Brewster family builds bison business

Fmn brewster bison
By Kyle Kuphal

There is a place north of Brewster where the bison still roam. That place is called Brewster Bison and it’s owned by Russell and Ann Obermoller, their son, Kurt, and his wife, Brooke.
The family has two breeding herds — one at Russell and Ann’s farm a few miles north of Brewster and the other at the farm owned by their son, Kurt, and his wife, Brooke, about seven miles northwest of there. They also have a finishing facility at Kurt and Brooke’s farm.
The family ventured into raising bison in 2018.
“First of all, the animal has just always been of interest to us,” Russell said. “It’s just a beautiful animal.”
In addition to that, he said Kurt wanted to work on the family farm after high school and the family decided that raising bison was a way to make that happen. Russell said the family was fortunate to have a friend in the business who mentored them and helped them get started. He said those in the industry, in general, have been outgoing, open with information and eager to help, and that the Minnesota Bison Association and National Bison Association, of which they are members, also provide helpful information for those in the business.
Once they got into the business, the Obermollers said their herd grew more quickly than they expected.
“When we first started we estimated that in five years we’d have a herd of about 50 and we got in way deeper than that,” Russell said.
He said they bought their first 11 bison at a high point in the market and then some breeding animals came up for sale that were much less expensive than the first group, so they bought those. They continued to grow their herd from there and now have around 150 bison.
“After we were into it just a short while we could see that we really enjoyed being around the animals and working with them,” Russell said.
The Obermollers said bison are intelligent and agile animals. Russell said he’d seen a bison run full speed, stop and turn around “on a dime” and a nearly 2,000-pound breeding bull jump three feet straight up into the air when spooked. He said they also had a cow that once jumped over a 5-foot, 5-inch fence.
“I didn’t see it , but all of a sudden she was in the other pen and that’s the only way she could have gotten there,” he said.
The bison eat grass, hay and grains. Russell described them as very self controlling when it comes to their food.
“They aren’t like a beef animal that will just over eat on the grain,” he said. “They’ll moderate themselves. At different times of year they’ll eat different minerals more so when their body needs it.”
Russell said bison take about 30 months to be ready for market. The Obermollers butcher around four or five animals every month and sell the meat directly to local restaurants, butcher shops and farmers markets. Ann said people can also contact her online via and arrange to buy products directly.
They sell the meat by the quarter and half as well as steaks, summer sausage, brats, ground, patties, roasts, jerky, sticks, briskets and any form that beef can be purchased in. Russell said bison is comparable to beef in taste, but a little richer. The Obermollers said it’s also healthier. According to a nutritional comparison from the National Bison Association, bison has less fat, calories and cholesterol, a comparable amount of protein, and more iron and vitamin B-12 than beef.
“We like to call it the heart healthy meat,” Ann said.
In addition to raising bison, the family grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa. Russell said they started crop farming in 1986. Their farm was established by his grandfather almost 100 years ago.

Soy-based shoes?
Martin County soybean producers raise awareness of new use for soy through donation to frontline health care workers

