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Land, feed and demand for manure could spur animal agriculture in North Dakota

North Dakota’s wide-open spaces are attractive to hog producers in states such as Indiana and Iowa who are trying to improve biosecurity by spreading out barns. Soybean crush plants will soon be adding even more feed to the local supply, and manure is increasing in popularity as an alternative to commercial fertilizer.

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A sign on the door of the Quandt family's hog barn near Oakes, North Dakota, emphasizes the need for biosecurity. Having lots of room to allow hog barns to spread could be to North Dakota's advantage in promoting animal agriculture.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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Disease outbreaks are bad for the hog industry, but they are one of the things that is creating an opportunity for animal agriculture in North Dakota.

“PRRS has been rampant,” said Craig Jarolimek, a Forest River hog producer, referring to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

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Craig Jarolimek is a hog producer at Forest River, North Dakota.
Trevor Peterson / Agweek

Hog producers have been dealing with PRRS and PED — porcine epidemic diarrhea — and keeping their guard up against African swine fever.

That makes North Dakota’s wide-open spaces attractive to hog producers in states such as Indiana and Iowa who are trying to improve biosecurity by spreading out barns.

“You cannot put a price tag on biosecurity,” said Amber Boeshans, executive director of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance.

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The pork industry is looking at “pig population movement, not growth,” Boeshans said.

Some other factors that could boost animal ag in North Dakota are manure and access to ample feed.

“We have a lot of land base; we have a lot of grain,” Jarolimek said. “Those are huge assets.”

People in the livestock industry offer multiple reasons why North Dakota has fallen behind, with anti-corporate farming laws, a lack of ag processing, restrictive ordinances and the 'stigma' of livestock among them.

Loads of manure

The huge price swings in commercial fertilizer and interest in the soil health benefits of manure have more farmers looking to spread manure.

Manure was the motivation for Justin Quandt of Oakes, North Dakota, to look into hogs, and this summer he spread manure from two barns for the first time.

Bob Thaler, South Dakota State University Extension swine specialist, said a 2,400-head finishing barn will provide $35,000 worth of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and provide a 10% yield bump in corn.

“You get another 20 bushels just because you used livestock manure,” Thaler said.

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Quandt said he figured that the manure he applied this year will save him about $100 per acre and will continue to provide benefits into next growing season.

“It is absolutely a money saver,” Boeshans said. “Plus you have the added value of the organic matter and the water that is contained in the manure.”

Abundant feed

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum referred to the need for more animal ag at the groundbreaking of the North Dakota Soybean Processors plant in Casselton, North Dakota, in August. It, along with the Green Bison plant at Spiritwood, North Dakota, are under construction and should be up and running in the next two years, creating soybean oil and meal.

Soybean oil for use in renewable fuel and in the food industry has become the main product of soybean crush plants, with soybean meal, largely used to feed livestock, a secondary product.

But with so little animal ag in North Dakota, that soybean meal will likely be shipped elsewhere for use.

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Amber Boeshans, left, executive director of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance, listens as Mike Keller of ADM discusses animal agriculture at a conference promoting pigs in North Dakota on Sept. 28, 2022, in Fargo, North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Mike Keller, vice president of ADM, which is a 75% owner of Green Bison, said most of the meal from his plant will likely be shipped from the West Coast to Southeast Asia.

North Dakota Soy Processors has said it, too, likely will ship meal to markets such as Mexico and Canada.

But feeding it locally would be a more efficient way to use the meal.

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“We’re producing all this feed here in our state — let’s feed it to our own animals,” Boeshans said.

Nelson Neale, vice president of CHS Hedging, during a Sept. 12 conference in Moorhead, Minnesota, on the future of agriculture, pointed out that while raw corn and soybeans are relatively easy to ship in bulk, soy meal can have issues with moisture and humidity, especially in a hot and humid environment like a barge on the Mississippi River.

“It’s a more difficult product to physically handle,” Neale said.

Keller said having more animal ag in the state would help ADM with its goal of reducing emissions “at the farm gate,” 25% by 2035.

“That could be one where you incorporate that manure aspect,” Keller said.

Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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