Rural Ramblings News from Ag United. Thu, 22 Oct 2020 06:37:13 -0500 October Feature: Protecting the Health of South Dakota's People, Animals, and Food Supply For more than 50 years, a team of scientists, SDSU faculty and students have worked together to protect the health of South Dakota’s animals and humans, and to ensure the safety of the state’s food supply.  The South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (SD ADRDL) was established by South Dakota state statute in 1967 and is located at South Dakota State University.


The laboratory is a centralized resource that provides timely and accurate testing and diagnostic services to livestock producers, veterinarians and other agricultural, food and health professionals.   The lab is led by Dr. Jane Christopher-Hennings and staffed by 60 full-time employees and 13 SDSU faculty members, including veterinarians, pathologists, bacteriologists, food safety microbiologists and more.  It also provides “hands-on” paid training for nearly 30 undergraduate students each year.


“If a farmer or rancher has health issues in their herds or flocks, the laboratory can diagnose what may have caused the problem and can work together with their local veterinarian in solving the problem and provide recommendations to prevent further losses,” said Dr. Christopher-Hennings. “For companion animals, we can also provide pathology diagnosis of cancerous tumors so that treatments can be recommended through a veterinarian.”


SD ADRDL also has a Food Safety section that provides testing to make sure that local food processing plants are free from foodborne pathogens and to test food products throughout the U.S. in the event there is a foodborne pathogen outbreak.


A recent renovation and expansion provided significant upgrades to facilities that were originally constructed in 1967 and 1993.  In recent years, the lab has processed about 500,000 samples each year.  In addition to resources in serology, molecular diagnostics, virology, food safety, bacteriology, necropsy/pathology, clinical pathology and parasitology, for diagnosing illnesses, the laboratory also has researchers that can study new and emerging diseases to develop new ways to diagnose, prevent and control them.  


The recent additions included a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) facility to contain dangerous pathogens in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak.  With the COVID-19 outbreak, the lab has become certified to perform tests in humans, and is using the BSL-3 space to process human COVID-19 tests.


Keeping animals healthy and monitoring for disease outbreaks is important for human health, too, said Dr. Christopher-Hennings.


“There are several diseases that are ‘zoonotic’ which can pass between people and animals, including rabies, tularemia, influenza, anthrax and brucellosis,” she said.  “Veterinarians and farmers are on the frontlines of detecting some of these diseases in animals early in order to prevent transmission to people.


The lab is part of several federal networks that monitor nationwide for both animal disease and foodborne illness outbreaks. 

“Providing access to testing and science-based diagnosis is a very important part keeping our food supply, our farms and our communities safe and healthy,” said Dr. Christopher-Hennings. “We appreciate all the support that the South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory has received from the agriculture community in the state and look forward to continued work together.”

Fri, 16 Oct 2020 09:13:00 -0500
The Evolution of Custom Silage Choppers by Steve Dick When I was a young boy, it was a major production when the custom silage cutter came to our farm! Brothers Hank and Leonard Anderson and  their crew would come to the farm with their International 826 tractor pulling a Gehl two row silage cutter, a fleet of small trucks, and a silage blower.  It really was an orchestrated effort watching all of the pieces move into place.

However, the real orchestrated effort was the detail and the work my mother put into feeding the small army.   Feeding the crew of a dozen involved her planning to have enough beef, pork, potatoes, vegetables and pies on hand to ensure that no one went away hungry.  To serve a sit-down meal it meant moving a dining table into the living room and using every leaf to expand the table.  On the rare occasion I would get a seat at the table and listen to the banter amongst the crew talking about the yield of the crop, who was slowest driver, their next job — all things that made me feel like I was part of the crew!

The whole process usually took three days: two days to fill the earthen bunker and one day to fill the upright silo.  I don’t remember the total acres chopped, but it probably was no more than 40.  

 In comparison, this week a custom chopper will come to my family’s small farm in McCook County.   They will arrive with a 10-row silage cutter, two trucks and one tractor to push the silage.  Because of changes to seed genetics they will harvest about 15 acres to get the same amount of silage that my father had to harvest 40 acres to achieve.

The entire process will take about two hours. There will be no stick-to-your-ribs roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy lunch; no taking half of a day to setup; the entire process will look very different from what is was in my childhood days.  

However, some things never change. The custom silage chopping crew that will come to our farm is two brothers, Kevin and Jim Hoffman.   

After they are done at our small farm they will move on to the neighbor’s 2,000 cow dairy farm where they will join another custom crew to chop 1,000 plus acres in less than a week!

Tue, 25 Aug 2020 14:16:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Tom Van Assalt As summer winds down, South Dakota gardens and farmers markets are overflowing with fresh produce, which also means many of us are busy canning, freezing or pickling so that we can enjoy those fruits and vegetables all year long. 

South Dakota beef and dairy producers are gearing up for something very similar, although on a much larger scale than the canning we’re doing in our home kitchens. Each year, South Dakota farmers harvest about 350,000 acres of corn for silage, producing about 6 million tons of feed for dairy and beef cattle. Just like preserving foods at home, farmers must follow a careful process to ensure the safety and quality of the crops so that it is a good nutrition source for cattle throughout the year.

Tom Van Assalt  from Colton, South Dakota, is a beef nutritionist and consultant has owned Cattleplus Consulting since 2008. He works with South Dakota farmers who raise and finish beef cattle, helping them design and manage their animals’ feed rations, or diets, to ensure they stay healthy and grow as expected.

“Nutrition is key to animals’ performance and well-being,” said Tom. “A healthy rumen has benefits for cattle’s immune systems, so not only is good nutrition important for their beef production, it is important for their health and wellbeing. That results in better quality beef for consumers.”

Tom also works with farmers to develop rations that make the most of the crops they grow themselves, including hay and corn silage.

“We take a look at the farm’s inventory of feed ingredients and test them for nutrient content and quality, then put together a program that will meet their goals for feeding livestock,” he said. “The amount of land each farmer puts toward the crops each year as well as growing conditions will change their inventories and nutritional content, so we have to monitor and adjust diets on a regular basis.”

Silage is the term for when corn stalks or other cereal grasses are chopped, then compacted and stored in airtight conditions to be used as feed for cattle. In South Dakota, several crops like oats, rye, and alfalfa made into silage, but this time of year farmers are focused on corn silage. 

“For corn, we are harvesting while the stalks are green and the kernels are not yet mature to capitalize on the digestibility and nutrient value of the stalks and leaves,” he said. “Moisture and the sugars in the plant will help the chopped plants ferment so they are preserved and can be stored to feed all year.”

There are several steps that are critical for creating good quality silage. It must be harvested at the right moisture level, then chopped into even lengths. Most farmers today store silage in bunker silos on the ground with cement walls. As each load comes from the field, it is packed down and leveled to push out as much of the oxygen as possible. When the bunker silo is full, it is covered with a tarp to keep air out. Most farmers also add silage inoculant product which encourages the growth of the bacteria that ferment and preserve the crop.

“Farmers have to be flexible and ready to react when it is time to harvest, then manage the silage pile when it is packed and fed,” he said. “If it is managed carefully, the silage will be a fresh and high quality feed source.”

Properly stored silage can be used for up to two years, said Tom, but most farmers plan their inventory to last just over a year to allow time for the next year’s harvest. 

Curious about how silage process works?  Check out a video here 

Tue, 25 Aug 2020 13:44:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Steve Rommereim Stepping up to volunteer for county, state and even national agriculture organizations is a great opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of agriculture industry and build friendships and leadership skills.  Getting involved also ensures that your perspective is included in decisions that could impact your farm or the entire industry.  Steve Rommereim, pork producer from Alcester, South Dakota, shared his thoughts as he wraps up six years of service as a board member on the National Pork Board, including serving a term as board president.  

