Enger Farms in Marion raises both corn and cattle, two commodities that mutually benefit each other.

Enger Farms in Marion raises both corn and cattle, two commodities that mutually benefit each other.

Agriculture is full of cycles. From seed to harvest, wet to dry season, and even from boom to bust, farmers know well the give-and-take of agriculture. This pattern is especially found in crop and livestock products, which are dependent on one another for success. One such mutually beneficial relationship is that between corn, beef and ethanol.

cornGreat Beginnings Come From Corn

Jeff and Vicki Enger have been corn producers in Marion since 1977 when they took over the family farm. Together with Enger’s brother, nephew, and son, the family partnership devotes 3,500 acres to corn annually and also finishes around 1,000 Holstein steers every year.

“We use corn from our own farm and dried distillers grains (DDGs) from the ethanol plant. About two years ago, an ethanol plant was built within 17 miles of our operations so the corn we do not feed (about 75 percent) is sold to the ethanol plant,” Jeff Enger says. Roughly 40 to 60 percent of corn grown statewide goes to one of five ethanol plants, creating a huge market locally for corn.

During ethanol production, a nutrient-rich byproduct called distillers grains is made. The North Dakota Corn Council has been funding research on this valuable feed for the cattle industry.

ND ag [INFOGRAPHIC]“Ten years ago, our state was growing 600,000 acres of corn. This year we are projected at 3 million, so we have really grown our industry within the state,” Enger says.

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Looking toward the future of his three-generations- strong farm, Enger sees growth opportunities in feeding more livestock within the state.

“Recently, a beef processing plant was opened in Aberdeen, so maybe we will see more cattle finished in North Dakota because we have the corn available,” he says. “About 80 percent of our calves are shipped out, so this could be a game changer for both the corn and beef industries.”

Enger FarmsThe Beef Factor

Down on the Strommen Ranch in southern Morton County near Fort Rice, Aaron Strommen and his wife, Sheyna, and their three children, raise 180 registered Angus cattle. They also manage a herd of about 125 commercial cows, which are used as recipients in an embryo-transfer program.

“We differ from other beef producers in that 100 percent of our supplemental feed is purchased,” Aaron Strommen says. “We use corn as an energy source in our cattle’s diet. It’s purchased from local farmers and serves as an important part of our growing rations. We also use ethanol byproducts – modified distillers grains – as a protein supplement for our cow rations. It allows the cattle to better utilize poorer quality hay or straw, and ultimately helps us keep our supplemental feed costs low.”

Like the Strommens, many North Dakota cattlemen have embraced the idea of utilizing ethanol byproducts as a reliable source of feed.

ND ag [INFOGRAPHIC]Giving Back Through Fuel and Feed

According to the North Dakota Ethanol Council, each bushel of corn processed by North Dakota ethanol plants produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 18 pounds of livestock feed and 18 pounds of carbon dioxide. The majority of ethanol is exported to national and international markets.

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“North Dakota only consumes around 40 million gallons of ethanol, but we produce about 450 million gallons annually,” says Jeff Zueger, general manager, Blue Flint Ethanol and Dakota Spirit AgEnergy. “The vast majority of ethanol produced in North Dakota is used as a motor fuel. When blended with gasoline, ethanol reduces emissions. Additionally we produce corn oil at our facilities, which can be used as an input to biodiesel production or as a high energy feed product for livestock.”

Thanks to North Dakota’s abundant corn supply, ethanol facilities can process a locally grown product, further giving the state an advantage in production – and so the cycle continues, providing a win-win for all industries involved.

ND ag [INFOGRAPHIC]

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