Summit Lake Livestock converts pig barns for beef production – The Globe

WILMONT – When brothers Russ and Brian Penning started Summit Lake Livestock about 15 years ago, they did so to start Penning Farms’ larger operation southeast of Wilmont themselves.

The two started out buying day-old Holstein calves, and as the business grew, they renovated several vacant barns on the site of an uncle’s farm, added two hoop barns on that same site and built two more hoop barns on the farm where they grew up. at the top.

Today, Summit Lake Livestock continues to bring in day-old bottle-fed calves, though a majority are 200 pounds. They also switched from the Holstein cross to the Holstein-Angus cross. In addition, they buy cattle at 600 pounds to finish.

During the State Cattlemen’s Tour, the Pennings will showcase the hog barns they have converted for livestock production.

“The barns were at a stage in their life where they needed everything,” Russ explained. Doing the work mostly by themselves, they gutted the buildings, installed new electrical components and custom beams in the floors, as well as replaced the slats. A pair of calf barns includes two different growth systems – one with open pens where the calves roam freely; the other with individual calf cages.

The Pennings use two other former barns — 40-foot-wide curtain-sided barns from the 1990s — for cattle finishing. On these buildings, the south walls have been removed to make way for feeders and access to the manure pit has been modified. The pit is pumped out twice a year, with an outer containment area used to hold manure from the spring until it can be applied after harvest in the fall.

“If I had to do it over again, I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” Russ said of converting hog barns to cattle farming. “It was a way for us to expand into the existing facilities 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, feed milk replacer to young calves in a bucket and finish the cattle with corn silage, a high-moisture corn diet, as well as some grass hay and straw.

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

As baby calves arrive from dairies across the Midwest, Summit Lake Cattle takes in a weekly load of 230 200-pound calves from Amish farmers in Pennsylvania. With a mix of steer calves and heifers coming in, Russ said they are separating them and keeping pen sizes at around 400 to 500 head. Since they ship twice as much cattle as they need to keep their lots full, they sell 800 head every eight weeks or so, mostly to neighboring farmers.

Those held at trim weight are marketed primarily by Cargill in Schuyler, Nebraska, and DemKota in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

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

Their father John and his brothers, Rick and Tom, grow and feed the cattle in partnership, and Russ and Brian raise their children as the next generation to potentially 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 the kids help out with some aspect of the farm,” Russ said. “Brian’s children help with bottle chores and small calf chores and in the store. They all get old enough to help with raking and baling.

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