“If you want to make a change, you can’t do it at the coffee shop, you have to do it in the board room,” he said. “The time commitment I’ve invested over the years has paid me back four or five times over in the experiences, networks and friendships I’ve made.  It has been an amazing opportunity.”  

The National Pork Board is responsible for the education, promotion and research activities that the Pork Checkoff carries out on behalf of America’s pork producers.  It is led by a diverse group of 15 board members from all across America.

Steve began volunteering with local and county pork producers’ associations in 1985 and served in a number leadership roles over the years, including 10 years on the board of South Dakota Pork Producers and serving as chair of Ag United for South Dakota. He noted that these experiences prepared him well for working at the national level. 

“South Dakota is fairly unique in that we have a wide variety in our pork industry with small producers, large producers, colonies, and contract producers, as well as processors,” he said.  “As a representative of South Dakota, I could bring the perspective of many areas of the industry and help to make sure that all segments were represented by checkoff dollars.” 

His most memorable experiences have been the opportunities to meet with leaders of companies and countries where U.S. pork products are sold.  He has traveled to Mexico, China, Japan and Portugal, all important export markets for U.S. products.

“It has been fascinating to get a global view of how the world works, and to get an idea of the volume it takes to feed the world,” he said.  

The National Pork Board also undertook a strategic planning process while Steve was on the board, reviewing and revamping a number of processes to be able to be proactive and flexible in a changing industry.

“With as quickly as things change in today’s world, we don’t have a year or more to conduct research on issues that might impact farmers.  We need to be more nimble to address challenges, and we’ve seen that most recently with COVID-19,” he said. 

Steve has taken a new role both on his farm and professional life.  He and his wife, Charlotte, are transitioning the family farm to his daughter Leah and her husband, Josh.  Steve and Charlotte have moved to a smaller home and acreage while Leah and Josh remodel the farmhouse and prepare to be the sixth and seventh generation to live in it with their son, Jameson.  Their daughter Lara and her husband, Matt, farm northeast of Luverne, Minn.  They have two children: Milo, 3, and Ellie, 6 months.  He continues to help with farm work and managing pigs at his finishing facilities.

In May, Steve also began working three days a week as the Director of Membership Outreach and Engagement for South Dakota Pork Producers Council.  His role is to work with members to understand their needs and communicate the benefits and resources available from both state and national organizations.

“I started in this role in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as pork producers were managing through a very difficult time,” he said. “When processing plants were closed or slowed down, it took a lot of clear thinking and management techniques to slow down the growth of the pigs in barns and look for nontraditional markets for pigs.  It has not been easy, and we are still behind in getting pigs to market, but we’ve learned a lot of good lessons to prepare for the future.” 

Thu, 06 Aug 2020 09:47:00 -0500
Covid-19 Affects National Dairy Month COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to nearly all in-person events during National Dairy Month this year, but it didn’t stop South Dakota’s dairy farm families from celebrating and taking time to thank their neighbors and communities during June.  Several dairies partnered with local milk processors or cooperatives and with Midwest Dairy and Ag United to sponsor dairy product giveaway and other promotions.  

For the past 11 years, Royalwood Dairy near Brandon, SD, has opened their doors to the public for a Breakfast on the Farm event that has hosted up to 1,800 people for a farm tour, breakfast and kids’ activities.  With no event this year, the farm is a lot quieter, but the Ode family is still sharing their story and reaching out to Brandon and surrounding communities.  

This year family members participated in radio station interviews and partnered with Midwest Dairy and Ag United to give away $1,000 worth of milk in the Brandon and Sioux Falls areas.  

“We are a family farm that has farmed in the Brandon community since the 1800s and we take pride in our farm and caring for our cows and land,” said Doug Ode.  “We strive to produce the highest quality forages that we possibly can so that our cows produce high quality milk.” 

Royalwood Farms was established in 1983 when both Gregg Ode and Doug Ode returned to the family farm after graduating from South Dakota State University.  They milk about 440 cows and raise corn and alfalfa.  All the crops they raise are fed back to the milking herd. Greg’s son Alex is also involved in the day-to-day operation of the dairy farm. 

The Schultz family of Schultz Bros. Dairy near Freeman partnered with Midwest Dairy, Ag United and AMPI to sponsor a milk, butter and cheese giveaway in the Freeman community. The product giveaway was a way to say “thank you” to the community during a year when social distancing prevented some of the activities that the Schultzes have done in the past, including small group tours, classroom visits and product donations to community events. 

“This is the first time we’ve done a dairy giveaway for the entire community,” said John Schultz, owner of Schultz Bros Dairy. “The response has been very positive.  We were receiving texts and phone calls thanking us when the paper was put on the Freeman Courier web site a day before the publication was mailed out.”

John and Jeff Schultz own and operate the dairy, with their parents Mike and Vicki, involved in the daily operation of the farm.  John and Jeff transitioned the dairy from their parents in 2002 and began an expansion, currently milking 2000 cows, farm 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa. 

“We appreciate the support we receive from our community, including employees, neighbors, and businesses, that are involved in getting our milk from the farm to the table,” said Jeff Schultz.  “We are fortunate to have many businesses in the immediate area that are able to meet our needs and keep our dairy as an asset to the community.” 

Kevin and Tanya  VanWinkle started VanWinkle Dairy near Canistota in 2006, where they currently milk 2,000 cows.  The started doing community milk giveaways several years ago, and partnered with Midwest Dairy, Agropur, and Ag United to provide milk and cheese to Canistota area residents this year.

Kevin said the giveaways are a good opportunity to show appreciate for community members and let them know that we appreciate being part of the community.  He noted that the thank you’s they receive also mean a lot.

“We truly enjoy taking care of our animals and watching them grow and mature into amazing animals that produce such a wholesome and nutritious food product that people in our community and around the world can enjoy and grow on,” said VanWinkle.

The Moes family was looking forward to hosting their annual Dairy Day on the farm event at MoDak Dairy near Kranzburg again this year, but were still able to continue their tradition of providing a free gallon of milk to neighbors and residents of Kranzburg this year.  They also shared cheese sticks with contractors in the area to celebrate National Dairy Month.

“We appreciate our neighbors, so when we need services, we try to work with local farms for our dairy’s needs,” said Greg Moes.  “We are here to stay for the next 125 years with our community supporting us.

The Moes family was recently recognized as a South Dakota Quasquicentennial Farm, owned and operated by 4thgeneration James Moes and Greg Moes and 5th generation Jacob Moes and Matthew Moes.  They milk 2,000 cows grow corn, alfalfa, wheat and rye.

To learn more about the dairy industry and find recipes and health information, visit  You can also follow South Dakota Farm Families, Midwest Dairy and the South Dakota Dairy Ambassadors on various social media outlets.

Tue, 14 Jul 2020 14:03:00 -0500
July Profile: Ashley Gelderman Ashley Gelderman is a nutritionist who spends her days developing diet plans that meet very specific nutritional needs for her clients at every stage of their lives.  But, instead of humans, Ashley’s clients are pigs. 

As a monogastric nutritionist for Standard Nutrition Company, Ashley works with pig and poultry farmers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana to develop feed rations that keep animals healthy and growing at every stage of development.  She also ensures that the diets are appropriate for the barns animals live in and makes the most of local feed ingredients available to farmers.   

“From a 15 pound weaned pig to a 280 pound pig ready for market, the farmers may change the rations 10 to 12 times to make sure pigs are getting the right combination of energy, protein and other ingredients to fit their needs,” she said.  “There is no one-size-fits-all; every farmer is unique and we tailor diets to their pigs, situation and environment.”

In addition to designing diets to meet pig’s nutritional needs, Ashley and other nutritionists take into account what feed ingredients are grown in the area or are readily available. For example, corn is the primary energy source in a pig’s diet in midwestern states, while it might be wheat in western or southern U.S.  In South Dakota, the main protein source for pigs is soybean meal.  Farmers also add a combination of minerals, vitamins and amino acids to complete the ration.  

