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Livestock Development Priority for NDSU Extension Service

The NDSU Extension Service works to add value to agriculture by expanding North Dakota’s livestock industry.

A livestock producer recently called with a $10,000 question.

Should he sell the cattle he'd been backgrounding, or should he continue to feed the animals and market them later?

Fielding questions such as that from individual producers, either in person or on the phone, is a big part of what Extension staff do to help expand North Dakota's livestock industry, according to Karl Hoppe, the North Dakota State University Extension Service livestock specialist who advised this producer.

""This type of tailoring information to the individual producer is high profile,"" says Hoppe, area livestock specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center.

Extension places a high priority on strengthening the state's livestock industry.

""One of the best ways to add value to agriculture is through livestock,"" NDSU Extension Director Duane Hauck explains.

Extension's efforts often involve collaborations with commodity and livestock organizations, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, North Dakota Health Department, private businesses and economic developers, Hauck says.

Helping livestock producers expand and/or diversify their operation is part of Extension's strategy. Extension's efforts include encouraging the development of feedlots and other value-added enterprises by providing educational opportunities, such as:

  • Feedlot and cow-calf schools and seminars
  • Backgrounding seminars
  • Sheep schools and seminars
  • Swine environmental management workshops
  • Waste management programs
  • Marketing workshops
  • Programs on modernizing and expanding feedlot capacity
  • Workshops on using manure as fertilizer
  • Feedout projects to give producers the opportunity to learn how their calves would perform at a feedlot
  • Sessions on swath grazing, a relatively new concept in North Dakota
  • Workshops on using biofuel byproducts, particularly from ethanol production, as livestock feed

Extension also continues to develop publications on a wide variety of livestock topics, such as forage quality, nutritional requirements, alternative feeds and byproducts, nutrient management, equipment and facilities, and marketing.

North Dakota feedlot statistics indicate Extension's efforts are having an impact. The number of permits the North Dakota Department of Health issued for feedlots nearly tripled in the last five years, from 18 in 2002 to 52 in 2006. Of those facilities, 83 expanded the number of animals they handle. This represents an increase of about 210,000 animals, including approximately 67,000 swine, 50,000 beef cattle, 6,700 dairy cattle and 500 sheep.

""This steady increase in the number of facilities coming into compliance with state regulations is partly due to the effort made by Extension personnel to educate and inform our livestock producers of the need to protect water quality and the steps they need to take to come into compliance,"" says Karl Rockeman, an environmental engineer in the Health Department's Division of Water Quality.

Extension's education on biofuel byproducts is another major benefit to livestock producers, Rockeman believes.

""As we see more biofuel plants producing more byproducts to feed to more livestock, the education and information the Extension Service provides to help producers adapt to the changes in the livestock industry will be even more important,"" he says.

Extension also focuses on attracting livestock operations to the state. For example, Extension beef cattle specialist Greg Lardy and dairy specialist J.W. Schroeder are involved in a study for Great River Energy of Elk River, Minn., on the feasibility of colocating a cattle feedlot and/or a large dairy with the Blue Flint Ethanol plant at Underwood. Great River Energy is part owner of Blue Flint.

The study also will investigate the feasibility of using anaerobic digestion of manure to produce biogas, which could be a thermal energy source or used to generate electricity.

Schroeder also is working with Gary Hoffman, executive director of the North Dakota Dairy Coalition, on finalizing a business plan for investors to finance the construction of a series of dairies in North Dakota.

Bottineau County Extension agent Tim Semler has been working with the Bottineau County Economic Development Corporation on plans to build a 5,000-sow farrow/nursery operation 13 miles northwest of Bottineau. He says the project has received approval from the county zoning board, county commissioners and North Dakota Department of Health. The facility is expected to create 18 jobs.

Ramsey County Extension agent Bill Hodous is providing existing and potential investors with information, including possible litter sizes, farrowing per year and marketing opportunities, for a 5,000-sow farrowing operation north of Edmore.

Chet Hill, area Extension agricultural diversification specialist at NDSU's Williston Research Extension Center, is working with people from Wisconsin who are interested in starting a dairy operation in North Dakota. He is providing information such as the availability of suitable land and irrigation, crops produced in the area and the possibilities for heifer development.

John Dhuyvetter, area Extension livestock specialist at NDSU's North Central Research Extension Center near Minot, has committed to training producers interested in finishing hogs in low-impact hoop facilities in the Devils Lake area.

State livestock organizations say they appreciate Extension's commitment to expanding the industry.

""I definitely think what Extension is doing is profiting the industry,"" says Wade Moser, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Duane Hauck, (701) 231-8944, duane.hauck@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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