Fmn soy based shoes
Martin County soybean producers are taking their crop from the farm to the frontlines.
In partnership with the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, which directs the state’s soybean checkoff resources, Martin County soybean producers have launched the Stepping Up campaign to amplify farmer profitability and promote the value-added uses of soybeans while making community connections. As part of the local Stepping Up promotional effort, Martin County soybean producers recently donated 50 pairs of Skechers soy-based GO shoes to Dulcimer Medical Center and United Hospital District in Fairmont.
“Both of these clinics serve our community well and our family appreciates their personal care,” said Rochelle Krusemark, who serves on the Martin County Corn and Soybean board and is a longtime MSR&PC director. “It was great to give back to them.”
Jacob Sukalski, chair of the Martin County Corn and Soybean board, agreed.
“It is important to recognize the individuals who make an impact in our community,” Sukalski said. “This was our way to thank to the hard-working health care workers in our county.”
Rick Ash, UHD CEO, said the donation was appreciated.
“We’re so thankful that the Martin County Corn and Soybean Growers Board chose our staff to be the recipient of this unique line of Skechers,” Ash said. “The fact that soybean oil is used in the production of these Sketchers shoes, possibly even from crops grown right here in southern Minnesota, makes this donation even more meaningful.”
The Stepping Up campaign strives to inform both farming and non-farming public about soy’s environmental advantages and the myriad uses of soybean oil. Martin County soybean growers said they also wanted to show their appreciation to health care workers in their community.
“We know how much health care workers sacrifice for others in communities throughout Minnesota, especially in the past couple of years; I’ve seen it firsthand,” said Bird Island farmer and MSRPC chair Joe Serbus, whose wife, Doreen, has worked in health care for more than 40 years. “This campaign is an investment in both value-added soybean products and in the selfless health care professionals who keep us safe and healthy.”
Skechers released its GO line of footwear, which uses soybean oil to improve grip, stability and durability, in 2020. Skechers is using the same checkoff-supported technology featured in Goodyear Tire Co.’s line of sustainable soy-based tires, which incorporated soy into its rubber technology.
Kurt Stockbridge, Skechers vice president of product development and innovation, said the company and the soybean checkoff are stepping up to create a superior shoe and reduce their environmental footprints.
“Discovering ways to make product more sustainable is top of mind for Skechers,” Stockbridge said. “Though we were aware of the sustainable qualities of soybean oil, we were surprised to learn what the oil could do to improve our outsole rubber performance.”
For each dollar Martin County soybean farmers pay toward checkoff resources, growers receive an estimated $12.33 in return value. Today, more than 1,000 commercially available products — ranging from shoes to machinery lubricants to asphalt — use commodity and high-oleic soybean oil.
“Once that soybean hits the mill, it’s local, it’s national — it’s everywhere,” said Belinda Burrier, a United Soybean Director who helped oversee the partnership with Skechers. “The money farmers make back on the checkoff is fantastic.”
The Martin County Corn and Soybean board is affiliated with the MSR&PC, a 15-person, farmer-led board that oversees the investment of checkoff dollars on behalf of the nearly 28,000 soybean farmers in Minnesota. The council is governed by the rules of a federally mandated checkoff program requiring all soybean producers to pay a fee on the soybeans they sell. This money is used to promote, educate and develop market opportunities for soybeans.

All about the speed
High speed disks have become popular in recent years

Fmn 2680h color
By Kyle Kuphal

High speed disk tillers hit the market several years ago and have quickly grown in popularity.
“For us here in Pipestone, the High Performance Disk has been our number one selling tillage tool,” said Steve VanDyke, sales representative at C&B Operations in Pipestone.
Different brands have different names for their high speed disks. John Deere’s is the 2680H High Performance Disk. Case IH’s is the 475 Speed-Tiller. Whatever they’re called, the common factor, as the name suggests, is speed.
“Speed is a big deal,” VanDyke said.
According to John Deere, the 2680H is made to be used at 10 to 14 mph. Curt Fey, equipment sales consultant at Titan Machinery in Pipestone, said the 475 Speed-Tiller is made to go seven to 10 mph. Years ago, the typical disk speed was around 4 or 5 mph.
VanDyke said C&B in Pipestone started selling John Deere’s High Performance Disk in 2018 and they quickly became popular due in part to extremely wet conditions in 2018 and 2019 because the higher speed helps carry the equipment over wet areas.
“What we learned about these tools was yes, they can get stuck, yes, they can have trouble in extreme mud, but because of the speed they were the one tool that guys could carry across nearly any piece of ground in the fall and get some form of tillage accomplished,” he said.
The equipment sellers said farmers also like high speed disks because they save time and time, as they say, is money.
“Often times for a farmer, time is our capital,” VanDyke said.
He said saving time also saves fuel and reduces the hours put on tractors. The high speed disks can also reduce wear and tear on other equipment. Traditionally, VanDyke said, farmers had a ripper and maybe a chisel plow and maybe a disk for the fall and a cultivator in the spring. The high speed disk can reduce the need for some of those or extend their useful life.
The high performance disks are considered a dual purpose tool that farmers can use in the spring and fall. VanDyke said the disks do a good enough job when used in the fall that farmers can direct seed soybeans right into the seedbed in the spring. If a farmer can’t get fall tillage done, he said, they could use it in the spring as a one pass tool and still make a good seed bed.
“It’s not a true no till, but it would be a minimal till,” VanDyke said. “And the seedbed is good so the planter performs well.”
Fey said the seedbed created by high speed disks can improve crop emergence.
“It makes a level seedbed for next spring when you go out there and plant with levelness and a smooth seedbed floor,” he said. “You don’t have any valleys so it’s nice and level, so your crop emerges better.”
VanDyke said the high performance disk is one of the most fun tools to take out into the field to demonstrate.
“Nobody believes it can do what it can do until all of sudden they drive it,” he said. “You get out with a shovel, pull a little loose soil back to go look at the ground underneath and all of a sudden they’re going, ‘We could plant into this couldn’t we? That’s really something.”
Fey said many farmers are also turning away from traditional disks or rippers that penetrate deeper into the ground.
“A lot of customers figure they don’t need that deep tillage any more,” Fey said. “They go to more of a reduced or minimum tillage.”
The high speed disks are promoted by the manufacturers as being able to cut, size, and mix and bury crop residue for faster breakdown, which helps improve soil quality and maximize crop yields. Fey said they allow for better water and nutrient penetration, reduce compaction, reduce erosion and increase capacity.

