Featured Farmer - Todd Mortenson, Hayes

Posted: 4/11/2013

Todd Mortenson lives on a ranch located in west central South Dakota in the northwest corner of Stanley county, along the Cheyenne River.  His grandfather, Ben Young, started  the home ranch in the ‘30’s and added ground in Ziebach county when the Oahe dam was built and their bottom lands were flooded in the late ‘50’s.

Todd along with his wife Deb and his sons Quinn and Jack operate the cow/calf ranch.  Todd’s brother Curt and his family also maintain an ownership interest in the ranch and help out when needed.  Shane and Val Sheets a young couple from the area live and work with the Mortensons on the Ranch.

Todd owns 200 acres of crop ground that is planted to forage crops.  In a normal year he will put up between 1000 and 1500 acres of alfalfa and native grasses for hay. Cows on the Mortenson Ranch are out in pasture until they calve, in March and April, and then supplemented with hay.  A rotational grazing system is used so the cows are on the move quite frequently when the grass greens up.  This system ensures the cows stay on a high nutritional plan as well as protects the grasses from overgrazing.  The calves are given shots in the spring at branding and again in August before they are weaned in September and October.  At that time the steers are sorted off and shipped to a feedlot in Wessington Springs and the heifers are sent to a neighbor’s where they are fed.  The steers are sold as fat cattle in April and May.  The heifers are kept as replacements with some being sold and grass fattened and marketed through Ecosun Prairie Farms in Brookings, South Dakota.

Todd is a member of the West Central Cattlemen’s Association, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He’s a 32nd degree Mason and a Shriner. He also volunteers as an EMS First Responder and member of the Hayes volunteer fire department.

Just last year Todd graduated with class six of the South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership program (SDARL). Todd says “SDARL is an awesome experience and encourages everyone in agriculture to look at what this program has to offer and apply for class 8. You will not be disappointed!”

The most rewarding part raising livestock for Todd is constantly being challenged to make what he is raising fit into the rhythms of nature.  According to Todd, trying to force your perceptions onto the natural world is costly and fool-hearty.  Working towards improve the environment while at the same time getting the most out of livestock is a tremendous balancing act. He says it’s both rewarding and frustrating. Todd finds the most challenging part of ranching to be getting through this drought.

Todd hosts a number of tours every year for those interested in learning more about ranch life. Todd hopes when people leave the ranch they have seen that a healthy landscape leads to healthy wildlife and healthy livestock.


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