For Chad Kehn, 54, a fourth-generation farmer from Bonesteel, South Dakota, the opposite is true. His family raises cattle on more than 3500 acres of rangeland, and much of his 1400 acres of crop ground is geared toward supporting livestock. This arrangement naturally and necessarily developed because of the economic reality of operating in south-central South Dakota.
“Geographically, we’re in a hole,” Chad said. “It’s 60 miles to a rail terminal, which equates to $40 to $60 per acre just in freight expense.”
With freight costs alone to get his grain to the nearest terminal reaching upwards of $0.25 per bushel, it just makes financial sense for Chad to reinvest as much grain as possible back into the herd.
“Livestock is the industry we are raising our crops for,” Chad said. “The issue out here is our basis on grains is terribly high, and we’re trying to eliminate that basis by feeding it to livestock. As we increase livestock numbers, we haul less grain away, thus keeping the basis on the farm.”
With the goal of reducing grain hauling to zero, Kehn’s farm must strike the delicate balance between crop yield and cattle population while still doing the best job they can in both arenas. Maintaining success in each area takes hard work, which Chad learned from a young age working in the family operation.
“We didn’t go to town much,” Chad said. “We kept busy with the livestock and just didn’t have the time.”
Back then, livestock held a bigger focus, but over the years he’s developed an interest in raising better crops.
“When Dad was in charge, we were full bore with livestock and crops,” Chad said. “Farming and cattle continue to be my passion. To farm here, we need cattle.”