Lodoen_s l83 ranch has long history of superior cattle genetics

WESTHOPE, N. D. – Farm & Ranch Guide readers will be making regular “visits” to a place just five miles south of the Canadian border for the next few months as Matt and Jennie Lodoen at the L83 Ranch will be providing Producer Reports this winter.

Located just north of Westhope in the extreme north central part of North Dakota, the L83 Ranch is a grain and seedstock cattle operation that has a long history of superior cattle genetics,

starting with the Hereford breed back in 1952 when Leonard Lodoen bought his 4-H project.

The visit to Westhope was rather unique in the fact we were able to visit three generations of the Lodoen family including Matt’s father, Leonard, Matt and Jennie, and their son, Ben, who recently graduated from North Dakota State University and is returning to the family farm.

Their upcoming production sale will be the 40th annual sale for the L83 Ranch. The ranch got its name from their last name (L) and its location alongside U. S. Highway 83 on the north side of Westhope.

“I started showing steer calves when I was in 4-H and I had the champion steer calf three years in a row,” Leonard recalled. “I took that money and bought a couple registered cows in 1952. The cows I bought didn’t have the pedigrees they were looking for at that time and I was young and didn’t know the difference. The cows I had purchased carried the dwarf trait, but I did have a chance to buy 10 clean cows from a breeder in Towner, N. D., and he had also bought the champion bull at the Valley City (North Dakota) Winter Show and I bought him too.”

Later, he bought another 10 head from a Canadian breeder’s dispersion sale and that was the beginning of the registered Hereford business. In 1962 Leonard became the first cattle producer in the region to start performance testing on his calves. Later, his ranch became one of the first to start using artificial insemination on the cows.

Leonard has been very involved in the livestock industry, having served on the State Animal Board of Health for 14 years. He also served as president of the North Dakota Hereford Association as well as the president of the American Hereford Association.

The Lodoens added Red Angus to the herd starting in 1999, when Leonard was impressed with a Red Angus calf he saw at a livestock show in Louisville, Kentucky. He ended up buying that calf, even though he didn’t have a Red Angus on the place. He picked up some breeding stock from various ranches and that became the start of the registered Red Angus in the Lodoen herd.

Since then, the number of Red Angus has continued to grow, while they have cut back on the Hereford numbers. At present, out of the 250 cows in the herd, 30 are Hereford, with the remainder in Red Angus.

Matt, of course, started his involvement in the beef cattle business at an early age. He married Jennie, who was raised on a dairy farm nearly Edgeley, N. D., and also had a love for working with cattle.

The business continues to grow. One thing they have discovered is you have to be on the show circuit if you want to market to other purebred breeders, Jennie noted.

In just the past few years they have sold cattle to producers in Kentucky, Oklahoma, California, South Dakota, and Canadas.

“It’s the best marketing device we knew how to use to market to other purebred breeders,” Jennie said. “The purebred breeders are a special marketing group that you have to find a way to reach, and this has worked out for us.

“And since Ben and Rylee (their oldest daughter) are relatively good at it, we might as well go with it,” she added. “You have to start small to get big.”

But their biggest marketing opportunity always takes place at the National Western Stock Show in Denver and their recent trip to the NILE in Montana was also very beneficial.

The majority of the bull calves born each year are either sold at their production sale or on a private treaty basis, with only about five percent of the male calves marketed as steers. As a result, they don’t receive carcass data back from that small amount of steer calves sold. But they do get feedback on the bulls since the bulls are ultrasounded well in advance of when they hit the sales ring. The majority of the females born each year end up as herd replacements, meaning they pretty much run a closed herd.

In the next few months they will be attending the North Star Classic in Valley City, the National Western Stock Show in Denver, and probably a few other shows on the way. But the big event will be their annual production sale, which will be held at Kist Livestock in Mandan, N. D., in mid-March.

In addition to the cattle enterprise, Matt and Jennie have about 2,000 acres of crop land and that is devoted in a large part to barley production, which accounted for about half of their acreage. Other crops grown this past year included soybeans, spring wheat and corn. One third of the corn acres was combined for corn with the remainder used for corn silage, according to Matt.

Most of the cropping activities are wrapped up for the year and the work schedule for the next couple weeks calls for hauling out manure. They also have 1,300 bales to get in. In addition, this is an important time for starting to get the bulls ready for the production sale.

“We need to get the bulls transitioned into a grain diet and get them gaining weight,” Ben said. “We have seen a little weight loss from being weaned and it’s really important now to get that head start into gaining weight for the bull sale. They are on a self-feeder right now so they can go and eat whenever they please. Probably in December we will switch them to a TMR (total mixed ration).”

Jennie and Matt have six children. In addition to Ben and Rylee, they have daughters Molly and Maddy, and sons Wyatt and Zane.

We thank the Lodoens for being one of our Producer Progress families and look forward to following them on the purebred cattle circuit and witnessing their preparation for their production sale in March.

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