LAMOURE, N.D. – There are times when a special livestock operation requires a specialized feed ration. That is the situation that developed when Brad Swenson, who lives southwest of Fort Ransom, decided to start raising pheasants for his main farm enterprise.
To be successful, the pheasants must start out with an extra high-protein 36 percent starter ration and gradually stepdown the protein as the pheasant chicks become older. He turned to LaMoure Feed and Seed to put that series of rations together and the rest is history.
Owner of the feed business, Dennis Wendel, has been making specialized feeds for the last 20 years – ever since he started up an abandoned feed mill and turned it into a thriving business. Providing feed for niche livestock enterprises has been one of the strong points of this business, since the majority of the large feed businesses, which Wendel calls, “big-box feed stores,” are interested in major livestock operations. Currently there are only a couple other feed plants in the state that can focus on custom, individual feed rations.
Wendel had been a life-long farmer north of LaMoure and decided he wanted to do something different in life. His son, Mike, was interested in taking over the farming operation, so Dan decided to retire from farming and try his hand at the certified seed and feed making business. It is a decision he hasn’t regretted, at least on the feed side.
After sitting empty for five years, it took a lot of work and funding to get the facility up and running, with the first emphasis on the seed business. But such things as higher tech fees and increased regulations, soon made the feed business more attractive.
One of the big sellers in those early years was cow-cake he was making for ranchers in Nebraska. The cubes were 32 percent protein, so hard he could stomp on it with their boot and it wouldn’t break.
“As the freight got more expensive, in order to make it more economical and stay competitive, we had to have a higher protein cube so they could feed less of it,” he said. “We still sell a lot of cow-cake to the ranchers in the Sand Hills of Nebraska and places in South Dakota. However, the feed business has changed over the last 20 years. Before you might have had five farmers with 40-50 cows, but now you have just one farmer with a 200 cow herd.”
But not being a “big-box” feed business makes it possible to custom design a feed ration to fit a certain farmer’s special need. Besides the pheasant rations, he also has custom-designed feed programs for buffalo and rations for getting many species ready for the show ring – including beef, swine, sheep and horses. He has also noted an uptick in the amount of egg layer feed being sold, as more families have a small flock of chickens in their backyard to provide fresh eggs.
Ration ingredients have changed with time
Twenty years ago, the concentrate rations were either built on a screening or barley base, according to Wendel. The vitamin and mineral portion of the ration has pretty much remained the same, but co-products are now widely used as the energy and protein portion of the ration. Such things as distiller’s grain, canola and soybean meal are used extensively.
“Soybean screenings work very well in these rations,” he reported. “Usually after loading a unit train with soybeans there is a semi or two of cracked beans and soybean dust. This is high in fat content from the soybean oil and makes a very shiny coat on animals that are fed just a small amount of this feed.
“Another product that worked great in the livestock rations was screenings from field peas. But when the dog food industry heard what a good feed ingredient pea screenings were, they forced the price to go up from $65 a ton to over $250 a ton, and suddenly including peas in a ration became price prohibitive.”
Wendel’s son, Trevor, came back to manage the feed plant about seven years ago and the plant presently employs five full-time people.
LaMoure Feed and Seed works closely with a national firm for their vitamin and mineral needs and they also provide answers and help with solving livestock nutritional questions when needed.
Livestock producers with custom ration needs can contact LaMoure Feed and Seed at 701-883-5755.