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Published November 07, 2011, 05:29 AM

Veblen dairy facility destroyed

FARGO, N.D. — The headquarters of a calf-raising facility owned by Rick Millner north of Veblen, S.D., has burned to the ground.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — The headquarters of a calf-raising facility owned by Rick Millner north of Veblen, S.D., has burned to the ground.

Millner, who heads Prairie Ridge Management Co. in Veblen, has confirmed the fire occurred Nov. 2 at Shortfoot Calf Ranch Inc., but he says he doesn’t know exactly what time.

“I know it was good at midnight (night of Nov. 1) we had people there,” Millner says. “And by the time I got there at 6:30 a.m. (Nov. 2), it was burned to the ground.”

He says Shortfoot Calf Ranch is owned by himself and Jorden and Jay Hill, both of Veblen. It is not one of the entities associated with Prairie Ridge Management that has been in bankruptcy. Jorden Hill was the registered agent when it was established March 29, 2004.

Last spring, the facility held about 1,000 head, Millner said then. It was providing calf services for dairies associated with Riverview Farms of Morris, Minn., which purchased two large dairies that had been built and managed by Prairie Ridge Management. That arrangement ended, Millner says.

Rebuilding talk

Now, there are about 700 to 800 head of calves on the premises, Millner estimates. No animals were hurt in the fire. He estimates the value of the facility and its equipment was about $300,000 to $400,000. Millner says he already is talking to construction companies about rebuilding a facility.

Millner says the state fire marshals were on the scene Nov. 3 trying to locate the source.

“They believe it was in the northwest corner of the (milk) mixing facility,” he says.

Marshall County Sheriff Dale Elsen in Britton, S.D., says the state fire marshal and a South Dakota criminal investigator were on the scene, working with the Veblen fire chief.

The milk-mixing facility mixes the milk feed for baby calves which come from Lake County Dairy in Ramona, S.D. The calves are raised them to 15 months before they go to other dairies managed by Prairie Ridge.

Prairie Ridge Management, which has been based at a building in Veblen, was in the process of moving its headquarters to the calf ranch, which is a few miles north of town. Millner says no Prairie Ridge records had been moved to the facility.

“We lost all of our calf ranch records,” Millner says, they’ve been duplicated off-site and can be retrieved. “The biggest thing is the structure, and next to that, (valuewise) is all of the equipment. The biggest hardship is going to be mixing the milk off-site and bringing it and feeding the calves until we can get a building.”

Millner and his Prairie Ridge Management entities were the subject of an Agweek series in early September. Several of the entities have been embroiled in environmental and financial turmoil and bankruptcies over the past several years. One of those dairies was the former Excel Dairy in Thief River Falls, Minn.

Prairie Ridge still manages the Ramona facility, as well as Five Star Dairy in Milnor, N.D., and New Horizons Dairy in Hoffman, Minn.