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North Dakota corn farmer Robert Hanson. (Photo courtesy of

Focus on corn, cattle and Canada

A half-million cattle can eat a lot of corn. Rob Hanson hopes North Dakota can become a larger supplier of the grain to Canadian feedlot operators.

Hanson, a Wimbledon, N.D., farmer and secretary-treasurer of the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, was part of a three-day U.S. Grain Council's trade mission to Alberta. The six-person team conducted 21 meetings in mid-September with buyers, brokers and cattle feeders in Alberta, representing an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 cattle.

Before the trip, "I didn't realize they had such large feedlots there," Hanson says.

The Canadians are looking for a consistent, reliable source of both U.S. corn and dried distillers' grain, as well as answers to questions about railroads, offloading and other needs, he says.

Drought in Canada hurt pastures, pushing calves to feedlots earlier than usual and increasing need for feed, according to the U.S. Grains Council, which develops export markets for U.S. barley, corn, sorghum and related products.

In addition, some Canadian barley that normally would have been used for livestock feed was exported this year, furthering interest in imported corn, Hanson says.

Overall, Canada has bought 56.6 million bushels of U.S. corn so far in the 2017-2018 marketing year, more than double the amount in the previous marketing year, according to the U.S. Grains Council.

It's uncertain how much of that U.S. corn was raised in North Dakota, Hanson says, but he and and other corn farmers in the state are optimistic of sending more of their harvest north.

"We want to keep talking and working with the feedlots," he says.

The U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, announced after the trade mission to Canada, wasn't discussed during the trip, Hanson says.