Two sides of the river

Posted: 9/30/2008

August 25, 2006 - As everyone is aware, the central part of South Dakota has been hit particularly hard by this year’s drought. Although the drought might not seem evident to the motorist traveling through the area, with the green pastures and the alfalfa fields growing from the recent rains, all one has to do it look at the corn crop that is left in the field to see the severity of the drought.

Most of the corn in the in the vast central part of the state will be cut for silage if it has not already been chopped. The silage will be fed to some of the 1.74 million head of calves that South Dakota raises each year, be it in backgrounding, growing or finishing diets. In fact, with or without drought conditions, South Dakota has consistently been one of the top states in terms of acres harvested for silage. In 2004, 450,000 acres of corn was harvested for silage. This year that number will be even higher.

Along with leading silage production, eleven ethanol plants are on line in South Dakota, and another five are in various stages of development, providing cattle producers with a steady supply of distillers’ grain. The availability of South Dakota feed and South Dakota cattle make central South Dakota an excellent location to add value to our state’s feed and cattle. In fact, during the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to travel to the central part of South Dakota twice for events centered around cattle feedlots.

In early August, Ag United had the opportunity to work with the Pazour family from Brule County. We co-hosted an Open House and Ribbon Cutting for their new 5,000 head feedlot. The Pazours’ moved their existing feedlot so it would be in compliance with DENR and county regulations, but another factor in their decision to put a new and larger lot was their two sons chose to return to the farm after completing their education to join their father in the family business.

The kick-off for the Pazours’ new feedlot saw more than 650 neighbors, farmers, local town residents and elected officials enjoying lunch and seeing the first hand the state of the art facility, still under construction.

Just 2 ½ weeks later, Ag United participated at another event dealing with a cattle feedlot, this time just west across the Missouri River and a little to the south in Gregory County. A public meeting had been organized by a group called Concerned Citizens for Property Rights. The group had placed an ad in the local papers raising a number of issues about a new feedlot the Steffen family is putting in – the same issues that always get raised about livestock production: too much truck traffic, not enough water, health threats, etc.

The Steffen family has been raising cattle for four generations in Gregory County, and this past year they participated in a program with the local conservation district and the NRCS to move their existing feedlot to a new site and construct a new feedlot with a containment system. Like the Pazour feedlot, the Steffen feedlot will meet the DENR requirements. However, the Steffen’s new feedlot is designed for less than 999 head of cattle. Like many counties with zoning rules in place, Gregory County requires a permit for cattle operations with more than 1,000 head.

The crowd at the meeting was well over 100, many of them the same type of people that showed up at the Pazour’s open house – farmers, ranchers, local town residents and elected officials. The vast majority showed up for the same reason people showed up in Brule County – to support a family that wants to feed cattle.


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