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Brake Feedyards to highlight 2,400-head capacity barn on tour

Rural Wilmont farm to be featured on the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour July 13. The event is hosted by the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen.

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Jesse Brake and his son, Kaleb, stand outside the 2,400-head capacity slat barn constructed on their rural Wilmont farm in 2012. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Editor's note: This is part of a series of eight features on Minnesota cattle operations that will be part of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association 2021 Summer Beef Tour and Trade Show , scheduled for July 13. For more information on the tour, visit https://www.mnsca.org .

WILMONT, Minn. — The business of raising cattle has kept multiple generations of the Brake family busy as they’ve worked to grow the operation through feedlot improvements and frequent shipment of feeders.

Today, the third generation is in the process of taking over not just the cattle operation, but the hog operation as well, according to Jesse Brake. His grandfather, Don, started the farm north of St. Kilian, where Don’s father purchased three 80-acre parcels for a trio of his sons.

Jesse is joined by three brothers in the cattle business — Joe who drives truck, and Jared and Jordan, each of whom work on the farm. Their dad, Jerry, is still involved, as are two uncles, Steve and Doug, and Doug’s son, David.

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Brake Feedyards consists of 18 outdoor lots and as many pens under their 2,400-head capacity barn. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

“Jerry, Doug and Steve grew the cattle and hog operations … big enough to where us boys can now be a part of it,” Jesse said.

“Everybody takes a part in the operation where they kind of lead and we each stay out of each other’s hair,” he added with a grin.

During the cattlemen’s tour at Brake Feedyards, visitors will tour the double-wide slat barn constructed on the farmsite nine years ago. The 2,400-head capacity barn houses cattle from 1,000 pounds up to market weight.

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The Brake Feedyards feed mill processes most of the cattle feed and about 20% of the hog feed for the family farm. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

The barn, measuring 120 feet wide by 650 feet long, includes mostly slat flooring, with some concrete flooring in the area where the barn was built over an existing feedlot. Corn stalks are used for bedding.

“Most slat barns are only a single wide,” Jesse said. “We built a double wide, where you feed on each side. Part of the reason we did it is we saved a lot of money with the way this barn was designed with the pit.

“If it was a single wide, we would have been 1,300 feet out in the field,” he added. “We didn’t really want to be that far out there.”

The below-barn pit holds about 5.2 million gallons of manure and takes about eight days to pump out each fall. Constructed at 128 feet wide — eight feet beyond the width of the barn — Jesse said they can lower the pump into the pit from the outside of the barn, causing less disruption to the cattle inside.

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A worker moves a bucket full of cattle feed on the Brake Feedyards site. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

The extra pit space is also a benefit considering the size of the animals housed in the barn.

“When you get to that big of an animal, they produce a lot more manure compared to a 500-pound calf,” Jesse said.

The Brakes start all of their cattle in outside lots, bringing in 600 pound calves and 850- to 1,000-pound yearlings from primarily South Dakota. Some loads are purchased from Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska as well.

“There are 18 pens outside and 18 to 19 pens inside,” Jesse said, noting three different sized pens under the double-wide barn that are filled with anywhere from 100 to 150 head each.

The barn features a 10-foot curtain on the bottom and a three-foot curtain on the top, with maneuverability to maintain air flow year-round and reduce steam during the winter months.

“I’d rather have them in here any day during a snowstorm or hot weather,” Jesse said.

The Brakes feed a ration of cracked corn, distiller’s grains, silage, ear corn, grass and alfalfa hay.

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“All of our corn gets rolled in our roller mill,” Jesse said, noting the grain bins and mill located directly north of the feedyards.

While the Brakes like to raise Angus, their cattle lots include a mix of both black and red Angus, Limousine, Gelbvieh, Charolais and even some Brahman-mixed crossbreds.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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