Livestock Matters

Posted: 9/30/2008

Last month I had the opportunity to attend a feedlot seminar entitled “Cattle Farming Matters,” held at cattle farms in Northwest Iowa. The feedlot tour and seminar was sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council, The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, Iowa Beef Center, and Iowa State University Extension. More than 125 producers from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota participated in the tour.

The “Cattle Feeding Matters” seminar and tour was designed to give a producers a chance to look at different types of facilities, and hear first-hand from feeders what they liked about their facilities and what they would do differently. The producers also had an opportunity over lunch to hear from the Iowa Beef Industry Council about activities producers can participate in to tell their story about beef production.

The first stop was near Little Rock, where the Doeden family feeds 480 head of cattle in a hoop barn structure. The facility was considerably cooler than the hot muggy temperature outside the barn.

The afternoon stop was at two family feedlots located just east of Sioux Center. One facility consisted of two mono-slope barns with 4,600 head of cattle the other was a 3,300 head open feedlot located across the road.

During the tour of the mono-slope barn, it was very obvious that we were close to Sioux Center. In fact, from the west end of the barn we were less than a mile away; the open lot on the east side of the road was about a 1 ¼ mile away from Sioux Center. When I commented to the person next to me about the closeness to town he replied, “This is an agriculture area, livestock gets fed in countryside.”

I shared with him that in many places in South Dakota this facility would have to be two to three miles away from the nearest town. Many South Dakota counties require a two mile setback for livestock facilities with more than 1,000 animal units from an incorporated municipality or rural residential area. In Aurora County, if you have more than 800 animal units you must be five miles from White Lake, Stickney or Plankinton, as well as five miles from the three rural residential areas in the county. Plankinton and Stickney are ten miles apart, so livestock families in that area are pretty restricted in their ability to grow their business.

Sioux County, Iowa is roughly the same geographic size as Aurora County; however it has 255,700 head of cattle compared to 53,000 head in Aurora County and more than 1,600 farms compared to 401 in Aurora County.

But the most telling numbers of any county are the population numbers. With more than 32,000 residents, Sioux County has seen it population grow by 5% since 1980. In that same time Aurora County has seen it population drop 20% to 2,901 residents. With 21% of Aurora County’s population over 65 years old, it is doubtful this trend will change. Only 14% of Sioux County’s residents are 65 years and older. That, along with an acceptance of livestock production is a good bet that Sioux County will continue to grow.

It is the hope of Ag United that the livestock producing families in South Dakota will have the ability to grow their farms and ranches in a fashion that will not only benefit themselves but everyone in their communities and counties, because if it they don’t it may not “matter” in 25 years.


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