It’s a big business and it’s only getting bigger, says Jesse Tysdal of Tysdal Triple T Farms, located about five miles north of Fergus Falls on County Road 1.
The cattle business is booming due to increased local processing of animals.
“The one thing that really helped us the last couple of years was the demand for locally raised product — especially beef. You really saw that with local locker plants filling up so fast that most appointments were almost a year out,” said Tysdal.
Tysdal emphasized that in the past, most customers would be able to get an animal processed at any of the local lockers within a month or two. Whereas now, if you were to call and try to set up an appointment, the wait is taking much longer — by months.
According to the Economic Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2022, cattle production was forecast to represent about 17% of the $462 billion in total cash receipts for agricultural commodities. Cattle production is the most important agricultural industry in the United States, consistently accounting for the largest share of total cash receipts for agricultural commodities. In addition to having the world's largest fed-cattle industry, the United States is also the world's largest consumer of beef — primarily high-value, grain-fed beef.
Another longtime cattle producer, Tim Enderson of Enderson Livestock & Grain, was born into his operation and was raised by Jerry and Doris Enderson of Fergus Falls.
“My mom and dad started the farm back in the late 1950’s — the original farm,” said Enderson.
Enderson now has two locations. He, along with his nephew, Ben Thompson, run both of the operation's locations. The original farm is located on County Highway 29, and the other is north of Wall Lake.
Enderson said the thing he enjoys most about being in the cattle business is acquiring cattle and going to many auctions, in-person as well as online.
“We buy locally, we buy on the internet and we also travel into the Dakotas to buy cattle. I go to a lot of auctions,” said Enderson.
For the most part, Enderson admits there isn’t any part of the operation or the business that he dislikes except the weather.
“The weather can be a real challenge. It’s just a lot of work — if you get a snowstorm or something — it’s just a lot of work. Weather makes it a lot harder. If you’ve got nice weather, it’s not bad at all,” said Enderson.
Enderson also admitted that there have been a lot of changes in the business and how they do things now compared to 40 or 50 years ago.
“The way that we market cattle is one of the biggest (changes). The feeding has changed — a lot of people lose money feeding cattle. You have to feed them right, you have to buy them right, you have to sell them right, you’ve got to have some luck with the weather ... Everything has to come together or it won’t work. A lot of people go broke doing it,” emphasized Enderson.
Though they have a continuity plan set up for a new generation to take the operations over some day, Enderson stated: “We’re just the size we want to be. We don’t want to be any bigger or smaller, we’re just where we want to be.”
With the whole operation, Enderson usually averages around 1,500 head of cattle. Mostly Angus, but almost any other breed, with a lot of buying and selling of animals going on all the time.
“Most of our cattle end up at packers in Nebraska. We sell cattle every week of the year."
Enderson explained that the little meat store they once ran was a fun endeavor when the kids were younger. But as they grew older, they didn’t want to work in a meat store, so they no longer had the help and didn’t want to work so hard. "It’s not that we couldn’t do it, we just didn’t want to do it. We now sell cattle in semi loads every week and buy them every week,” stated Enderson.
“Marketing is a big deal. You’ve got to know how to market cattle if you’re going to make some money with them. You really do,” said Enderson.
A survey conducted in early 2022 by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Extension highlighted how in livestock industries, the beef market suffered tremendously when COVID-19 ultimately made timely processing unavailable.
In commenting on the state’s beef market, the USDA Economic Research Service said, “The prices of feeder calves have continued to increase each year, thus benefiting the producers. Many of these producers are scarcely breaking even and are frustrated with the increased costs associated with each animal on their property. This increase in costs is thought to be primarily due to all the expenses that cow-calf producers must incur to run their operations. In recent years, feed and management costs have increased, thus negatively affecting the value of the cattle to producers. Some producers have begun raising fewer animals that are larger, whereas other producers have focused on maximizing their system efficiency. Currently, producers are most concerned by the discrepancy between the prices paid by consumers and the prices paid for cattle earlier in the supply chain. Much of the frustration stems from a lack of transparency and lack of competition at the packer level.”
With local beef producers such as Tysdals and Endersons, amongst others, locally sourced food continues to meet the desires of Otter Tail county residents — even during lengthy processing times.