Another important part of Ashley’s job is to work with farmers to ensure that they are on track with industry assessments and third party audits required for the pork industry, such as Pork Quality Assurance and other certifications. 

Ashley grew up on a 4000 head sow farm near Salem, South Dakota, where she enjoyed caring for baby pigs and developed a passion for the caring for animals. 

“I knew I wanted my career to tie back to pigs in some way, shape or form,” she said.

She earned a B.S. in Animal Science and a Masters degree in Monogastric Nutrition at South Dakota State University and has worked at Standard Nutrition for six years. 

Many pig farmers had to adjust their management practices and plans quickly in April after employees at pork processing plants in South Dakota and other states fell ill with the COVID-19 virus and plants were slowed or temporarily closed.  Some farmers were left with no options to take pigs that were ready or nearly ready for market.  (Click here to learn more about the food system and the impacts of COVID-19 on farmers, processors, retailers, restaurants and more.)

Nutritionists like Ashley worked with many producers to formulate special diets or change other factors in their environment to slow down the pigs’ feeding and growth for a short time until processing plants were back in operation.

“It was a complete 180 degree turn from what we are used to doing,” she said, noting that in normal circumstances nutritionists’ goals are to keep pigs growing at a steady and healthy rate. 

A number of farmers adjusted feed rations to continue meeting pigs’ nutrient needs, but dialed back fat and protein intake, said Gelderman.  In addition, because pigs typically don’t grow as quickly during the summer months, farmers took steps to mimic more summer-like conditions during the cooler temperatures of March and April, including raising the temperatures in barns by a few degrees.  

“This was not something that we or the farmers wanted to do, but it was in the best interest of the animals,” she said.  “We stayed in constant communications with farmers and if we saw changes in the animal behavior like they were aggressive or agitated, we would make adjustments to their diets.”  

The response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on South Dakota pork industry highlights the important role that nutritionists, veterinarians, and other industry professionals bring to South Dakota farmers to keep animals healthy and manage their businesses through difficult times.  

Wed, 08 Jul 2020 18:10:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Ferlyn Hofer The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives over the past several months, from school and event cancellations, store and workplace closures and limited supplies of food and other products.  We thank the essential workers in every industry who have worked diligently to keep us healthy, fed and safe, and send our condolences to those who have been sick or have lost loved ones to the virus.  For the June Featured Farmer Profile, we spoke with Ferlyn Hofer, one of the South Dakota farmers who have been impacted by closures of pork processing plants.  


Ferlyn Hofer began farming and raising pigs near Canistota, South Dakota, in 1978.  He currently farms with his wife, Karen. Their son Nolan works full time on the farm, and Ryan is a full time electrician and crop farms with his parents. 

The Hofers operate a farrow-to-finish farm, meaning they raise pigs from birth until those animals are ready for processing.  After pigs are born and kept with sows for 14 to 21 days, they are moved to barns to finish until they weigh about 275 pounds.  

For years, the Hofer family has delivered pigs to Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls.  Their business, along with many other farmers in South Dakota and neighboring states, changed very quickly after the employees at the plant fell ill with the COVID-19 virus and the plant was temporarily closed in April.  Processing plants in other states were closing as well, so there were no options to take pigs that were ready for market. (Click here to learn more about the food system and the impacts of COVID-19 on farmers, processors, retailers, restaurants and more.)

The pigs are raised in climate-controlled barns to protect them from disease as well as ever-changing South Dakota weather conditions. These barns are carefully planned to hold a consistent number of pigs – after one group of pigs is moved out, there are new piglets ready to move into that space in the barn.  The barns are designed to be efficient and make sure each pen has what growing pigs need.  Holding market-ready pigs for extra days, weeks, or months puts significant pressure on the systems, animal health, and barn capacity. 

Faced with hundreds of pigs that were ready for market, but no confirmation on when the plant would re-open and knowing there would be a large backlog when it did, a number of South Dakota farmers quickly looked for other opportunities to sell pigs. 

“We found out on a Saturday that the plant was shutting down.  After talking with my sons and to livestock auctions in the area, we realized that we were up against the wall,” said Ferlyn.  “That Tuesday, my son created a Facebook post offering to sell groups of 25 to 30 pigs at $100 per pig, hoping that a few people might be interested in meat for their freezer.  My cell phone didn’t stop ringing for days – we were completely overwhelmed.”

The Hofers had sold pigs direct to people before, but just one or two at a time, mostly to friends and neighbors. In direct-from-farm sales, individuals typically purchase the animal from a farmer, then it is delivered to a local locker for processing.  However, the family wasn’t initially prepared for the amount of calls and logistics required to coordinate deliveries, pickups and processing times for hundreds of pigs.  Hofer said the first question was always to make sure that when someone was interested, they had made contact with a local meat processing plant or locker that would be able to process the hogs.

“I can’t say enough good things about all of the local lockers who have increased capacity to help out all the pig farmers who were trying to find places to take hogs,” he said.  “They’ve been working nonstop this entire time and you can’t find better people anywhere than those working at the lockers across South Dakota and other states”

The Hofers received calls from people across South Dakota as well as Idaho, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oklahoma and more.  In many cases, people formed groups with friends and neighbors to be able to purchase 25 to 30 pigs, then divide the meat after it is processed.  Ferlyn also worked with several lockers or meat processing plants to deliver directly, then the plants sold finished meat to their customers.

“We were so humbled by the outreach and it was eye-opening to see the demand for pork in places where it isn’t easily available,” he said.  “I’ve been blessed by the opportunity to meet so many people who are buying pork direct from a farmer for the first time.  It was a new experience for many of them to be able to get boxes with smoked ham, pork roasts, sausage, ribs and more.”

As past-president of South Dakota Pork Producers Council, Ferlyn has seen the impact on producers across the state.  

“We were all in this situation together, and it was impressive to see so many people working together to help each other,” he said.  

The health of the pigs was a priority for farmers and the veterinarians, nutritionists and other professionals they work with, and farmers did their best to minimize overcrowding and other health issues.

“For farmers and veterinarians, our goal in life is to make sure pigs are as healthy as possible and produce the highest quality pork products as we can,” he said.

One risk to farms from increased direct selling is biosecurity.  Inside barns, pigs are protected from disease and there are strict protocols for entering and delivering supplies to the barns.  Trucks that deliver direct to processing plants follow similar protocols to ensure the health of the pigs and prevent disease from spreading between farms.  

“Every time a trailer would arrive to pick up a small group of pigs, we asked about exposure to other pigs, and try to be as careful as possible to keep all the animals in the barn safe,” said Ferlyn. 

Ferlyn expects the relationships he’s built with many of his new customers to last well into the future and has already had some people place orders for hogs in the fall or next spring.  However, he is also very eager for the processing plants to be back to more normal capacity and to bring consistency back to his farm and the industry.

“This was the avenue we had to take and it worked for us this time, but I don’t know if it could have happened the same way during the winter or another time of year,” he said. “We don’t know what the future holds, we are just very thankful to everyone who worked extra hours or went out of their way to support all of the farmers here in South Dakota.”

NOTE:  The South Dakota Pork Producers Council maintains lists of South Dakota farmers independently selling pigs as well as local lockers and meat processing facilities.  For more information, click on the Producer Resources tab of their website.


Fri, 05 Jun 2020 13:18:00 -0500
Featured Farmer: Zane Williams FEATURED FARMER:  Livestock Have Been Important for Generations on South Dakota Farm

The farm that Zane Williams’ great uncle homesteaded 125 years ago has changed over the years, but there has been one constant: livestock have always been an important part of the farm for each of the four generations that have lived there.

“In 125 years on our farm, we have never sold corn off the farm. The corn we raise always gets fed to livestock, whether that is dairy cows, beef cattle or hogs,” said Williams.

