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MSCA Beef Tour featured feedlots and cow/calf operations in Northwestern MN

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 07/24/2013 4:25 PM

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ROSEAU, Minn. — Northwest Minnesota feeder and cow/calf operations were highlighted during last week's Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association's summer tour.

"It's a nice way to showcase what we have going on here," said Steve Haugen, president of the Northwestern Stockmens Association, hosts of the event in Roseau County.

About 400 people attended the tour, which included cattle operations around Warroad.

The tour provided an opportunity for the northwest cattlemen to show the state how the area has bounced back after a tuberculosis outbreak in 2005.

Roger Skime was one of 68 producers who depopulated their herds when TB was discovered. Skime now has 350 fall calving cows. The herd is made up of Angus, Red Angus and Tarentaise cows and bulls.

State Veterinarian Bill Hartmann acknowledged the sacrifices producers like Skime made to depopulate their herds. Those were tough times, but it was a control measure that got the state back its TB-free status. Other states, like Michigan, aren't so fortunate.

Hartmann told the group that the Board of Animal Health will "do everything we can to make sure it doesn't come back to haunt us again."

There was little question whether Skime would go back into cattle after the quarantine.

"I am excited to be part of the cattle industry," he said. "In my operation, I want to constantly improve the cattle that we have. We do that through genetics, nutrition, health and management. Our goal is to constantly improve the operation and the products we deliver."

Thor Vettleson is his herdsman.

"I got to know the state veterinarian and state workers quite well during that time," Vettleson said. "It was a good learning experience."

They put in high fences to keep deer out, but Skime didn't like the fences during calving, he said.

They switched from spring calving to fall, he said. Instead of checking the cows every few hours during spring calving, they now check the cows three times per day, Skime said.

They have two purebred Red Angus, two red Tarentaise, one black Tarentaise and two Black Angus bulls.

Vettleson said they also are building a herd of good graziers.

"I believe that we have to get back to a forage converting animal," he said.

They wean calves in April and sort replacement heifers. Steers and cull heifers are backgrounded for roughly 45 days before they move to an Iowa feedlot. They retain ownership on all calves.

Replacement heifers are grown on hay and pasture. They expose heifers to bulls for 30 days with the open heifers finished at the ranch. Those heifers are slaughtered and sold locally.

Other farms and ranches on the tour included Isane Farms, a farm that started rotational grazing five years ago; Waage Farms, which uses byproducts like potatoes in their feedlot rations; and Bear Creek Ranch, which also uses rotational grazing.