ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Cattle ranchers in the Northern Plains who have been waiting nearly six years for a new slaughterhouse in northern South Dakota are excited that the facility is almost fully operational, saying it will provide benefits such as savings on transportation costs.
The Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen was cleared for testing and limited production on Oct. 16, and is authorized to slaughter and process up to 200 cattle per day. Starting Nov. 12 it can increase production to 500 head per day if it continues to pass inspections, according to the American News.
Construction on the $109 million plant began five years ago. Problems including financial issues, flooding and lawsuits have repeatedly pushed back the opening date The plant will eventually process 1,500 cattle per day from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota.
"This is huge," said Herman Schumacher, part-owner of LDL Cattle Co. near Ipswich and one of several producers who have been furnishing cattle to Northern Beef since Oct. 16. "We are going to see cattle feeding come back to where it belongs."
The lack of a beef plant in the Dakotas has been a sore spot for cattle producers for years. The closest beef packing plant to Aberdeen is a Tyson facility about 300 miles away in Dakota City, Neb. The next-closest is a Cargill plant in Schuyler, Neb., about 350 miles away. Eric Sumption, who raises cattle near Frederick, said it costs him about $2,000 to take a trailer load of cattle to Schuyler, while transportation costs from Frederick to Aberdeen — a distance of only about 40 miles — will be small.
"There is enthusiasm out there," he said.
Cattlemen in North Dakota have had to truck cattle even farther.
"Operators in North Dakota are even more excited about this plant than we are," said Cory Eich, first vice president of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association. "This plant is really going to be good for the entire region."
Northern Beef eventually will institute the South Dakota Certified Beef program, which will track beef from its point of origin, through slaughter and packing and to the customer.
"The best beef in the world is produced in the Dakotas, Montana and Nebraska," Schumacher said. "That is a given. Now we can build on that and get paid a premium."
The presence of a beef plant in a region with an ample supply of corn and distillers' grain from ethanol plants will result in increased cattle numbers, according to agricultural economist Rod Bowling.
"This is a huge win win for the area," he said. "The plant will benefit corn growers, the ethanol industry and cattle producers."