Locally built tractor voted one of the best in the world

Fmn fendt tractor
A tractor engineered and manufactured in southwestern Minnesota has been voted one of the best in the world.
The Fendt 1100 Vario MT tracked tractor was named the recipient of the prestigious Farm Machine 2022 Audience Choice Award earlier this year in conjunction with Agritechnica, the world’s leading agricultural trade fair, in Hanover, Germany. The award is voted on by members of the public.
“More than 10,000 votes were cast for this machine,” said Carsten Matthäus, agriculture publisher and a member of the jury of international farm equipment journalists that annually selects winners of top farm machinery awards at Agritechnica. “That is a new record.”
In addition to emerging as the favorite of members of the public who voted, the Fendt 1100 Vario MT tracked tractor also impressed the jury, said Helmut Süß, editor for agricultural technology and energy at Bayerisches Landwirtschaftliches Wochenblatt and member of the jury.
“The Fendt 1100 Vario MT has become a masterpiece,” he said. “This was an international collaboration, and yet the Fendt genes are fully recognizable.”
Engineers from AGCO Jackson Operations in Jackson and AGCO’s Marktoberdorf location in Germany worked closely together on the development of the tractor, said Walter Wagner, managing director of research and development for AGCO/Fendt.
“The tracked tractor was designed in the U.S., while the transmission and the operation system were developed in Marktoberdorf,” Wagner said. “The Fendt 1100 Vario MT combines punch and power. The Fendt Vario transmission and the innovative Fendt VarioDrive powertrain ensure comfortable and efficient work.”
The top model of the series, the Fendt 1167 Vario MT, has the highest horsepower with a continuously variable transmission on the market, Wagner said. Another unique selling point of the series is the steerable drawbar or the steerable hitch for optimized directional stability. Flexible ballasting options for different applications can be found at the wheels, rear and front, Wagner added, and more comfort and durability are offered by the SmartRide suspension, the optional SmartRide+ and the Fendt LongLife rollers.
Wagner said he and the entire AGCO/Fendt team were honored to have the Fendt 1100 Vario MT track tractor named the recipient of the Farm Machine 2022 Audience Choice Award.
“In the Audience Choice Award voting, participants determine which machine should win,” he said. “The fact that this powerful tracked tractor won shows me that the participants focused on intelligent technology and impressive traction power.”

