The four feedlots on the 2013 North Dakota Feedlot Tour had several things in common.
•Young, beginning farmers and ranchers.
•A strong conservation ethic
•Equipment that was easy on the cattle and the operators.
Tour stops included:
•Kline Simmental Ranch, Hurdsfield, N.D.
•Dockter Land and Cattle, Denhoff, N.D.
•Raugust Whitetail Ranch, Harvey, N.D.
•Heitman Feedlot, Harvey. N.D.
Building new feedlots or expanding existing ones were part of all the ranches' strategies to increase income to support the next generation.
Natural Resource Conservation Service cost sharing made building the feedlots much more affordable than buying high-priced cropland, said Matt Kline, of Kline Simmental Ranch.
All the feedlots had conservation structures in place to capture run-off 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 is next to a popular wildlife management area. Douglas and Luke Heitman had moved their feedlot to the flatlands around their farm headquarters to a well-drained hilltop.
All the feedlots had low stress handling facilities and equipment, such as Bud Boxes (double alleys than funnel into a single handling chute and headgate), portable windbreaks, fence line bunks of various kinds, 12- to 16-foot wide concrete pads in front of the feedbunks, drive through feed alleys, freeze-free waterers and security lighting to illuminate the feedlots at night.
The feedlots were mostly expansions of cow-calf enterprises. The operators were feeding out their own calves, custom feeding calves or custom feeding and developing replacement heifers. Raugust Whitetail Ranch built a large calving barn in the middle of its feedlot.
"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.
The tour was organized by the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.