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Boeves switch to complete containment to expand herd

Rural Steen cattle operation is one of eight to be featured on the Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour July 13. The event is hosted by the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen.

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Matt Boeve represents the third generation cattle producer on land near Steen. He's shown here on his parents' farm, with his farm visible just down the road. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

STEEN — G&A Farms, Inc., of rural Steen is a third generation beef cattle operation started by Arthur Boeve in the late 1950s. Second generation owners, Glen and Ann Boeve, created the incorporation and gave the farm its name, and third generation owner Matt Boeve continues to grow and expand the operation.

Comprised of adjoining farms — Glen and Ann’s to the west and Matt and Kayla’s to the east — the operation has a capacity for up to 2,500 head of cattle and 8,000 hogs, with Matt and Glen farming about 2,700 acres of tillable land.

“I’ve known since I was seven that I wanted to farm,” said the younger Boeve, who earned an associate’s degree in agriculture from South Dakota State University in 1998. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to grow land base and livestock base here.”

The farm’s most recent expansion was five years ago, when the Boeves went to complete containment — a requirement to be able to expand the number of animal units. All runoff is collected in lagoons — one on each farm — with underground pipes connecting the two lagoons to manage water levels.

“With as much water as we’ve had the last two years, it’s been challenging,” Boeve said. “They’re going to take some maintenance in the next couple of years to get them back to capacity.”

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Water from the lagoons is pumped onto approximately 60 acres of adjacent farmland, with a lot of it discharged in July, when Mother Nature tends to deliver less rainfall to growing crops.

“It doesn’t take a lot of set-up,” Boeve said of the system. “If it’s a perfect day, you just flip a switch. It’s programmable, so we can put on two-tenths to three-tenths or up to an inch (of water). It’s so handy, and as far as being a good neighbor, if it’s windy you don’t run it.”

Also somewhat unique to the Boeve operation is that most of the nine cattle pens in the operation have a concrete base. Those that don’t have dirt mounds.

“For taking care of the cattle — cleaning and bedding, we want to make them as comfortable all year long,” he said. “We want them to eat and rest and come back and eat again.”

Boeve has developed a working relationship with a cattle ranch in Montana, where he estimates about 60% of his cattle originate from. Generally, they bring in calves at 600 to 800 pounds in the fall, feed them through the winter and sell them in May.

“Then we’ll go buy some 800 to 900-weight yearlings to feed through summer to get us back to the fall calf run,” he said. “We feed all steers — a lot of black Angus, some Charolais.”

Cattle are marketed direct to the packer, generally to Tyson in Dakota City, Nebraska, and JBS in Grand Island, Nebraska.

In addition to Matt and Glen, the operation employs two hired hands, and Matt’s wife handles the book work. They have their own roller mill for rolling corn and modified distiller’s (purchased from Dakota Ethanol in Wentworth, S.D., and a commodity shed stores their cattle feed ingredients.

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The Boeves have incorporated technology into their cattle operation, using iPads in the feed truck, payloader, tractor and combine. Daily email reports show feed intake levels from every pen, which gives direction on whether the cattle should be pushed harder to eat or back off a bit.

The data helps Boeve figure break-evens and profitability.

“Farming is just as data driven as any other job,” he said. “We depend on it and it helps us every day.”

As Boeve eyes the changes of the past, and the potential for the future, he’s hopeful his kids will be part of the fourth generation of livestock producers. Between his daughters, Claire, 10, and Mallorie, 6, and Kayla’s sons, EJ, 12, and Gracyn, 9, they are a family of six who are proud to be Rock County cattle producers.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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