Luverne's Feikema named state's Cattleman of the Year
LUVERNE — Chuck Feikema, former president of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, was recently honored by that organization as the 2013 Cattleman of the Year.
The rural Luverne cattle producer has been involved with the state association for more than 35 years, and has been a strong supporter of the beef industry on both the state and national level.
Feikema grew into the cattle business after his dad, once a dairy farmer, sold out his herd and purchased a few dozen feeder cattle. The operation continued to grow over the years to what it is today.
With his older brother, Robert, the Feikemas expanded crop land, buildings and beef animals. Today, Chuck’s sons Shawn and Mike have taken over the management of Feikema Farms. The transition was made after Chuck was diagnosed in 2011 with Alzheimer’s.
Chuck served as vice president of the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association from 2003-2004, and president from 2005-2006. He remained on the association’s board of directors through 2008.
While the Cattleman of the Year honor was a complete surprise, Chuck takes pride in knowing he’s the second generation cattle producer to receive the award. His dad was named the state’s Cattleman of the Year in 1985.
“We used to go with his parents to the meetings and, as they got older, they backed away from it,” said Chuck’s wife, Char. “Now, we have a son that attends meetings.”
Following in his father’s footsteps in the cattle industry was a natural fit.
“It was never debated,” Chuck said. “My dad was glad to kind of see us take over and we were glad to do it, too.”
In 1987 the Feikemas constructed a new, open-front barn for their feeder operation, and added a monoslope-roof feedlot structure about a decade ago.
“We’ve restructured a lot of things over the years with the pens and managing them,” said Char. “If the years were good, we were blessed to be able to keep expanding.”
Beef prices this week are the highest they’ve ever been, added Chuck. The high prices are due to lower-than-usual cattle numbers in the U.S.
“We had so much drought in Texas, a lot of those cattle went to slaughter because the farmers didn’t have feed,” Chuck said. The losses in western South Dakota following an early-season blizzard last fall have also impacted the industry.
Western South Dakota is where the Feikemas receive a lot of their feeder cattle. In addition to beef feeders, they also feed out Holstein cattle.
The Holsteins come in at about 400 pounds, with the beef feeders arriving at Feikema Farms at about 700 pounds. With the size of the operation, the Feikemas are sending cattle to market every couple of months. All of their cattle are delivered to a Tyson plant in Dakota City, Neb.
With the next generation taking over management and day-to-day operations, Chuck’s role has changed a bit. He still goes out to the feedlots every day, hauls manure, brings in new bedding for the cattle and handles the work when new feeders are brought in.
Chuck and Char agreed that technology has changed their business and all of agriculture.
“Farming is no longer just something you do — it’s a business,” said Char.
Looking back on his career, Chuck said, “It’s been a good run.”
Together, the Feikemas have attended every National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention since 1989. The conventions have taken them from Texas to Colorado, California and even Florida.
In a couple of weeks, they will be taking off for the 2014 convention, this time in Nashville, Tenn. As part of the event, they participate in pre-convention tours and get to see how cattle are raised in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, their sons will be on the farm, making sure the cattle are taken care of.
“We feel we’ve been very blessed with opportunities and kids who are able to take over the operation,” Char said. “We’re thankful that we’ve got that.”
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.