DICKINSON, N.D.– Rain, sleet, and plenty of snow and mud didn’t stop cattlemen and cattlewomen from climbing aboard the bus to tour ranches during the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association’s 32nd annual All Breeds Cattle Tour.
The tour of 15 ranches in the southwestern region of the state featured the best of the best genetics in several different breeds of cattle.
Family members who work hard every day to raise these cattle and breed the high-quality registered and commercial bulls and females hosted each stop. There, one family member described their operation and breeding program, while other family members brought out hot coffee and homemade goodies.
“We really commend North Dakota breeders for always putting on a fantastic showcase of their cattle,” said Kirby Goettsch, Lee Agri-Media livestock services. “It’s a testament to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association for this tour that features all regions of the state and represents all cattle breeds.”
The purebred operations will be marketing their bulls at their annual bull sale, and some will offer females, as well, at sales around cattle country this winter or in early spring. Tour participants had a chance to preview the bulls, ask questions, and receive a lot of information on each operation.
The All Breeds Cattle Tour has been a project of the North Dakota Seedstock Council for more than three decades.
The two-day tour was headquartered out of Dickinson, with Kurt Froelich, NDSU Extension Service agent in Stark/Billings Counties, being the master-of-ceremonies and guiding the tour.
Inside the tour bus, Froelich wanted to let some of the out-of-town producers learn a bit about Stark, Dunn and Billings Counties, where the tours were taking place.
“Producers here are growing small grains, cover crops, pulse crops, feed crops, corn because of the Richardton ethanol plant, and even some soybeans,” Froelich.
Froelich said the moisture the area received this growing season was “very, very pockety.”
He explained some areas, especially north of Dickinson were dry all summer, while some areas toward the south received more than their share of moisture.
“One area received more than 17 inches of rain in July. In this area, we normally receive 8-9 inches of rain during the growing season,” he said.
Marilyn Kisse was one of the many cow/calf producers viewing the ranches on the tour. Like others, she wore gloves, a coat, hat and tall boots, as the rain was falling in “buckets,” and some of the fields were becoming muddy.
Kisse and her husband, Adolph, are cow/calf producers near Richardton.
“We are seeing some very nice cattle today. I always go on the Stockmen’s tour, every year because I enjoy meeting people and seeing the individual operations all over the state,” Kisse said.
On the first day, participants viewed the Dukart Ranch near Manning.
The Dukart Ranch is a fourth-generation registered and commercial Black Angus ranch that celebrated its 100th year in operation this year under the same family.
Derrick and Angie own and operate the Angus ranch with their kids: Iris, Ian and Jude, along with Derrick’s parents. Angie’s parents are also part of the family operation and take care of the yearlings in the summer.
Derrick Dukart told the large crowd gathered around the opening to the barn that he appreciated the fall moisture they were receiving.
“We have been very dry here,” he said, adding because of that, they weaned calves in October.
The Dukarts calve in April and May.
“We are a no-frills operation and run our cattle on grass, crop residue, and cover crops,” Dukart said, adding on the farm side of the aisle, they grow wheat, corn, barley, oats and cover crops.
The Dukarts are well known for their cover crops and have grown cover crops in the past that have reached 6 feet tall or more. The cattle aren’t picky and will easily mow through the cover crops.
The family works with the NDSU Dickinson Research Extension Center and Doug Landblom, DREC livestock specialist, on cover crop research and cover crop livestock grazing. Derrick has given presentations on cover crops at the center’s tours.
“This year, our cover crops didn’t do very well but still provided soil benefits,” he said in a separate interview. “We got hail in July and some cover crops got hailed out, in addition to the dry conditions we had.”
They did get some production, and don’t need to buy hay.
“We have enough forage put together for this winter,” he added.
Dukart believes cover crops can help a farm/ranch because there are less inputs involved.
“If I can grow something (cover crops) to produce nutrients and keep something living so I can keep the soil biology healthy and alive during the winter months, then I can keep the soil microbes below the soil growing and the livestock (above the ground) healthy, which is the key to soil health,” he said. “Cover crops also benefit the crop next spring.”
The Dukarts will market their registered Angus bull calves as 2-year-olds (18-months to 21-months) and will have their bull sale this year on Dec. 1. These bulls are grown out on forage.
The Steffans brought a pen of pasture bull calves and another pen of cattle to the Dukart ranch to display.
Steffan Simmentals is a family operation that raises registered and commercial Simmental and SimAngus cattle north of Manning.
The family consists of Ethan and Katlyn Steffan; Tom and Deanna Steffan; Allison (Steffan) and Andrew Sampsel and Elissa Steffan.
Their 8th annual production sale will be on Feb. 2, 2019.
The family calves from March to April, and plans to wean the calves in mid-October due to dry conditions. They also raise wheat and corn for silage.
“Our bulls consist of some of the top bloodlines in the breed from years of AI’ing and using top-notch bulls,” Ethan said. “We try to graze our cows until the end of December.”
Katlyn works on the ranch and also owns her own massage therapy business in Dickinson.
“It was dry this year and we got hailed out at the ranch, but fortunately, we had crops at Ethan’s grandfather’s place, and they were good,” Katlyn said. “Everything at home was put into hay.”
SimAngus is a popular cross because “you get weight gain, muscling, meat yield and maternal traits of the Simmental with the meat quality, fancy heads and solid coat color attributes of the Angus,” she said. “But many guys still like the full Simmental bull.”
Ethan said he felt the exposure that the tour provided his ranch was positive.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase our bulls,” he said.
Other seedstock operations on the tour were: Stroh Herefords of Killdeer; Pelton Polled Herefords of Halliday; Wasem Ranch of Halliday; Prairie Hills Gelbvieh of Gladstone; Friedt Herefords of Mott; Wicks Cattle of Richardton; Ridl Angus of Dickinson; Talkington Angus Ranch of Belfield; Richard Angus of Belfield; Heart River Genetics of Belfield; Open A Angus of Medora; Heart River Ranch of Belfield; and Tessier Herefords of Belfield.
For more on NDSA, see www.ndstockmen.org.