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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim 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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid