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Cattle Call September 2011

Pipestone Cattle News

Raising Cattle: A Way of Life

Nestled in a maze of corn stalk bales one mile west and two miles north of Holland, MN, one can find the fruits of Merle Zeinstra’s labors. Merle grew up a field away from where he now lives with his family and 1,200 head of cattle. When asked how long he’d been farming, Merle gives a quiet chuckle, “Since I was born.”

As a child, Merle learned while help­ing his father take care of beef cattle and swine on the fam­ily farm. Eventually, his father settled his efforts on cattle, a decision that shaped the kind of farmer Merle is today. At six­teen, Merle rented his first quar­ter of land: he was a junior in high school and an official farm­er. From there, he went on to milk cattle with his brother until 1997 when he reached a cross­roads in his farming journey. He and his brother split ways—his brother to continue milking, while Merle followed his father’s lead and began raising beef cattle.

His father taught him well. For the most part, Merle’s farm operation is self-suf­ficient, although he does buy Distillers Dry Grain (DDG) for the added protein. Merle tills 1,000 acres to keep his herd in food and bedding, and his wife takes care of the books. His daughters can be found raking straw and pitching in whenever needed. Every little bit helps, particularly when the weather is wet and bedding needs to be changed often.

Four years ago, Merle added on.  Set back from his existing barn, he created a series of four pens that resembles a grid with paths between the blocks for ease of feeding. In the winter, these open air pens are surrounded by corn stalk bales to cut the wind. These bales re used for bedding and will be gone by spring, when the cattle can gaze across the fields to where Merle got his start in farming as a child.

For Merle Zeinstra, raising cattle “is not a job.” Instead it’s a lifestyle. “I get up. I do what I love.”

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