Zane and his wife Sandy live near Irene, South Dakota, in Yankton County, where he feeds cattle and raises corn, soybeans and hay. He specializes in raising high quality alfalfa hay for dairy farms. Williams is also a member of the Yankton County Planning and Zoning Commission and one of the founding members of the Families Feeding Families-AGvocacy! group that shares information about agriculture with area students and community members.

Williams grew up on the family’s dairy farm. He was the youngest of five children, and his father had health issues, so he began taking a lot of responsibility on the farm at a very early age. He operated his own dairy farm until 2001, then raised Holstein heifers for other dairies. He has also raised pigs and and continues to raise beef cattle.

Each year, Williams raises about 500 acres of hay, which is baled into large square or round bales and sold for feed for dairy cows or beef cattle. Timing and weather are important elements to ensure that the hay is the highest quality. He also stores square bales in sheds to preserve quality before they are trucked to dairy farms.

“The last two years, the weather has been very challenging,” he said. “During the summer, we’re constantly looking at the weather forecast for the next two weeks to see if we can find a stretch of days that will stay dry.”

Williams tries to get four or five cuttings of alfalfa off each field during the growing season, harvesting each field every 27 to 30 days. After it is swathed, the hay lays in the field for a few days to dry down to the right moisture content, then is raked and baled.

“We do everything we can to preserve the hay and get it dry so it will provide the best feed value for cattle,” he said. “Constant rain and high humidity make that very difficult.”

He has been a member of the Yankton County Planning and Zoning Commission for several years. The commission is responsible for reviewing applications and information on plats and building projects throughout rural areas of the county; including new or expanded facilities for raising livestock.

“Adding livestock production to a farm often gives the family’s next generation an opportunity to join the farming business”, he said, noting that it is important for farmers to stay in communication with their neighbors and be proactive when considering new barns for their farms. A number of resources are available to farmers as they plan and design facilities to ensure that they meet zoning requirements, as well as provide the best environment for animals and preserve natural resources.

Williams is also involved in Families Feeding Families-AGvocacy! which is a group of family farmers that include  livestock producers and grain farmers who work together to share information about how they raise animals and care for the land they farm.

“As people, even here in South Dakota, many are generations removed from living on a farm, it is more important than ever that we talk about what we do,” he said. “The technologies and tools we have today mean farmers can take better care of their animals and land, and raise food more efficiently, but that also requires farmers to make a huge dollar investment.”

The Families Feeding Families-AGvocacy! annual Farm Families Speak Up! will start at 5pm on Saturday, March 21, in Yankton. It will feature a meal, silent auction and live music. The keynote speaker is comedian Damian Mason and Trent Loos will serve as MC. All are welcome, admission is a free will donation. 


Sun, 08 Mar 2020 14:16:00 -0500
FEBRUARY PROFILE: Livestock Shows Provide Business, Networking and Outreach Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers 83112288_10151378690204990_6672748512045694976_n.jpgLivestock shows have been an important tradition for U.S. farmers and ranchers for more than a hundred years. Beginning in the early 1900s, groups of farmers would bring together cattle to showcase the latest genetics, sell animals and share information on caring for animals, growing crops and new technologies for the farm.  

“Before radio, television and the internet, getting together to promote genetics, evaluate livestock and learn from each other as producers were all important reasons for fat stock shows,” said Holly Rader, agribusiness division manager for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.   

Over the decades, technology in communication and agriculture have changed significantly, but livestock shows are still important to the industry.  They’ve also evolved to share information about animal agriculture and livestock production with the public.

The Sioux Empire Livestock Show held its 67th annual show in January 21-25 at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls.  The show is coordinated and hosted by the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Division and has grown to include not only livestock competitions for agriculturalists and youth competitors, but also includes a trade show, educational seminars, judging competitions and exhibits, as well as activities for the public. 

Each year the show draws over 1,000 exhibitors of cattle, pigs, sheep and goats, and, in conjunction with the Sioux Falls Farm Show, brings over 30,000 visitors and an estimated $3 million economic impact to the Sioux Falls area.  83005260_10151378690324990_3085277726878203904_n.jpg

Rader said the 2020 show was a tremendous success, even though they felt the pinch of a difficult farm economy this year with fewer purebred cattle consignors traveling to the show.

“We worked hard to put together a series of educational presentations and seminars so that it was still worth the trip for producers to come to the show, even if they weren’t able to make the commitment to exhibit their livestock this year,” she said. 

The final day of the show is one of the highlights for Rader.  On Saturday, more than 500 young people participate in livestock judging competitions, including about 250 4-H and FFA students and nearly 300 collegiate students from across the country.  They evaluate animals and explain their decisions to judges on why one animal is better or worse than the others and how it will perform better or worse, regardless of market avenue.

“The skills and confidence students develop while evaluating livestock, forming their own opinion of how the animals will perform, then organizing their thoughts and presenting to the judges will help them succeed in their education endeavors and throughout their life,” she said. 

84092158_177905100236511_4329988510871191552_o.jpgLocal, regional and national livestock shows happen across the country, with each having its own focus and niche in the industry. The Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo is underway in Rapid City from January 31 to February 8, which will draw 331,000 people to the western festival that features 120 different livestock, horse and rodeo events along with over 300 vendors to shop from. 

Rader is a Texas native who moved to Sioux Falls in 2017.  She was born and raised on a small cattle operation in south Texas and was involved in 4-H and FFA.  She graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in animal science and was a member of the school’s championship livestock judging team.  After then graduating with her Master’s degree from Oklahoma State University, she worked as the auctions manager for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo before making the move to South Dakota.

The Agribusiness Division of the Chamber includes over 70 members who are active throughout the year, with 15 voting members on the advisory council.  It takes more than 200 volunteers to plan and execute the Sioux Empire Livestock Show each year.

“Our goal is to strengthen ties between the city and agriculture community, which includes providing some 27709473_783391688452858_5781065360541717998_o.jpgeducational programming and exhibits for consumers at the Sioux Empire Livestock Show to emphasize the importance of agriculture in our region and our world,” said Rader. “It takes an entire village to put on the events each year and the business community really comes together to put make everything a success.”

The Agri-Business Division also hosts an annual meeting each spring to recognize the hundreds of volunteers, buyers, and sponsors. Retiring members of the Agri-Business Division Advisory Council are honored along with the Farm Family of the Year, the Agri-Business Citizen of the Year, the buyers at the Mayor´s Round-Up and Sale of Champions, and the Outstanding Livestock Show Volunteers.  The 2020 Farm Family of the Year is the Eggers family, and the 2020 Agri-Business Citizen of the Year is Brian Gilbert

“Agriculture is the backbone of Sioux Falls, our state and our region,” she said.  “When I talk to people at Chamber events or programs, I emphasize that If you are wearing clothes or have eaten a meal, agriculture is important to you,” she said.  “When the ag economy struggles, every industry and community in our state struggles; and when agriculture thrives, everyone does.”  


Wed, 05 Feb 2020 15:10:00 -0600
2020 Ag United Summer Intern IMG_2349.jpg

POSITION TITLE:  Intern, Summer full-time paid position located in Sioux Falls, SD (Position is also shared with Midwest Dairy.) 


*Weekend of South Dakota State Fair is a required activity. Other start and end dates depend on applicants school schedule. 

Application Deadline: January 24th, 2020 

Please include cover letter, resume, and at least 2 references.

Intern will work out of and be supervised by the Ag United for South Dakota office in Sioux Falls, SD. 

Agriculture United for South Dakota is a coalition of farm organizations formed in 2005 with a goal of keeping family farms and ranches growing. Coalition members of Ag United includes: the South Dakota Cattleman's Association, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, South Dakota Pork Producers Council, the South Dakota Soybean Association, the South Dakota Dairy Producers and the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association.  

