GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A North Dakota livestock development specialist is studying whether expansion of the state’s livestock industry would financially benefit the farmers and ranchers who produce the animals.
The five livestock industries that Jon Biermacher, North Dakota State University Extension livestock specialist, is focusing his studies on are swine, dairy, beef cattle finishing, layer chickens and sheep and goats. He shared his findings during a presentation at the NDSU Extension Outlook Conference for Agricultural Lenders in Grand Forks on Oct. 16, 2023.
Biermacher was one of several NDSU Extension specialists who spoke during the conference, which also was held in Minot, Bismarck and Fargo during the week of Oct. 16.
During the 2023 North Dakota Legislative session,
which Burgum says has been a stumbling block for industry expansion in the state.
Benefits of expansion and development of the livestock industry include providing opportunities for the next generation of producers, improving North Dakota’s export base and providing an influx of income and employment in rural communities, Biermacher said.
Biermacher believes the pork, layer chickens and sheep and goat industries have the most potential for expansion because North Dakota already has a strong beef cattle industry.
“Beef cattle are dominant in North Dakota, and it’s a mature industry,” he said. “We have basically the same number of beef cows today as we did 30, 40 years ago. They do a real good job up here.
“Swine, if you look at the industry, there’s not very much of it here. There’s very little dairy. There’s very little poultry,” Biermacher said.
However, it would be difficult for North Dakota producers to compete with states such as Arkanasas, Oklahoma and Mississippi for the layer market because those states already have the infrastructure in place, he said.
Dairy, meanwhile, also has infrastructure in states such as Texas, which has a marketing advantage over North Dakota, a state that is located further from large population centers. Dairy herd expansion in other states is resulting in over-production of milk and cheese products, so building dairies in North Dakota would contribute to that, further depressing prices, Biermacher said.
“I don’t think you need many 10,000-head dairies to saturate the market,” he said.
Swine has the best potential for expansion in North Dakota because there’s fair demand for the meat and opportunity for it to increase in Sub-Saharan African countries where income levels are rising, Biermacher said.
Meanwhile, states such as Iowa, where there is a large swine industry are having bio-security issues because the hogs are housed in close proximity, which increases the potential for spreading disease to one another.
A multi-disciplinary group of NDSU livestock specialists, including a swine nutritionist, are researching the potential for expanding North Dakota’s swine industry, Biermacher said. The group is working to get funding to revamp NDSU’s swine research facilities.
His role is to determine whether North Dakota farmers can make money producing swine.
“From the economic perspective, I think it’s important to look at how it looks for farmers.…Trying to understand what the long-rate of return on investment is for modern confined facilities,” Biermacher said.
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: email@example.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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