Producers turn their eyes to 2023

Fmn lookingtothefuture
By Kyle Kuphal

With the harvest now complete, many farmers are reviewing how 2022 went and starting to make plans for 2023. As part of that process, many farmers meet with agricultural lenders.
Brad Bruxvoort, chief credit officer and market president at First State Bank Southwest in Pipestone, referred to this time as “renewal season,” when the bank renews producers’ lines of credit.
“We review financial statements and project their borrowing needs based on cash flow projections for the next year,” Bruxvoort said.
Bruxvoort said he sends letters to producers with the previous year’s financial statements around this time and the producers update the information and sends it back. He said it’s very important to look at the financials before the start of the next season and compared the financial review to an annual checkup.
“The numbers tell us if an operation has been profitable,” he said.
If the numbers don’t look good, Bruxvoort said, the financial review can provide an idea of what happened and what needs to be fixed. Maybe the food ration was changed, fertilizer was changed, a new marketing plan was implemented or the operation was expanded and it affected profitability.
“All these things come into play,” Bruxvoort said.
He said each operation is unique and requires case-by-case individual attention, but that bankers use financial bench marks to monitor whether anything is out of line with averages.
Kent Vander Lugt, senior vice president at First Bank and Trust in Pipestone, said tax planning is also done between now and the end of the year. That includes deciding when to pay for some of next year’s inputs – such as seed, fertilizer and chemicals — and make equipment purchases based upon the tax impact.
“A lot of guys have in their mind, on some of the inputs, what they want to do,” Vander Lugt said. “They might pay now or they might pay right after the first of the year, depending on their tax planning.”
As a whole, those in the business said this was a good year for producers. Yields were all over the board, but commodity prices are strong.
At the same time, input costs are much higher than usual. Equipments costs and interest rates are also higher than they have been recently. The increasing interest rates reduce purchasing power and will make a big difference if a producer has to borrow money for land or equipment.
“Unfortunately for them, if they’re borrowing money, interest expense is going to be a bigger deal next year than it was this past year,” Vander Lugt said.
Bruxvoort said the increased costs of doing business mean break even points are generally higher, which is something he advises producers to consider when making any decisions.
Vander Lugt said lenders also look at historical data to see how decisions would likely impact the operation in the future. He said farmers are calling now to look at input costs for next year and get their lender’s opinions.
Post harvest is not the only time bankers interact with producers. They meet with them at various points of the year to do financial analysis, prepare financial statements, do cash flow planning and make site visits to see how the growing season is going.
Vander Lugt said farmers today are handling larger amounts of money than ever before and that agriculture is a large part of the rural economy.
“As a bank probably, on the lending side, 65 to 70 percent of our business is ag-related,” he said.
The bankers said their overall role is to help farmers identify threats, manage risk and be successful.
“We look at helping them manage risk the best that they can,” Vander Lugt said. “They have to make the final decision, but sometimes it’s just helping them make the decision.”

The best time to start farm succession and estate planning is now

Fmn focused law
By Justin R. Lessman

Whether just starting out or nearing the end of the row, the best time for farmers to start the farm succession and estate planning process is now.
That’s the advice of Ashley J. P. Schmit, attorney at law and owner of Focused Law Firm in Jackson.
“The biggest hurdle in the process is just getting started,” Schmit said last week. “Whether it’s an 18-year-old just getting started on the farm or somebody who’s nearing the end their career, my advice is to start now. Don’t wait until the last minute.”
At its core, farm succession and estate planning is about one thing, Schmit said.
“It’s about putting your wishes in writing,” she said. “It sounds simple, but it’s really so important for farm families to do.”
Farm succession and estate planning involves two pieces, Schmit said — incapacity planning and planning for what happens upon death.
“When people think about succession and estate planning, they usually think about what happens when they pass away,” she said. “However, incapacity planning is just as important.”
Once the decision has been made to begin planning, Schmit said, a meeting is scheduled between the client and the estate attorney.
“That first meeting is a time of information gathering and education,” she said. “I educate the client on the law and their options, and they educate me about their situation and their wishes. Both are really important. There’s a lot of back and forth, and people usually leave that first meeting with a lot to think about and many questions to answer.”
Most questions revolve around assets, Schmit said.
“The process is very asset-driven,” she said. “It’s the process of passing property along to the next generation. And with farms, it can be somewhat complex. You’re dealing with farmland, machinery, livestock and, in some cases, business entities. Together, we look at how to pass that property on in the most advantageous way for the client.”
Determining the most advantageous way to do that — and actually implementing those ways — may require bringing additional team members into the conversation, Schmit said.
“At times, because there are so many aspects to consider and because every situation is unique, we will employ a team approach to planning,” Schmit said. “This may involve a tax attorney, a certified public accountant, a financial adviser and life insurance or long-term care insurance experts. It’s definitely a team effort to make sure the client is being served well.”
Once all the options are considered and all the necessary decisions have been made — usually after a series of meetings, Schmit said — she meets with clients one final time for a signing meeting.
“That final meeting is when the client finalizes their wishes,” she said. “It’s rewarding to me to see the peace of mind that can give people — to know their wishes will be carried out as they intend. For some, that’s to benefit of all their children. For some, that’s to preserve the family farm. For some, that’s to take what has been built for generations and ensure it continues on into the future. Everyone has a story, and the farm succession and estate planning process really ensures those stories are written as people want them to be.”