Ag United works toward promoting and advancing farm and ranch families and rural communities with four guiding principles:

  • Developing communications on the connection between farm life and South Dakota's economic and social well-being.
  • Engaging those who do not tell the truth about agriculture and food production.
  • Educating consumers about the importance of food production.
  • Providing assistance to South Dakota farmers and ranchers.  


Assist with planning and carrying out events. This is a snapshot of some of the activities that will be completed over the summer.  

  1. Farms After Five farm tours – Designed to take South Dakota consumers to the farm, this position helps in organizing details for these events including the farms, ag professionals on the bus, participants, meal, promotion and materials for the day.
  2. Open Houses – Several open houses are hosted through-out the summer to early fall.  Open houses are an opportunity for the public to visit South Dakota dairy, hog and beef farms. Intern will assist with promoting the event, obtain sponsors and ordering supplies for this event. 
  3. Sioux Empire Fair, State Fair – Work the dairy booth at both events and promote dairy to consumers at Sioux Empire Fair. 
  4. Golf Tournaments – Help with set up, registration, and working various golf activities for Ag United coalition members.  

Public Relations 

  1. This position will require blog posts on a timely agriculture related issues.
  2. Develop marketing and promotional materials for various Ag United events and programs.  
  3. Communicate with the general public and answer questions about today’s agriculture
  4. Manage social media accounts and online activities.  This includes but is not limited to:
    1. Ag United’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and YouTube accounts.  
    2. Ag United’s website.
    3. Ag United’s email list  


  • Answer various email and phone inquires.
  • Perform daily office management duties such as ordering office supplies, making copies, picking up mail, and answering the phone.
  • Other duties as assigned. 



  • Reports to work and completes tasks in a timely manner
  • Adheres to all policies and procedures
  • Acts as a role model within and outside the organization
  • Performs duties as workload necessitates
  • Maintains a positive and respectful attitude
  • Maintains a demeanor that creates positive team atmosphere
  • Communicates regularly with supervisor
  • Travels as directed for various meetings and events.


  • Enrolled in a bachelors degree program.  
  • Agricultural industry career experience or an ag background preferred.
  • Must have excellent communications skills with the ability to work with the public.
  • Excellent organizational skills, time management, customer service and problem-solving skills.
  • Ability to multi-task several projects and activities at one time.
  • Strong work ethic and able to work independently or as part of a team.
  • Ability to work with computer systems including Microsoft Office and design programs.
  • Available to work weekends and evenings to implement programs and events.
  • Have reliable transportation to and from work. 
  • General design, picture and video editing skills is helpful.  


Working conditions include farm settings and a normal office environment, travel within the state. Some lifting is required. Must have valid drivers license. Proof of car insurance is required to drive company vehicle. Some weekends and evenings will be required.

This job description is only a summary of the typical functions of the job, not a comprehensive list of all possible job responsibilities, tasks and duties.  The Executive Director reserves the right to amend and change responsibilities to meet business and organizational needs as necessary.  Employee may be asked to perform other duties as assigned. 


Ag United for South Dakota

PO Box 507

Sioux Falls, SD 57101


Fri, 17 Jan 2020 10:48:00 -0600
Adam Mohrhauser named 2019 AgVocate of the Year DSC_0004.jpgAnswering questions from a roomful of fourth graders would strike fear in the heart of many South Dakotans, but for Adam Mohrhauser, it is one of the highlights of his year.   

Adam serves as an adopted farmer for Ag United’s program that connects farmers and ranchers with fourth grade classrooms across the state.  He sends a video each month that highlights activities from the farm each month, from harvest or planting to calving season.  Once a year he visits each classroom in person.

“It is fun to hear what they are interested in and every time the questions are different,” he said.  “My daughter is the same age, so the students are interested in and ask about many of the same things she does at home.”

As recognition for his work as an adopted farmer and other outreach activities, Adam was named the 2019 AgVocate of the Year by the board of directors for Ag United in December.  Adam farms with his father, Gilbert, on farmland between Hartford and Crooks, northwest of Sioux Falls.  They raise corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa and cover crops and also have about 120 beef cows that calve in January and February each year.

Adam and his wife, Ye, have a daughter Chanel, who is 9 years old.  Adam met Ye when they were both IMG_0708.jpginterns at John Morrell.  She is a nurse at Sanford hospital.

Adam has been participating in the Adopt-A-Farmer program since the 2014-15 school year, currently working with classrooms in Humbolt, Mitchell and Harrisburg.  In addition to sharing farm updates, he tries to find ways for students to connect the math and other skills they are learning in the classroom with real-world examples like calculating how much feed a cow eats in a month or year, or how much corn or soybeans are produced in a field.  

He sees value in outreach programs because it is an opportunity to share information with students who may be two, three or more generations removed from production agriculture. 

“Many people drive by fields of corn or soybeans every day, but don’t know anything about what the crop looks like or how it can be used,” said Adam.  During classroom visits, he brings samples of corns, soybeans, and cattle feed rations so students can touch, smell and feel them.  


In addition to his volunteer activities with Ag United, Mohrhauser serves on the Lyons Township Board, Sioux Basin Cattlemen board, Minnehaha County Planning and Zoning Commission, St George’s Knights of Columbus board and volunteers for Minnehaha County 4-H and Tri Valley FFA Alumni. 

“Adam’s work as a community volunteer and leader is a tremendous example of the positive impact that farmers and ranchers have on communities across the state,” said Richard Vasgaard, Centerville farmer and president of the Ag United board of directors. “We appreciate his commitment and service.”

Learn more about the Mohrhauser farm by reading this profile from 2017

Thu, 09 Jan 2020 14:05:00 -0600
Featured Farmer: Focused on Top Quality Beef for the Holidays and All Year Long 4H0A0689.jpgLike many South Dakota families, prime rib will be the centerpiece of the holiday table for the Bieber family this year.  For more than 40 years, it has been a tradition to serve beef at their Christmas dinner.

It has special significance for the family because the work they do on their Bieber Red Angus Ranch all throughout the year is focused on improving the quality, health and efficiency of beef raised on their ranch and across the country.

Bieber Red Angus Ranch was founded by Ron and Lois Bieber near Leola, in north central South Dakota, in the late 1950s.  Their son Craig and his wife Peggy run the ranch today along with five employees, including their daughter and son-in-law.  They began raising Red Angus breed cattle in 1966.

Over the years, the ranch has grown into one of the 30 largest seedstock ranches in the United States.  A seedstock ranch raises cattle that are purchased by other ranches as breeding stock for their herd.  The Biebers have about 900 registered Red Angus cows in their herd.  Cows and their calves are registered with the breed association to record their pedigree, or family history, and document genetic and performance traits.4H0A0058.JPG

“Our goal is to produce high quality bulls that will help other ranches improve the genetics of their herd, resulting in higher quality beef,” said Craig Bieber.  “We use a variety of genetic and performance data to select cattle that are both efficient and will produce great-tasting, quality beef.”

The Biebers raise calves born on the ranch, then sell them as bulls or heifers to other ranches.  They have three large sales each year, two in South Dakota and one in Georgia for customers in the southeastern U.S. Each year they sell about 550 to 600 bulls. 

The Biebers have been early adopters of a number of technologies that help them better predict performance of their animals, such as using ultrasound for carcass testing.  They also respond to changing consumer trends and preferences such as leaner beef or smaller steak cuts by breeding and raising animals that will meet those demands.   

Improved genetics in their herds can also help ranchers boost the efficiency of beef production. 


“We want cattle to be better ‘upcyclers’ by being able to more efficiently turn the grass and feed they eat into more beef,” he said, noting that cattle eat grass or forage for about 75 to 80 percent of their lives. 

“Across the industry, beef producers are using improved genetics and management practices to raise more beef with fewer animals,” he said.  That results in better use of land and resources on ranches as well as beef feedlots and processing plants.

