Within the Prairie Pothole Region, a section of the northern Great Plains with both mid-grass and tall-grass prairies that contains thousands of shallow wetlands, Gene Heinrich and his family run a diversified grain, cattle and feedlot operation.
Based in Medina, North Dakota, Gene farms with his two sons – Richie and Michael. Richie and his wife, Sarah, run a purebred Gelbvieh operation on the farm, along with a commercial Angus herd. The farming enterprise also includes a feedlot, which backgrounds close to a 1,000 head of calves every year for a couple of feedlots in Nebraska.
“We start calving the purebred Gelbvieh about the first of March and calving of the commercial herd starts about April 1,” Gene said. “The Gelbvieh and commercial Angus cattle are kept on the same farm and once we start calving they are put in separate pens and remain separate when they go to pasture. We do this because we AI the purebred cattle, but not on the commercial herd, which are all bull-bred.”
The family holds its annual production sale in February when they’ll sell some of the bulls from the Gelbvieh herd. In addition, a large number of females from the commercial herd are sold as replacement heifers to those looking for commercial Angus calves.
Gene and his sons are the second and third generations on the farm.
“My dad bought the place in 1939 and the place has changed quite a bit since then,” Gene said. “The first cows on the farm were milk cows and then when I went to college the dairy cows left and the beef cows came in.
“This fall has really been crazy. We have half of our soybeans out yet and we haven’t even started our corn,” he continued. “It has been so wet all year. I think we have had over 30 inches of rain here, which is unheard of for our area. We live in the rolling pothole region and all of the potholes are full and we are trying to get our manure hauled out now. We can finally get around in the lots.”
Putting up hay this summer was also difficult because of the frequent rains. Gene figures 99% of this year’s hay crop had some rain on it before it was baled, and that carried into this fall when it came time to chop some of the corn crop for silage.
“We have our own self-propelled chopper and we usually run trucks to haul the silage, but it was so muddy that we couldn’t use the trucks. We ended up renting manure spreaders, taking the beaters off and pulling them with four-wheel drive tractors.”
So far, they have about a quarter of their hay hauled into the feeding areas and are waiting for the cold weather to firm up the ground a little more. They have been getting stuck while hauling hay and have again relied on the four-wheel drive tractors to pull some of the hay trailers instead of using the semi-trucks.
They are also starting to receive a few calves into the feedlot for backgrounding.
“We got a couple hundred head in the last two nights, so we have a lot of music going on right now,” he quipped, referring to the bawling calves.
Finishing up the soybeans and harvesting the corn for grain is definitely a high priority right now. All of the soybeans harvested as of now have been in the 15.5 to 17% moisture range, which means they have been putting some in an aeration bin and hauling others to the elevator.
“We haven’t even tried the corn yet,” he noted. “We were thinking of trying that (soon) if we can’t go on beans, so we can see where that moisture level is. No one around here has tried any corn yet. I’m thinking some corn is going to be left out over the winter and probably some beans as well.”
Gene’s wife, Tammy, teaches at the school in Medina and son Michael was married on the weekend of the big October blizzard to Katie.
“We were all in Fargo for the wedding and we were having a blizzard here. All of the cattle were still out in the pastures – so it was a stressful weekend,” he said.
Gene is a board member of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, representing the southeastern corner of the state.
This is the first report for the Heinrichs. Farm & Ranch Guide looks forward to our regular visits with Gene and his family throughout the winter and into next year.