Who we are: Hettinger Research Extension Center

Farm Forum

The Hettinger Research Extension Center (HREC), in southwestern North Dakota, was established from a gift of 160 acres from the residents of Adams County and the city of Hettinger in 1909. Original work at the HREC involved converting native prairie to farmland for agronomic research.

In 1912, through cooperation with the USDA, a dryland farming trial began. In 1913, a herd of Guernsey and Jersey cows and bulls was purchased to aid local producers in the production of replacement dairy cattle.

Following a brief closure during the Depression, the HREC continued to expand its research programs, focusing on agronomy and sheep breeding. In 1947, an option was secured to purchase an extra quarter of land to continue and expand sheep and agronomy research.

In the 1980s, the research programs were solidified with the addition of land, bringing the total owned land to 1,130 acres, and the hiring of an agronomist.


The HREC has a long history of conducting sheep research. However, the center recently expanded its research effort to include cattle and range-related research in addition to continuing research on behalf of the sheep industry.

The center conducts research in beef cattle nutrition, cattle management of post-Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands, cattle grazing systems that incorporate multiple-use management strategies, utilization of cover crops for livestock in southwestern North Dakota, and the restoration of former croplands back to native prairie.

The agronomy program at the HREC concentrates on crop variety, forage and plant disease trials, as well as off-station variety testing at seven remote sites. A new research and outreach program was funded recently. The program will expand agronomic research to include the discipline of weed prevention and control.

Cattle Research

Cattle research began at the HREC in 2000 with the addition of the Southwest Feeders feedlot. The Southwest Feeders feedlot consists of 24 pens utilized for calf backgrounding and lamb finishing research and outreach. The vision for the feedlot was developed by then-center director Tim Faller, Chip Poland and Dick Bowman. Various organizations and support groups provided initial funding for its development and staffing.

Originally, the feedlot utilized only producer-owned calves to evaluate the profitability and performance during the backgrounding phase, minimizing the risk to producers by feeding small lots of steers. Recently the feedlot has been utilized as a 100 percent research feedlot, conducting research in the areas of alternative forages, natural vs. conventional backgrounding, the evaluation of weaning dates in May-born calves, and the effects of artificial insemination and natural breeding on calf profitability.

The calves utilized in the feedlot are sourced from the HREC cow herd, which was established in the spring of 2006; the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center; and purchased locally when needed. Additionally, a group of calves is sent to the Carrington Research Extension Center annually after backgrounding to continue research during the finishing phase.

Range and Wildlife Research

Utilizing the May-calving cow herd at the HREC, the range and wildlife research program evaluates cattle- grazing systems that can be utilized to provide habitat for ring-necked pheasants on post-CRP lands.

Additionally, the program conducts research on the Grand River National Grasslands to evaluate the interactions between sharp-tailed grouse and livestock production, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to evaluate the ability of prairie dogs and cattle to co- exist, the restoration of native prairie on public lands in the Badlands, and the potential of cover crops in southwestern North Dakota to provide forage for livestock and habitat for wildlife.

Outreach and Extension

Numerous field days are conducted annually in cooperation with the NDSU Extension Service, soil conservation districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service. The HREC publishes its research results in the “NDSU Beef Research Report,” national scientific meetings and refereed research journals. Individual consultations are conducted on producer lands, at the HREC, and by phone and e-mail.

Research Staff and Collaboration

The center has an animal scientist (Christopher Schauer), range and wildlife scientist (Benjamin Geaumont) and agronomist (John Rickertsen). The center cooperates and collaborates with main campus scientists at NDSU, the Carrington Research Extension Center, Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, South Dakota State University, Sitting Bull College, Montana State University and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan, N.D.

Contact Information

• Christopher Schauer:, (701) 567-4323

• Benjamin Geaumont: (701) 567-4323