News / USA

US Great Plains Ranching Faces Uncertain Future

Other opportunities lure young Americans away from ranches, farms

Brother Placid Gross has cared for the Assumption Abbey cattle herd for 50 years.
Brother Placid Gross has cared for the Assumption Abbey cattle herd for 50 years.

Multimedia

Audio
Jim Kent

There’s a chill in the air as high plains winds beat against the walls of Assumption Abbey. The Benedictine monastery stands like a great stone fortress at the edge of the small town of Richardton, North Dakota.

Inside, sounds of the daily activities of 25 monks - singing, prayer and conversation - fill the air. There are also sounds not usually associated with the Catholic Church.

The monks care for 300 head of cattle, descendants of animals brought here when the monastery was built more than a century ago.

Brother Placid Gross has been the main wrangler for the black Angus herd almost since he arrived at the abbey in 1957.

“The monks came here, started a monastery here in 1899 and they’ve had a farm right from the beginning. It was a way of raising our own food," he says. "In the early days, everybody had beef cattle and dairy cattle. But now, in recent years, we’re selling most of the cows or the calves. We still butcher our own, but we don’t butcher very many. So, it is a source of income for the abbey.”

Selling off

It’s a source of income that’s about to disappear. The monks are preparing to sell their herd at auction, probably in late November.

Abbot Brian Wangler, who’s in charge at the monastery, says it’s strictly a matter of manpower.

“It’s people willing to do the work, knowing how to do the work. It almost requires somebody who was raised on a farm. I mean, you can learn the work, but you’ve really got to have an interest in it. And we just don’t have enough young people who are really interested in that kind of work.”  

Not just interested in that kind of work, but such a person would also have to be willing to live the life of a monk, which includes group prayer sessions four times a day.

At 76, Brother Placid finds handling the cattle herd, with just one 40-something fellow monk, a bit taxing.

“The hardest part of the work is the calving time. Very often we get really bad weather. You have to be out there to help bring the calf inside to a warm place. So we get up during the night. We check at least every four hours.”

South Dakota rancher Marv Kammerer lives on the ranch his family first settled in the 1880s.
South Dakota rancher Marv Kammerer lives on the ranch his family first settled in the 1880s.

Rancher shortage

A shortage of young ranchers isn't just a problem for the monks in North Dakota.

“We’ve got the average age of the farmer/rancher in the Upper Great Plains as 58-years old," says cattleman Marv Kammerer, who attended a recent meeting of the Stockgrowers Association in Rapid City, South Dakota. "And that’s dangerous for the economy and the industry.”

Kammerer feels fortunate that five of his seven children followed him into ranching, but says that’s not the norm.

“There’s a lot of things drawing the young people away from the ranches and farms. They’re going for better wages, schools, otherwise a lot of economic factors drive them off these places.”

Lakota rancher Alex Romero-Frederick is concerned about the future of family ranching.
Lakota rancher Alex Romero-Frederick is concerned about the future of family ranching.

Losing the family business

The number of cattle operations in South Dakota has dropped by more than 13,000 since 1980, according to R-CALF USA, a national stockgrowers association.

Nationwide, more than 147,000 cattle operations have gone out of business in the past 15 years.

Alex Romero-Frederick, who runs a small ranch on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation with her husband, feels the squeeze.

“We’re losing the family ranching business," she says. "The next generation takes over after the other generation retires and I’m not seeing that anymore. And it’s kind of scary. I mean, are my kids going to do it? Did I instill in them the right stuff to want to take over after I’m gone?”

Whether at a North Dakota abbey or on ranches in South Dakota, Kammerer believes the gifts of raising cattle - providing food and caring for the land - should be relished. He hopes they’re gifts the next generation will choose to accept.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid