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Programs support next-gen livestock venturesPrograms support next-gen livestock ventures

South Dakota organizations assist young and emerging producers to develop their own livestock operations.

Sarah McNaughton

August 25, 2023

2 Min Read
beef cattle in feedlot
LIVESTOCK LEARNING: In the South Dakota Fed Cattle Challenge, students can learn about the science and economics of finishing cattle. Another program in the state can help youth better manage a sheep operation.AndrewLinscott/Getty Images

Commodity groups and university programs are longtime advocates of building interest in livestock production and supporting the development of new operations for youth. These programs from South Dakota State University Extension and the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation can help youth jump-start their own livestock venture:

Emerging Sheep Producers Program. From SDSU Extension, this program is open to anyone with 10 years or less of management experience in sheep production. It is designed for producers who want to develop or improve a sheep operation. Participants will learn all aspects of the sheep industry while improving skills needed to successfully shepherd their own flock.

The program is a nine-session course that consists of workshops, webinars, hands-on field days and networking opportunities. Participants will work with sheep while developing a personalized business and management plan.

To participate in this program, candidates must:

  • submit application form by Aug. 31

  • be over age 18 with 10 or less years of experience in sheep production

  • show a strong desire to manage a sheep operation if not currently involved in one

  • be committed to participating in the entire program and be willing to learn new ideas

  • attend face-to-face activities throughout the state, with travel and hotel being the responsibility of the participant

  • pay $200 per person or $300 per couple upon acceptance to the program

To find more information and the application, visit Emerging Sheep Producers Program.

South Dakota Fed Cattle Challenge. For high school livestock enthusiasts, the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation will offer the South Dakota Fed Cattle Challenge. Students in the state who do not graduate before May will learn about the science and economics of finishing cattle through their participation in a calf finishing program.

Running from Oct. 1 to June 1, the program will help youth build their knowledge about the cattle industry by:

  • understanding the process for finishing cattle through ownership of cattle at a custom feedlot

  • learning multiple topics on cattle production through videos and short quizzes

  • interpreting a closeout report for a pen of harvested cattle

  • presenting findings to a panel of industry judges

Winner Circle Feedyard will purchase, house, feed and care for the participant’s cattle throughout the program, with youth being responsible for about 30% of the purchase cost of roughly three head of cattle — about $1,000 to $1,500 in equity. The feedyard will finance the remaining value of the cattle, as well as the feed, yardage, hedging and medical costs until the cattle are sold.

Participants are required to review curriculum developed by industry experts, which chronologically details the process of starting and finishing cattle. These come in the form of 12 videos with written supporting materials to be reviewed on a biweekly basis. Youth must watch the video and then take a five- to 10-question quiz online.

To find out more about the challenge and register, visit the South Dakota Fed Cattle Challenge.

SDSU Extension and South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation contributed to this article.

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About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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