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Van De Berg farm upgrades with two new barns in 2016

Rural Hills farm to be featured on the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour July 13. It is one of eight farms to be featured on the tour, which is hosted by the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen.

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Brad Van De Berg and his son, Jason, are shown with their cattle feedlot set-up on their rural Hills farm. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Editor's note: This is the first in 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 .

HILLS, Minn. — When Brad Van De Berg purchased an acreage set up for dairying just north of Hills in 2009, it was with plans to clear out the existing outbuildings and begin anew with facilities to feed cattle.

From 2009 to 2016, he had a capacity for 350 head in outside lots. Due to continuous issues with manure runoff that ended up on the neighbor’s land, Van De Berg decided to take action and put a roof over his cattle pens.

He built two new barns in the summer of 2016 — a 900-head capacity slat barn and a 95-head capacity shipping/receiving and bed pack barn with sick pens. He also added concrete to the existing cattle yards to create feed storage.

Today, all of the manure from the operation ends up in a concrete storage pit that gets pumped out twice a year — a little in the spring and emptied in the fall. There is also a 24- by 48-foot manure bay for the pen pack manure.

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“(The farm) is set up so I can handle it,” Van De Berg said. “Financially we started from scratch. All I own here is the acreage, and I wanted to have enough livestock to make a living on the farm.”

Van De Berg, who grew up seven miles north of Beaver Creek, farms with his dad, though not in a financial partnership. They share crop equipment and help each other with the workload. In addition to raising cattle, Van De Berg grows corn, soybeans, rye and oats on 750 acres.

“In a normal year, we grow all of our feed,” he said, adding that corn makes up about 80% of what he grows each year. He also does custom round baling.

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Cattle are kept comfortable under roof at the Brad Van De Berg farm. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

“One thing I do a little bit different than a lot of people is after my silage comes off, I raise winter rye,” Van De Berg shared. “That’s where spring manure gets pumped and then it gets planted again to corn, so I’m getting three crops in two years.

“Winter rye is good for the soil, but I’m using it for feed as well,” he added. “It gets baled as baleage or dry round baled as dry hay.”

Along with rye, his cattle feed consists of high moisture corn, dry corn, corn silage, modified distillers, a dry hay (either rye or grass hay or corn stalks) and a balancer. As for water, each cattle pen has its own water line, which allows Van De Berg to medicate animals in specific pens as needed.

The Van De Berg cattle operation focuses primarily on finishing cattle that arrive as yearlings between 850 to 950 pounds. He has them on feed for about 180 days before they go to market, then a new shipment comes in.

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Cattle generally come from Oklahoma, Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Farming since 2007 — the same year he and wife, Melissa, were married — Van De Berg is proud to be doing what he loves in the neighborhood he’s in.

“We all work together as neighbors around here,” he said. “When we have to work cattle or pour concrete, we do it with the neighbors. I call a few neighbors and then they call me as well. The jobs where it takes two, three or four guys, that’s how we do it.

“Even the neighbors I don’t work with much, if I needed help for a day, I know who I can call,” he added. “The best part (of living here) is the neighbors. If someone has cattle out, everyone comes out to help.”

Several years down the road, he may be able to call upon his own children to help. The Van De Bergs have three — son Jason, 7, and daughters Melanie, 3, and Miranda, 8 months. Melissa works as an accountant for a Sioux Falls, S.D., business and also operates a photography business.

Van De Berg serves on the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen's board.

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Cattle are kept comfortable under roof at the Brad Van De Berg farm. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

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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