Dakota:

  • Kline Simmental Ranch, Hurdsfield, N.D.
  • Dockter Land and Cattle, Denhoff, N.D.
  • Raugust Whitetail Ranch, Harvey, N.D.
  • Heitman Feedlot, Harvey. N.D.

Young producers are involved in all of the operations.

Building new feedlots or expanding existing ones were part of all the ranches' strategies to increase income to support the next generation.

 “It’s good to the see the enthusiasm and commitment these young producers have for the industry,” said Robert Tweeten, a Hensel, N.D., feedlot operator, farmer and chairman of the N.D. Feeder Council, who was on the tour.

People on the 2013 North Dakota Feedlot Tour gather around the cattle chute at Kline Simmental to get a look at the Bud Box, a structure that reduces stress on cattle when they are being worked.
People on the 2013 North Dakota Feedlot Tour gather around the cattle chute at Kline Simmental to get a look at the Bud Box, a structure that reduces stress on cattle when they are being worked.

The conservation practices built into the projects impressed Tweeten, too. All of the feedlots had ditches and lagoons and other structures to capture runoff from the open pens. Clean water was channeled around the feedlots. The setup at the Raugust Whitetail Ranch was especially impressive -- and probably had to be. The feedlot lies next to a popular wildlife management area.

There was plenty of evidence on this tour that feedlots can be built to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment, Tweeten said.

All the feedlots had low-stress handling facilities and equipment, such as Bud Boxes (double alleys that funnel into a single handling chute and headgate); portable windbreaks; fenceline feed bunks of various kinds; 12- to 16-foot-wide heavy-use concrete pads in front of the feedbunks; drive-through feed alleys; freeze-free waterers; and security lighting to illuminate the feedlots at night.

These feedlot operators were committed to the cow-calf enterprise, which has been more profitable than other segments lately. They were  backgrounding their own calves, and some were custom feeding steers or replacement heifers for clients. One ranch included a large (60- by 200-foot) calving barn as part of the feedlot expansion.

I’ll be profiling these and other feedlots on the website and in the Dakota Farmer magazine in the future.