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Thiers complete a decade of cattle farm expansion

Rural Rushmore farm is one of eight stops on Minnesota State Cattlemen's Summer Beef Tour July 13. The event is hosted by the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen.

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Ryan Thier stands next to some of the cattle in one of the farm's monoslope buildings. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)
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RUSHMORE — R&R Thier Feedlots is growing the fourth generation of cattle producers all while going through a major expansion project on land west of Rushmore.

Owners Ryan Thier and his dad, Richard — the R&R in the farm’s name — have pen space today for up to 15,000 head of cattle after significant expansion efforts in the past decade.

The Thier farm was started by Ryan’s grandfather, Cyril, who began feeding cattle in the 1920s. Richard, after graduation and a stint in the service, returned to the farm in the late 1950s, and roughly 40 years later, Ryan joined the operation after earning a two-year degree in farm management and ag business.

“Dad and I worked together and I gradually took over the reins,” said Ryan.

The feedlot was on the State Cattlemen’s Tour in 2010, at which time visitors saw the Thiers’ first 1,500-head capacity monoslope barn (built in 2004) and outside lots. Since then, 12 new outside lots with cement bases and mounds, along with three additional monoslope barns have been constructed. The lots and a 1,500-head slatted confinement barn were completed in 2014, and two 3,000-head capacity barns were completed in 2016 and 2018. In that time, the Thiers also poured concrete floors on their existing outside lots.

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“We don’t have Mother Nature to cooperate with us feeding livestock,” Ryan said, noting that the cement lots are less labor intensive, and the monoslope barns provide not only a buffer against the harsh winters, but welcome the sunlight and improve efficiency in feeding cattle.

“We’re trying to get consistent gain and conversion,” Ryan said. “With the slatted barns, once the cattle are in there, they’re on their home stretch.”

Cattle come into the outside lots between 300 and 700 pounds, and come from producers all across the United States. While Holsteins have been the breed of choice, the Thiers are in the process of converting to native cattle because of the greater access to markets. At this time, a JBS facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin is their only option for marketweight Holsteins.

“Things change every day and we have to adapt, to find that niche market,” Ryan said. “The Holstein market was tough the last couple of years.”

The Thiers feed a ration of silage, earlage, corn, byproducts and supplements, and move their feeders under roof for the last 150 to 200 days before they reach market weight.

A commodities shed added in the last decade is one of the greatest things Ryan said they could have done.

“That’s had the biggest return — that and our loading site being under roof,” he said.

R&R Thier Feedlots employs eight to 10 people, on average, who are a “huge part of our success,” Ryan said. The next generation of Thiers, growing up in the business, are also finding ways to help when needed.

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Ryan and his wife, Stephanie, have five children — son Ryker, 13; and daughters Lucy, 12; Stella, 10; Hazel, 8; and Wren, 6.

“My great-grandfather bought this 80 acres,” Ryan said of the home farm. “He had 16 children and bought 80 acres for each of them.”

Today, Ryan said the family is trying to use every tool it has to the max to remain successful.

“We’re trying to be efficient,” he said. “I think that’s the name of the game in today’s world.”

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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