Learn more about Bieber Red Angus Ranch and see photos of the cattle and the team that raises and cares for them on their website and Facebook page. 

The Biebers have been active in the beef industry and promotion efforts for decades. Craig is a past president of the South Dakota Red Angus Association and has served on the South Dakota Beef Industry Council and US Meat Export Federation.


In fact, it was Lois’ work with beef promotion programs in the late 1970s that prompted her to make the switch from a more traditional turkey or ham dinner on Christmas to prime rib. Click here for more information on selecting, preparing and serving prime rib dishes for the holiday season and all year long!

Wed, 11 Dec 2019 10:35:00 -0600
South Dakota Sports Rivalry Goes Beyond the Field and Court  


The athletic rivalry between the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University dates back 130 years to the first football meeting of the two universities in 1889.  Over the years, the schools have competed in more than 560 collegiate athletics head-to-head match-ups in football, basketball, volleyball, softball, women’s soccer, women’s tennis.  They also compete in Summit League competitions for track and field, golf and swimming and diving. 

The friendly rivalry was taken to a new level with the creation of the South Dakota Showdown Series presented by South Dakota Corn in 2012.  The Showdown Series tracks head-to-head matchups and conference championship results in 16 sports with each school accumulating points toward the overall series championship. The Series also recognizes outstanding academic achievement by the schools’ student-athletes.

The school with the most points each year receives a trophy and bragging rights, but the biggest winner in the showdown is Feeding South Dakota, a statewide not-for-profit with the goal of ending hunger in South Dakota.  It has also provided an opportunity for the state’s farmers to share information about modern agriculture in South Dakota.   

“Over the first seven years, the Showdown Series has donated more than $300,000 to our efforts, which has provided more than 900,000 meals to South Dakotans in need,” said Matt Gassen, CEO of Feeding South Dakota.  “That alone is a huge number.  In addition, the partnership has led to relationships with other agriculture organizations and companies as well as increased awareness and fundraising efforts by students and athletic programs at both schools.”

The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council has been the title sponsor of the program from the beginning, in partnership with Learfield Sports on behalf of both SDSU and USD athletic departments.  

“When USD moved back to Division I NCAA competition in 2012, we knew that the in-state rivalry games would capture the attention of students and fans,” said Teddi Mueller, marketing and legislative director for South Dakota Corn.  “It provided a great opportunity for a new program that would start conversations about modern agriculture and food production and support Feeding South Dakota at the same time.  After all, the main mission of South Dakota farmers is to feed people, whether they are around the world or in the communities across our state.” 

Mueller said the Showdown Series has gained momentum and excitement with each season, resulting in new promotions and activities at the series competitions and involvement from more students, coaches, fans and businesses each year.  

“The SDSU and USD football game draws interest from current students and generations of alumni. It's a fun time to take pride and support your institution and thousands of South Dakotans are paying attention. As a former player and lifelong resident of the state, I can tell you that it is a special day,” said Jeff Schultz, former SDSU football player and a dairy farmer from Freeman.  “As farmers become more modern and efficient, less labor is required to produce agricultural products. Events like the Showdown are a good way to tell the public, most of whom no longer have a connection to the farm, that their food supply, which is the most abundant, cheapest, and safest in the world, is being produced responsibly and sustainably right here in South Dakota.” 

The program raised $32,000 for Feeding South Dakota in the 2012-13 season, and has increased to about $70,000 each year.  

According to Gassen, one in nine South Dakotans are considered food insecure, and one in six of those are children.  Feeding South Dakota operates three distribution centers that provide food to charities and organizations in all 66 counties in the state.  

“We know we are probably touching more than 100,000 lives each year through Feeding South Dakota’s efforts,” said Gassen, noting that the organization distributed 15.4 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2019. 

The 2019-20 Showdown Series is underway, with USD currently leading the points standing.  The next matchup is the USD and SDSU football game on Saturday, November 23, in Vermillion.  Excitement is already building … watch for more details about gameday activities on social media!

“The game between the Coyotes and the Jacks was one that you didn’t need any extra motivation to get ready for, this game was about bragging rights for the entire state of South Dakota. In my situation, it was also about bragging rights in my own family,” said Brian Alderson, Hartford cattle feeder and former USD football player.  “The idea that two football rivals can come together to help raise awareness and funds to fight hunger in our state is a testament to the giving spirit of South Dakota farm families.” 

“It has been fun to see how the student athletes and coaches have gotten involved in the Showdown Series and Get Off The Bench programs with videos and photos on social media,” said Mueller. 

Attendees at every Showdown Series game can donate to Feeding South Dakota at donation boxes, and anyone can participate in the “Get Off the Bench” program by donating at




Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:27:00 -0600
October Featured Partner – Bruce Vollan, Vollan Oil 1564492919046_vollan_oil.jpgIn a typical year, corn and soybean harvest in South Dakota is in full gear throughout the month of October. However, there has been nothing typical about 2019 for many of our state’s farmers.  With wet weather that delayed or prevented planting, many crops are well behind schedule and farmers are hoping that Mother Nature cooperates for crops to mature and dry in time to harvest before winter weather sets in.

For both corn and soybeans, there is an ideal moisture level for the harvested grain to ensure that it doesn’t spoil or lose quality when it is stored and transported.  In some years, the grain dries naturally in the field and is at about 15 percent moisture when the corn is harvested. In other years, farmers need to harvest when the corn is wetter, so they rely on drying equipment in grain bins to dry the harvested grain to the proper levels. 

In most cases, the drying equipment runs on propane, so good relationships with propane suppliers during busy fall months are important to farmers. 

Bruce Vollan, owner of Vollan Oil in Baltic, South Dakota, delivers a full range of fuel and oil products and has started delivering and selling propane to customers in the past few years. He works closely with farmer customers to make sure their tanks are full and equipment is ready to go when harvest and drying season is underway.

“This year especially, everyone is concerned about harvest timing and quality,” he said.  “Our goal is to get propane supplies to farmers quickly when they are ready to run dryers.”

He pointed out that maintaining grain quality could be an even bigger challenge this year because of wet areas of fields that will cause variability in moisture levels within the field.  Farmers will be monitoring grain bins closely throughout the harvest season and while it is being stored. 

For farmers and Vollan Oil, safety is a top priority during the busy harvest season.  

“We can’t stress safety enough to our employees and everyone we work with,” he said.  “This time of year we need to be very cautious and on the look out for potential issues.” 

Vollan Oil was started as Midway Station in 1921.  In 1978, Bruce’s father began leasing the station and eventually bought the Midway Corner property and Wold Oil Company in 1988.  The business became Vollan Oil Company.

Bruce grew up about 7 miles from the business and attended Garretson schools.  His appreciation for farming and agriculture grew as he worked for several neighbor farms, milking cows, caring for pigs and helping with equipment and field work as needed.

“I enjoyed working with the area farms and became the local ‘fill-in’ for chores when they needed help,” he said.   

He began working at Vollan Oil after school and on weekends when he was 16 and started at the station full-time in 1989.  Bruce, his wife, Pamela, and three children live near Baltic. 

The business has evolved and grown significantly over the past 10 years. 

“It was just my mom, dad and myself with a gas station and a fuel truck, then we started branching out to deliveries and have grown quite a bit,” said Bruce. “Adding blender pumps for ethanol use also diversified our products and helped set us apart.” 

With 4 transports and 6 tank wagons and 11 employees, Vollan Oil now provides a full range of fuel and oil products, including ethanol and biodiesel options as well as propane, diesel exhaust fluid and heating oil.  They work with a variety of ag and commercial customers across South Dakota and into Minnesota and Iowa. 

“We work with a wide variety of customers and are able to give them multiple product options and stay flexible to meet their needs,” said Bruce.

As farmers prepare for another harvest season, so are thousands of partner businesses and service provides across the state.  Like Vollan Oil, they each have an important role in making sure that the harvest is safe and productive for everyone involved.  


