PRENTICE, WIS. – Kurt Hallstrand helps decide agricultural policy in Wisconsin, but his boots are as muddy as the next farmer’s.
A member of the citizen-directed Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the Prentice beef producer and professional logger helps oversee the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Appointed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Hallstrand will serve on the board until May 2021.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “It’s opened my eyes a lot to what the agency is all about and the different issues across the state.”
Hallstrand is the most northerly member of board. He and his wife, Christina Hallstrand, along with his brother, Todd Hallstrand, operate Hallstrand Angus in Price County, Wisconsin. The brothers are fourth-generation farmers. Their father, John Hallstrand, lives across the road from the main farm on the original homestead settled in 1884.
The operation consists of 2,000 acres that span about a 15-miles area. About half the land is owned by the brothers, either together or separately. Todd Hallstrand, who works off the farm, is in charge of machinery and cropping. The family grows corn silage and haylage. Corn planting and chopping are custom-hired, but they cut and bale hay themselves. In 2017 they made 2,000 round bales of dry hay, 5-foot by 6-foot, predominantly trefoil and timothy. And they donated hay to a North Dakota suffering from drought.
While north-central Wisconsin grows abundant hay, corn is a different story. The Hallstrands prefer to buy corn for about $3 per bushel instead of growing it themselves. They’re too far north, and their soil too heavy and wet, to grow alfalfa.
The Hallstrands practice managed grazing on some of their pastures. Eighty acres near Prentice, which they intensively graze, feature a solar-powered well and fence. They recently purchased another solar system for 60 acres of pasture at a different location. They use a portable corral system and truck groups of cattle to different pastures – some on rented ground a reasonable distance from their farms.
“That’s something I’d encourage other beef farmers to do,” Kurt Hallstrand said. “We learned that from being out in the Dakotas. That’s what has allowed us to expand. Renting land is more advantageous then owning.”
He said they receive help from extended family when cattle need to be rounded up and handled. They often ride horses to work cattle.
Hallstrand’s son, Jedediah, 20, works on the farm full-time and has purchased cattle on his own.
“He is a huge asset to the ranch,” Kurt Hallstrand said.
Hallstrand is a lifelong farmer who has worked off the farm periodically, most recently from 2005 to 2012 as a Genex beef representative. The operation has been in beef since he was a child. Though they still own commercial cattle, the Black Angus herd is predominantly registered.
Calving starts in late March and continues through late May. This year 175 mature cows and about 30 heifers will calve. Cow-calf pairs are split into five grazing groups in summer. Calves are weaned in late October, when the family decides which bulls to retain for an annual spring sale. The 2018 on-farm sale will be their third, held at 1 p.m. April 28 at a leased property 5 miles northwest of Ogema, Wisconsin. There will be a sale ring and generally there is a full house of buyers from Wisconsin and neighboring states. For sale will be 30 registered Black Angus yearling bulls and about 15 heifers. The Hallstrands provide HD 50K genetic-test and fertility-check results to would-be buyers.
“Bulls in winter are fed second-crop bales, a Purina ration and haylage,” Hallstrand said. “They’re not in tight confinement because we want to them to be active and develop muscle.”
Hallstrand said he’s seen first-hand the power of genetic testing. Steers finish much more quickly than they did 20 years ago.
“Carcass and growth traits were not as explosive as they are now,” he said.
The family also sells preconditioned feeder calves to a market at Bloomington, Wisconsin. They wean them at least 45 days prior to shipping and administer two sets of shots. They retain 40 replacements; they are building their herd to 400 cows.
Hallstrand has been artificially inseminating the family’s cattle since 2005. Purchased herd sires are from Connealy Angus in Nebraska, Ellingson Angus in North Dakota, and Woodhill Farms in Viroqua, Wisconsin.
In 2017, Jedediah Hallstrand flushed four heifers he’d purchased from Jindra Angus in Nebraska. He anticipates 12 embryo-transfer calves this spring. Besides seed-stock sales, in the future he would like to explore direct marketing of beef.
Kurt Hallstrand said beef production is expanding in Wisconsin. He said dairy producers are selling their cows and replacing them with beef cows, especially if they farm marginal land. He’s received several calls from dairy producers not quite ready to fully retire and thus interested in producing beef. Wisconsin grows abundant hay and pasture, which is conducive for beef production.
Hallstrand logs timber in the winter within an 80-mile radius of the farm. He said he likes the independence of being a logger as well as a beef producer.
“(But) I truly enjoy checking on the cows every night,” he said.
In addition to serving on the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Hallstrand is president of the North Central Cattlemen’s Association. He’s on the board of the Wisconsin Angus Association and belongs to the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association.
“There are so many people who could be more involved,” he said. “Farmers don’t realize the impact we have on policies and legislative issues coming through.”
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