Summit Lake Livestock converts barns for livestock production

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WILMONT, Minn. – When brothers Russ and Brian Penning started Summit Lake Livestock about 15 years ago, they did so to start the largest Penning Farms operation on their own south-east of Wilmont.

The two began by purchasing day-old bottle Holstein calves and as the business grew they renovated several vacant pigsties on the site of an uncle’s farm, added two barns to hoops on this same site and have built two more hoop barns on the farm where they grew up. up.

Brian and Garrett Penning stand in one of the barns they’ve turned into a calf barn, complete with calf crates. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Today, Summit Lake Livestock continues to import day-old bottle calves, although the majority weigh 200 pounds. They also went from Holstein to the Holstein-Angus cross. Plus, they buy cattle at 600 pounds to finish off.

On the State Cattlemen’s Tour, the Pennings will showcase the pigsties they converted for livestock production.

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“The barns were at a point in their life where they needed everything,” Russ explained. Doing the job mostly on their own, they gutted the buildings, installed new electrical components and custom beams in the floors, and replaced the slats. A pair of calf barns has two different growth systems: one with open pens where calves roam free; the other with individual calf cages.

Holstein-Angus cross calves are raised in what was once a pigsty on the Summit Lake Breeding Farm near Wilmont.  (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Holstein-Angus cross calves are raised in what was once a pigsty on the Summit Lake Breeding Farm near Wilmont. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

The Pennings use two other former pigsties – 40-foot-wide curtain barns from the 1990s – for finishing cattle. On these buildings, the south walls were removed to make room for feeders and the access to the manure pit was changed. The pit is pumped out twice a year, with an exterior containment zone used to hold spring manure until it can be applied after harvest in the fall.

“If I had to do it again, I would definitely do it again,” Russ said of converting the barns to beef production. “It was a way for us to expand our existing facilities that we already had. The costs weren’t huge, but the return to the farm is more important.

The brothers, with the help of their families, bucket milk replacer to the young calves and finish the cattle with corn silage, a diet of high moisture corn, as well as grass and grass hay. straw.

Some of the Holstein-Angus cross calves are raised in a converted pigsty at Penning Farm.  (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Some of the Holstein-Angus cross calves are raised in a converted pigsty at Penning Farm. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

“We have alfalfa, but we usually sell most of it to local dairies,” Russ said.

While baby calves come from dairies in the Midwest, Summit Lake Cattle welcomes 230 200-pound calves each week from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. With a mix of steers and heifers coming in, Russ said they split them up and keep the paddocks size at around 400 to 500 head. Since they bring in twice as much cattle as they need to keep their lots full, they sell 800 head about every eight weeks, mostly to neighboring farmers.

Those kept at finish weight are primarily marketed from Cargill in Schuyler, Neb., And DemKota in Aberdeen, SD

The Summit Lake breeding site on Cattlemen’s Tour was settled by Russ and Brian’s grandfather after WWII. Their uncle and aunt reside on the site, with the brothers each living on their own farm nearby. They are the second of three generations actively involved in farming today.

Cattle near finishing weight are pictured on slatted floors in one of the barns which has been converted from a pigsty to a cattle barn.  (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Cattle near finishing weight are pictured on slatted floors in one of the barns which has been converted from a pigsty to a cattle barn. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

Their father John and his brothers, Rick and Tom, raise and feed the cattle in partnership, and Russ and Brian are raising their children as the next generation who can continue in the business.

Russ and his wife, Melanie, have three children: Rhett, 12, Riese, 11, and Regan, 9. Meanwhile, Brian and his wife, Angela, have five children: Courtney, 21, Morgan, 19, Hunter, 14, Garrett, 13 and Jacques, 8.

“All of the kids help out with some aspect of the farm,” Russ said. “Brian’s kids help with bottle chores and calf chores and in the store. They are all getting old enough to help with raking and baling.


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