Central MN hosts cattle tour 'between the corn and the trees'

STARBUCK, Minn. -- Minnesota often is associated with lakes and trees, corn and soybeans. But cattle also are important in the state -- including the area in central Minnesota known as both the Glacial Ridge and the place "between the corn and th...

Guests at the 37th annual Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association summer tour in Starbuck, Minn. browse information and vendor booths on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Nick Nelson/Agweek

STARBUCK, Minn. - Minnesota often is associated with lakes and trees, corn and soybeans. But cattle also are important in the state - including the area in central Minnesota known as both the Glacial Ridge and the place "between the corn and the trees."

"We see this an opportunity to showcase cattle's importance in Minnesota and to help people - both in and out agriculture - learn more about our industry," said Ashley Kohls, executive director of the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association.

More than 1,000 people attended the association's 37th annual summer tour, hosted this year by the Glacial Ridge Cattlemen's Association. The event, held July 11 and headquartered at the Clear Springs Cattle Co. near Starbuck, Minn., included a trade show, a forage demonstration, a tour of publicly owned land grazed by private individuals and visits to four other livestock-related businesses in the area.

The annual state summer cattle tour isn't unique to Minnesota, but few other states, if any, have one as popular and established, Kohls said.

"I get a lot of people (at national cattle meetings) asking me, 'How do you guys have such a good summer event?' For us, it's a tradition. We get great support," she said.


The group rotates its annual summer tour among 10 different parts of the states, with 10 regional affiliates alternating as host. Cottonwood Cattle Producers will host the 2018 event.

The Glacial Ridge group began planning for this year's event a year ago, said Jim Ostlie, co-coordinator of its organizing committee.

"So many people have worked so hard and so long to pull this off," said Ostlie, who's involved in a family livestock operation and also is a livestock development specialist with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Glacial Ridge Cattlemen's Association has about 60 members from Pope, Douglas, eastern Swift, western Stearns and northern Kandiyohi counties. Members are involved in cow-calf operations, dairies and feedlots.

What's in a name?

The general area covered by the July 11 tour lies within what's known as the Alexandria Glacial Moraine Complex and, in common parlance, as the Glacial Ridge. It was formed by the Wadena Lobe during last glacial age 30,000 years ago. The ice moved huge amounts of soil and, after it melted, created hundreds of small lakes in the area.

Much of that soil is excellent for crops, while some is better suited for grazing livestock, Ostlie said.

Trees are common north of the Glacial Ridge, while corn is widely grown to its south. Thus, cattle producers here describe themselves as being between corn and trees.


Goals, benefits

Many of the 1,000 people who attended the 2017 summer tour attend every year, or nearly so. But some of this year's attendees, including Grant Karl of Hutchinson, Minn., were first-time visitors.

"I want to see what other people are doing and get ideas of what we can in our operation," said Karl, who has a cow-calf operation and raises sheep with his father, Jerome.

Karl said he picked up useful information on rotational grazing and cover crops, among other things, during the tour.

The annual event also is intended to boost the public profile of businesses featured on that year's tour. This year, dozens of chartered buses - each with about 50 people - brought visitors to businesses featured on the tour.

"This is is great exposure for us. We know how much it means," said Jerry Jen­nis­sen, a partner in Redhead Creamery near Brooten, Minn., one of the businesses on the tour.

Redhead Creamery - a family business that makes cheese from the family's dairy operation - will be profiled in a future Agweek cover package.

Minnesota has about 18,000 cattle producers, split between cow-calf and feedlot operations, Kohl said.


The summer tour helps to publicize what many people, including Minnesota residents, may not realize: Family businesses dominate the state's cattle industry, Ostlie said.

"When you drive around the state and see them (livestock buildings), you'd be hard-pressed, for the most part, to find any of these facilities that are not family owned and operated," he said.

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