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From left: Mark Messer, Beaver Creek Farm, Richardton, N.D.; Alan Qual, Qual Dairy, Lisbon, N.D., and Bruce Froslee, consultant for Ransom County Multiplier pig farm, Englevale, N.D., talk about how their operations grew while caring for the environment. Photo taken Jan. 16, 2019, at Fort Ransom, N.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

ND livestock group holds first summit

FORT RANSOM, N.D. — About 90 people braved chilly temperatures Wednesday, Jan. 16, for an event billed as the first Livestock Summit, a project of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance.

The event was held at Stiklestad Learning Center south of Fort Ransom.

Craig Jarolimek of Forest River, N.D., is the chairman of the alliance, and has ownership in hog barns.

The alliance was established with the state's corn, soybean, ethanol and dairy advocates, with support from the North Dakota Farmers Union. The purpose is to help find acceptable ways for those who want to site livestock developments or expansions. Jarolimek said he was pleased to see some community leaders at the event, explaining that developing livestock will help use resources from the land to "keep dollars on the main street, rather than exporting them to another end market."

The alliance hopes to "bring light" to the public about new technology in modern livestock agriculture that is available to allow livestock development without harming the environment.

"We're very fortunate in North Dakota," Jarolimek said. "We really have — in a way — a clean slate. As we site new operations, we have the opportunity to do things right."

The state can build on the good operations that already are located here, he said.

Amber Boeshans has been executive director of the alliance since September 2017. She formerly was livestock director for the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

"We are completely thrilled and overwhelmed with the kindness and the showing of how many people came out," she said.

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring attended the event, despite being in the middle of the legislative session in Bismarck.

"This is exciting," Goehring said. "We've been talking about this for 10 years, and also about the fact that this group needed to form so they could fully focus on animal agriculture issues, and not be distracted by all of the other things that are out there in agriculture."

The group is already talking about subsequent summits, Boeshans said, noting the event is likely to move around the state.

Big toolbox

The summit included discussions of the value of manure as a nutrient, which sometimes is a focus of opponents to livestock development.

Boeshans said part of the message of the event is to crop farmers who may or may not be in the nutrient management programs for a livestock facility.

"We're trying to work with some folks to open their minds to be involved with animal agriculture as well," she said.

Presentations at the event detailed manure management for soil organic matter and nutrition, as well as details about incentives available to people who want to establish or expand a livestock enterprise.

Attendees later toured the new Qual Dairy at Lisbon, N.D., and had a "windshield tour" of the exterior of the of the Ransom County Multiplier pig facility at Englevale, N.D., from the comfort of a North Dakota Farmers Union bus.

A producer panel covered a range of enterprises — beef, hogs and dairy. It included Bruce Froslee, a consultant with Ransom County Multiplier, Englevale, N.D.; Mark Messer, Messer's Beaver Creek Ranch, Richardton, N.D.; and Alan Qual, Qual Dairy, Lisbon.

Froslee explained how the hog multiplier started in January 2018 and produces breeding stock for commercial hog operations and other purebred hog operations. It is owned by a cooperative of more than a dozen producers, mostly from Minnesota but also North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.

The Ransom County operation has 2,600 sows, including 1,300 purebreds and 1,300 so-called F1 cross, a hybrid. The company is associated with grow-out facilities for all of the purebreds and most of the F1s. The facility produces about 65,000 pigs per year, and is associated with two other facilities that in total produce about 375,000 pigs per year. Most of them go to southern and central Minnesota.

"We think North Dakota has real potential for the breeding stock business and — because of the isolation — it might even be a good place to finish market hogs," he says.

Great potential

Mark Messer, and his four brothers and father are owners Messer's Beaver Creek Ranch at Richardton, N.D. The company at one time was in dairy and swine.

The Messers have a large cow-calf operation of 1,300 cows, primarily run by two of the Messer brothers, as well as a grain farm including corn, soybeans, lentils, peas, canola and wheat. The calves are born on a 2,800-acre pasture, which reduces the disease exposure.

The Messers had a feedlot but needed to expand and still care for Beaver Creek, which feeds into Buffalo Creek, which is a tributary to the Heart and Missouri rivers.

"It's basically Waters of the U.S.," he said, referring to the navigable water regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The feedlot is filled five months of the year, permitted for 999 head on an 160-acre area.

"We wanted to make sure that everything that went into that river was clean and nothing was coming in from the feedlot," he says.

Messer said producers are raising animals that are an important protein for human consumption. He said producers need to make sure they're doing everything correctly and then "come and tell your story" of sustainability at events like the livestock summit.

The Qual family installed a 60-head rotary dairy equipped with 60 robots that can handle about 1,100 cows with very little labor. He said labor availability for the animal operations is one of the biggest limiting factors his family had to deal with.

For information on the North Dakota Livestock Alliance and its events, contact Boeshans, amberboeshans@ndlivestock.org, or phone 701-712-1488. Agweek will have more on the summit in subsequent issues.

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