Fri, 04 Oct 2019 08:15:00 -0500
Featured Farmer Kevin Hoffman image0000.jpgAs summer winds down, many South Dakota gardeners are busy canning and freezing the bounty of their gardens.  Jars of pickles and other produce or freezers full of sweet corn and tomatoes provide a taste of summer even in the coldest South Dakota winters.  

Livestock farmers take a similar approach to some of their crops to provide a high quality and nutritious source of feed for animals all year long.  One example is corn silage.  Rather than wait until later in the fall to harvested the corn kernels, farmers “chop” the entire plant while it is green in August or September then store in silage piles or bunkers.

The chopped corn plants in silage piles are compacted, then tightly covered and allowed to ferment. Favorable bacteria grows and produces acids to prevent spoilage and preserve the plants as a high quality feed source.  

Kevin Hoffman is a dairy farmer from Dolton, South Dakota, who has also been running a custom chopping business across eastern South Dakota for nine years.  He owns and operates the harvesting equipment and trucks to chop and haul feed for farmers, and works with dairy farmers and beef producers to ensure that crops are cut at the right time to ensure the best feed possible.image0000.jpg

Kevin’s business started by buying the equipment for his own farm, then getting calls by neighbors to help them chop their fields. Every year he continued to chop for neighbors then eventually grew bigger.

“By hiring a custom chopper, farmers can still have an affordable option to get quality feed for their livestock without the expense of owning and operating the machinery themselves,” said Kevin.  “My role in livestock farming is to all ow farmers to produce quality feed for their livestock all year.” 

He is busy in May and June cutting alfalfa, rye and oats, then again in August and September for corn silage.  

Kevin grew up on a farm outside of Dolton where he and his wife, Judy, still milk about 70 dairy cows and raise crops.  Their daughter, Rebecka, is a sophomore at South Dakota State University studying dairy production.  She helps with the operation and plans to return after graduation.  

Kevin’s brothers, Steve and Jim, are also involved in the custom chopping business as truck drivers and mechanics.

“It’s a very family-based business and we try to help each other where needed,” he said.  

Because silage is an important part of their cows’ diets, it is key for dairy farmers to chop the corn when it is at the right moisture level to ensure that it has the most nutrients and stores and ferments properly. 

“Dairies are looking for a higher quality feed,” he said. “This changes the when we chop to get the best quality.”

Mon, 09 Sep 2019 14:53:00 -0500
“All Hands On Deck” at Dakotafest Pork Loin Booth Dakotafest magaizine pic by bales.jpghas grown to be the largest farm show in South Dakota, drawing an average of nearly 29,000 attendees from 13 states over its three-day run each year.  The show, to be held August 20-22, 2019, in Mitchell, features product demonstrations, educational sessions and activities, but one of the most popular stops is the Davison County Pork Producers stand featuring pork loin sandwiches.  

Planning for and running the booth is a labor of love for a small group of farmers each year, with the proceeds used to benefit their communities and share information about pork all year long. Throughout the show, the pork producers and a small army of students and volunteers will grill, slice, and serve about 3,000 pounds of pork loin.

Ryan and Amy Storm farm and raise pigs near Ethan, South Dakota, and have been involved with the Pork Producers’ stand for more than 20 years.  

“When we make a sandwich, we don’t skimp,” said Amy.  “We want people to get a great sandwich that shows off our delicious pork.  We also try to keep prices reasonable for families who are attending.”  

During the show, the grills are started early in the morning with the goal of having sandwiches ready by 10:00 a.m.  In addition to friends, family members and industry professional who volunteer at the stand, students from the Mitchell Technical Institute Ag Club help grill and serve sandwiches.

“It is great to work with our own kids and students from the Ag Club, and it is important for them to learn the community side of agriculture and be part of working together in the industry and promoting our product,” she said. IMG_7502.JPG

Proceeds from the stand are used throughout the year to promote pork at state and local level and to provide meat for cookoffs and fundraising events, holiday programs, and other activities. They also provide several scholarships to high school students in Davison County who are pursuing agriculture related degrees.  

The Pork Producers also grill meat for community events, weddings, and graduations, but as members are busier with their own farms and families, the Dakotafest stand is the primary effort each year.

Ryan and Amy dated in high school and married after graduating from South Dakota State University.  They joined Ryan’s parents, Chuck and Dee Storm, in the farming operation in 1998.

“Raising pigs provided the opportunity for us to come back to the farm,” she said.  They build a finishing barn and became shareholders in a Pipestone System sow barn, receiving weaned pigs and raising them in their own barns. They also raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle.

The Storms have three children: Jake graduated high school this spring and will attend Mitchell Tech in the fall studying precision agriculture; Kory is a high school freshman; and Luke is a 6thgrader.  

 “I was born and raised on a farm, and now as a mom, I wouldn’t trade it for any place in the world to raise kids,” she said. “There is no better place to learn life lessons of being neighborly, having a work ethic, caring for animals, and understanding lessons of life and death.”  

Each family member has a role on the farm, and also keep busy with school activities and community groups. 

“Making a farming operation work with the five of us doing the work is not always fun, but we are learning how to solve problems together and work as a team,” she said. 

IMG_7495.JPGIn addition to her involvement in the farm, Amy has a photography business, is an EMT on the local fire department and is president of the school board.  Ryan is active with the South Dakota Pork Producers Council, serving as president a few years ago and a member on various committees.  They are both members of the local township board and involved in their church.  

The Storms and other Davison County Pork Producers members are busy planning for the 2019 Dakotafest booth and looking forward to three days of working together and promoting the industry they love.

“As farmers, our goal is to share our stories and encourage people to enjoy the pork products we work hard to raise,” she said. 

Tue, 06 Aug 2019 10:49:00 -0500
June 2019 Agvocated Thank You June Agvocates.jpg

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Wed, 03 Jul 2019 10:25:00 -0500
Right Place, Right time - Farmers Using Technology to do More with Less Patriot_4440_Sprayer_0168_07-13_mr.jpgInnovations and technologies in agriculture are allowing farmers and the professionals they work with to be both larger and smaller at the same time. How is that possible?

Andrew Holland, owner of Yield Pro, a custom application and retail business in Montrose, South Dakota, is a great example. In May 2010, he started his business to custom apply fertilizer and crop protection products on farmers’ fields. He also sells crop inputs like 

seed and fertilizer, and provides a number of services to help farmers be more productive, including soil sampling and precision agriculture consulting.

During busy seasons, Andrew and a team of five employees face tight timelines to apply the right product to fields at the right time.  Each product has a detailed label with specific instructions on application rate and timing for each crop. And, they often have to change plans quickly when Mother Nature deals a challenge like rain or high winds.  

The equipment he uses to apply fertilizer and other products is impressive.  The sprayer has two booms that unfold in the field to a full span of 120 feet (as comparison, a football field is about 160 feet wide from sideline to sideline)!  The sprayer’s tank can hold 1,200 gallons of liquid.

However, when you see sprayer equipment moving through fields, it is important to note that most of that liquid is actually water.  It just requires a small amount – as small as a cup of coffee – of chemical on each acre(about the size of an entire football field). Check out this videoof North Dakota farmer Sarah Wilson explaining that the chemicals used on their farm is really “not a latte.”

Even more impressive than size of modern equipment, though, is the technology that allows Andrew to control the rate and amount of product applied throughout the field, adjusting even the droplet size. Farmers are able to measure and track what is planted, applied and harvested from their fields not just to the acre, but even to the square yard, foot or inch. 

Farmers work with professionals like Andrew to review their fields before, during and after the growing season to make sure they are being as productive and sustainable as possible. 

Soil sampling is an important part of many farmers’ planning process.  Small samples of soil are taken in grids or zones across a field, then analyzed.  A map is created to show the amount of nutrients in each section of the field.  Andrew then works with the farmer to develop a plan or “script” to apply different rates of fertilizer to the fields depending on what areas need it most.  