A newcomer to the pig business
Rock County farmer sees pigs as a quality investment

Fmn feature ryan
By Kyle Kuphal

Ryan Houg and his family are fairly new to the pig business.
“It’s just something we’ve always wanted to do,” said Houg, who lives near Sherman, S.D. on the Minnesota side of the state line in Rock County. “We’re a lot more used to calves and cattle, dairy calves.”
Houg said his dad used to milk cows when Houg was growing up on the family farm near Jasper. He said his dad also worked with pigs in the past and his parents, Curt and Lisa, saw building pig barns as a type of retirement plan.
“Financially, if you can, it’s kind of a good investment,” Houg said. “Selling the manure makes it that much better too.”
Curt and Lisa built a barn near their home and Houg and his brother Adam built another barn, also near Jasper, about four years ago. Each site has about 2,400 pigs.
About that same time, Houg bought the property where he now lives, and about two year ago, he built a barn there that also holds about 2,400 animals. Houg said his property was a perfect location to build a barn on.
“Everyone kind of makes a face when it’s so close to the house, but really unless the wind is perfect you don’t really smell too much of it,” Houg said. “These barns are a lot more efficient now days. The air is constantly moving in them and they don’t smell near as much in my opinion.”
In addition to it being a good investment, Houg said he got into the pig business because he likes animals and taking care of them.
“I feel like I’m good at it,” he said. “I care.”
Houg said much of the operation is automated. His barn has a system he can use to monitor and control temperature, ventilation, water intake and much more. He also has an app that allows him to access the system from his phone. Houg said the producer still has to walk to barns to monitor for problems, but he appreciates the automation.
“The system itself is really nice,” Houg said. “Most of the time you don’t ever have a problem, but there’s always those few times.”
He said the day to day operation of the barn includes checking feed bins to see how much is needed, making sure there’s water available, monitoring air quality, monitoring for dead animals and making sure things are working correctly. He does most of the work himself at his barn, but gets some help from friends or family when loading pigs or if he’s away. He said he, his brother and their parents all help each other out with the three barns they own too.
Houg said the family custom feeds pigs for Mike Baustian, of Jasper, who is part of Pipestone System.
“I really enjoy it,” Houg said. “We really like feeding for Mike. He’s a really good owner.”
Houg said Baustian hires an advisor with Pipestone System to monitor his family’s barns, make recommendations about treatment and medications, and markets the pigs.
“It’s nice to have her second set of eyes,” Houg said.
He said Baustian also produces his own feed.
“They do a really good job with their feed quality,” Houg said. “It keeps the pigs really healthy. They grow so much better when they have a good feed source.”
Houg said he’s grateful for the encouragement of Baustian and his son Erik to build the barn at his property, for the support of his parents and the help of his brother who designed his barn, the one he owns with his brother and the one their parents own.
The 34-year-old graduated from Pipestone Area Schools and studied construction management and business at South Dakota State University in Brookings. He said his dad needed help on the farm and he enjoys farm work, so that’s the path he took after college. He still does some carpentry work on the side and helps his dad with dairy calves that he custom feeds. He’s also a trustee at Jasper Evangelical Lutheran Church.