CARRINGTON, N.D. - When people see a large livestock operation, they often don't realize the impact it can have on the community's economy - and especially the economy for nearby farmers.
"They're a huge consumer of commodities," says J.W. Schroeder, former North Dakota State University Extension dairy specialist.
And it's not just commodities, as the feed list at VanBedaf Dairy in Carrington shows. They use byproducts from the local pasta plant, as well as from the sugar beet, canola and ethanol industries.
VanBedaf Dairy, explains owner Conny van Bedaf, grows its own corn for silage but buys other feeds from area farmers, including large quantities of alfalfa.
"That all comes from North Dakota," Schroeder says.
"As livestock businesses, we use the feeds that the grain farmers are growing, so it's a win-win, I would say, to bring livestock to communities," van Bedaf says.
Tysen Rosenau farms about six miles east of VanBedaf Dairy. He does some custom planting for the dairy and some "ground swapping" for rotational purposes. He also sometimes sells corn to the dairy.
"It's a great market. It's profitable for both of us, I believe," Rosenau says.
Jeff Schafer farms and ranches near New Rockford and has sold some corn to VanBedaf Dairy.
"You definitely get a better basis, so you definitely get a better cash price," he says.
Along with cooperating with the dairy on planting processes, Rosenau also uses a byproduct from the dairy - manure, in liquid and solid forms. Synthetic fertilizer, he says, can't compare. "The liquid is the best that you can find. The solid is a good supplement. When we put that liquid out there that really changes the ground in a hurry," he says. "Changes the ground more in a few years than what most farmers can do in a lifetime."
Farmers aren't the only ones who benefit from large animal agriculture ventures, Schroeder says. He says research shows a large dairy can have a "multiplier effect" of 7 to 1, meaning $7 returns to the community for every $1 spent. Even an operation like VanBedaf Dairy, which has to ship its milk to another community for processing, can have a 3.5 to 1 effect, he says. Purchases at hardware stores, feed stores and more mean more stimulation in the community.
"It has a significant impact in the community," Schroeder says.
Rosenau agrees, saying VanBedaf Dairy does a lot of business at the local farm supply store.
"They've got to be their biggest customer by far," he says. "They help out the whole community."
"The community supports van Bedafs about as much as they support the community," Schafer says.
Schafer and his family run a cow-calf herd and a small, permitted feedlot that feeds their own calves to finish. Growing for livestock consumption is one way to add value to the crops, he says, adding that it's also rewarding to see the end result of that work become a safe, nutritious food source.
Finding ways to add value to crops allows for more profit on the grain side of the operation, Schafer says: "We try to add value any way we can."
He hopes to see more places like VanBedaf Dairy pop up in the state to provide a nearby market for the products already raised here.
"In my opinion, we need more of these types of industries within the state of North Dakota to try to add value to many of the things North Dakota has," he says.