Potential for livestock development strong

Farm Forum

“It would be a godsend to the state if the beef plant in Aberdeen would be up and going,” David Skaggs, ag development representative at the South Dakota Department of Agriculture said in a phone interview.

In February, Doug Cooper and Keith DeHaan of the New Angus plant assured the Brown County Commission that their plans are for the 425,000-square foot facility to be operational sometime this year.

Formerly called Northern Beef Packers, the plant was briefly operational in 2012 before its ownership shut the facility down and declared bankruptcy. New Angus is currently financially backed by California-based White Oak Global Advisors.

Quoted in February, officials said, “We’re on course,” Cooper said. “I don’t know what happened in the past, but we know how we’re going to operate in the future. It’s going to be transparent. We’re still looking at sometime in 2015 (to open). I think the finest cattle in the world are in Brown County, South Dakota. I have about 25 years of operational experience in beef plants.” Recent attempts to contact the officials confirms the plans are moving ahead.

Skaggs said, “There is so much potential to start harvesting the animals in South Dakota rather than shipping them out. We have the corn to feed the cattle. The plant would complete the circle with the harvest of the animals. It would have a huge impact.” For now, cattle producers are waiting and watching.

West of Aberdeen, Skaggs said it’s exciting that plans for the ethanol plant in Sully County are moving forward. As a facility producing ethanol in the central part of the state, the dried distillers grain could provide a valuable feed source. Skaggs said that may be able to get cattle feeders back up and going. Then the animals can be finished locally rather than shipping the animals to be finished in Colorado or Nebraska. The additional distillers grain would help grow and develop the livestock industry within the area.

It could also help to expand the dairy operations in Pollock and Hoven as well, Skaggs noted. The cheese plants in that area are doing well and would benefit from more cows producing milk for the plants, especially west of Aberdeen.

South Dakota’s dairy sector is moving ahead with the latest numbers of 104,000 dairy animals in the state. Since that count, Skaggs said there have been two 5,000-head dairies added with two more 5,000-head facilities under construction.

Skaggs said the poultry business has potential to move forward, even though bird flu has decimated some flocks. Poultry consume lots of corn and beans, which can have a huge impact on crop prices for growers.

The swine industry is still strong, Skaggs said. He attended the World Pork Expo where he noted there is a lot of interest in the pork industry. In Iowa, many operations are old and have a harder time dealing with biosecurity issues. especially on the heels of PEDv. He said, “This is a great opportunity to bring in more hog barns (to South Dakota),” Skaggs said. “For young producers who can’t afford to purchase to land, if they can get involved in a livestock operation, it’s a huge opportunity.”

Skaggs said the sheep industry shows positive growth, with more and more demand for lamb and wool. Another sector that is growing and that doesn’t need a huge investment is the goat business.

“The potential is huge,” Skaggs said. “With a few acres, an operators doesn’t need the fences or equipment for cattle. They can get by with a more modest investment. Plus, there is a good demand for that meat.”

Skaggs said, “I’ve been told a big producer is someone who has one more cow or pig than I have. When I think about ag in South Dakota, many operations in the 1900s were only running 150 beef cows, milking 75 cows or raising feeder pigs. With land prices and commodities, young people may not have the opportunity to buy a lot of dirt. If they can get in the livestock business and work into it, they can acquire the dirt as time goes by. By renting pastures at a reasonable rate, they can do it. It takes a lot of sweat equity, but it is possible for them to do it.”

Skaggs works to bring the resources and people together within the state to in increase livestock production.

“How did large landowners get their start?” Skaggs asked. “They made wise choices. That’s changed through the years. It’s an exciting time to find the right people and help them take advantage of the available land and natural resources.”

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