“I do a lot of variable rate work for my customers, from writing the recommendations and developing the scripts, then uploading to their equipment,” said Andrew.  “This is one area that has helped my customers’ succeed over the past five years.”

This type of variable rate technology is also used for other crop inputs.  For example, planting higher rates of seed in areas of the field where soils are more productive.  

“GPS along with automatic shutoffs on sprayers and planters has allowed us to be more precise on the amount of seed planted and amount of fertilizer and crop protection products we apply,” he said. “We are placing the products where they need to be for the customer to be successful and significantly reduced overseeding and overapplying that may have happened 10 years ago. 

Using GPS systems with autosteer and other technologies, farmers and customer applicators like Andrew can follow the scripts exactly and keep records to review during the season and after harvest.   

“I work a lot with precision data capture to help farmers see realtime results in their fields throughout the growing season,” he said.  “Then we can go back and look at those maps to make recommendations for following years.” 

Andrew was raised on a cow calf operation near Montrose, South Dakota, and also helped local grain farmers.  He and his wife Jessica have two sons: Macon and Angus.

Andrew notes that the technology advancements and improved management practices – whether they are large or small – have an important effect on not just farmers, but rural communities across the state. 

“Many of the local businesses depend heavily on the business they do with our farm families,” he said. “The development of new opportunities for young farm families in rural South Dakota is crucial to the sustainability of our communities.”    

Wed, 03 Jul 2019 09:25:00 -0500
Partner Profile:  Dave Christensen, Valley Queen Cheese Each June, National Dairy Month is a great opportunity to enjoy delicious dairy products and to recognize the people who make those products possible.  From farm to grocery store, it takes a team of dedicated professionals to produce, deliver and process the milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and many more products20180917_VQC_109.jpg we love.

Dave Christensen has been a milk hauler for Valley Queen Cheese for seven and a half years.  He is responsible for transporting milk from farms to the Valley Queen cheese plant in Milbank, but that is only the beginning. Dave and other milk haulers play a critical part in ensuring the quality of each tank load of milk, and ultimately, the cheese that is produced by Valley Queen and shipped around the country.

Dave grew up on a farm near Marvin, South Dakota, and has been involved in agriculture his entire life. He worked on farms of several neighbors, then owned his own tractor-trailer to haul livestock for about 15 years before joining Valley Queen.  Dave and his wife Jolene have two adult children and one grandson.

“As a milk hauler, I am home every night,” he said.  “Valley Queen is a good company that turned 90 years old this year. The dairy producers are good to work with and so are my fellow employees.” 

Each day, Dave picks up two to three loads of milk, each containing 52,000 to 53,000 pounds.  Even during challenging weather conditions like South Dakota has faced this winter and spring, it is critical that milk is picked up from the farm.

“We maintain constant communication with our dairies to ensure milk is picked up in a timely manner,” he said.  “The only time we don’t pick up milk is when the roads are impassable – when travel becomes a safety issue.”

 He also has a milk sampler/grader license that is issued and maintained by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.


“When I pick up milk, I am responsible for grading the milk to verify acceptability and rejecting all milk of unsatisfactory quality,” he said.  “I also use proper measuring techniques to determine the amount of milk picked up, and I am the official collector of samples that are to be used to determine payment and quality of milk.” 

He collects small samples of milk at the farm to measure temperature and check for presence of bacteria and antibiotics.  Farmers use medicines like antibiotics when necessary to treat sick cows, but milk from treated cows must be kept out of the milk supply for a specified amount of time. The milk is also sampled 20180917_VQC_101.jpgfor “components” like protein and butterfat.  These components determine a portion of what dairy farmers are paid for their milk.  

Dave notes that the dairy farmers take a number of steps to ensure the quality and safety of milk, including making sure that animals are healthy and comfortable, and that the barns, parlors and other facilities are clean and well-maintained.  They work hard to provide clean bedding, good air movement and ventilation, water and feed supplies, control flies, and schedule regular check-ups by veterinarians and training for employees. 

The samples that Dave takes at the farm are just the first step.  Valley Queen is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and there are a number of checks and balances to ensure consumers that dairy products are safe and wholesome to consume.

“When I arrive at Valley Queen, a load sample is pulled and tested for antibiotics.  The milk isn’t unloaded until we know that it is negative for antibiotics and safe for human consumption,” he said.  The tanker is also checked for smell, acidity and whether water has been added.  The tanker is washed inside and out at the end of each day.  

Valley Queen Cheese was founded in 1929 and celebrating its 90thanniversary in 2019.  The company was founded when cheese makers Alfred Nef and Alfred Gonzenbach were looking for a new home for their small Wisconsin cheese plant.  Alfred Gonzenbach stopped for fuel in Milbank on his way to Montana to look at a plant site, but was approached by local businessmen and decided to stay in South Dakota. 

The company currently processes 4.3 million pounds of milk each day.  The plant is in the midst of a $53 million expansion that will be completed this summer.  Once the expansion is complete, the plant can process about 5.3 million pounds per day, for a total yearly cheese capacity of 200 million pounds per year.

The plant produces American-style cheeses like cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, gouda and Havarti. The cheeses are all shipped in 700-pound boxes to customers who slice, shred and chunk cheese into retail and food service packages.  

20180917_VQC_137.jpgIn addition to cheese, Valley Queen produces whey protein concentrate, lactose and anhydrous milkfat. Whey protein concentrate is used primarily in infant formula, sports nutrition and bakery applications. Lactose is used in milk chocolate production and is also exported to New Zealand for use in the standardization of dried milk powders.  Anhydrous milkfat is used in chocolate production, processed cheese and other prepared foods. 

Across the state of South Dakota, the dairy industry is responsible for creating more than 6,200 jobs and generates more than $2.4 billion in economic activity each year — that is about $26,300 in economic activity per cow!  

Want to learn more about dairy farming and see where those delicious dairy products get their start? Click here to check out the list of 2019 open house events and tours.  We hope to see you there!

Mon, 03 Jun 2019 15:52:00 -0500
Growing a Passion Hi, I am Rebecka Hoffman and I am a farmer’s daughter and the summer intern for Ag United. 


I grew up on a small dairy farm outside of Dolton, South Dakota; there I was very active with helping my Dad and Mom run our dairy herd. On our farm, my duties included milking in the afternoons, helping with calves, and spending most summers in the alfalfa fields. During high school, I was very active in FFA and 4-H. In both organizations, I judged and showed dairy cattle. Through these activities and experiences, I have grown to have a strong passion for the agriculture industry.

Working on my family’s farm for as long as I can remember has taught me many lessons and skills. Through working, I have gained a strong work ethic and found it to help me throughout my high school years and my first year of college. I have also learned how to take responsibility, even when things do not go as planned and how to handle unplanned situations. 

In high school as I served as an active FFA and 4-H member, I found myself becoming more passionate about dairy and advocating for the agricultural industry. My passion grew as I was constantly meeting consumers who did not understand what happens on farms or where their foods came from. While working with consumers, my love and passion for the dairy industry grew as I got to share my dairy background with others. Because of my passion for agriculture, I decided to attend South Dakota State University, where I will be a sophomore this fall, majoring in Dairy Production and minoring in Agricultural Business.


After college, I would like to return to my family’s dairy and take over our family’s operation.  On our farm, we milk 80 Holstein and jersey cows. In the future, I would like to expand our herd and update our facilities. I would enjoy running my family’s dairy to continue my love for the dairy industry and to share with consumers about my passion of farming through social media and farm tours.

This summer, I am very excited to learn more about the different types of agriculture, along with helping farmers and ranchers promote their stories. I cannot wait to attend events throughout the summer that help bring the producers and consumers closer together!

Mon, 13 May 2019 16:26:00 -0500