Herefords At McCrossan Boys Ranch: The agricultural industry collaborates to bring beef nutrition & cattle business to facility for at-risk boys. | TSLN.com
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Herefords At McCrossan Boys Ranch: The agricultural industry collaborates to bring beef nutrition & cattle business to facility for at-risk boys.

There's a new beef cattle operation in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the cowboys may just surprise you.

McCrossan Boys Ranch, a private non-profit organization that works with troubled boys ages nine through twenty, is home to five cow-calf pairs thanks to a grant project made possible through South Dakota Farm Bureau's (SDFB) Centennial Community Initiative.

The initiative is a grant program for community projects that serve the area, make a difference and have high visibility. SDFB will invest $100,000 in local communities during its centennial year in 2017.

The pairs have arrived at the ranch and will be managed by the boys at McCrossan. A team effort from the agricultural community made this addition to the ranch possible, and the cattle join a diversified livestock enterprise, which includes horses, goats, sheep and even a llama.

"This is a great opportunity to teach the 65 boys who live here some first-hand experience of ranch life," said Christy Menning, McCrossan Boys Ranch director. "We've been here for 62 years and have always had horses; working with livestock teaches the kids the value of responsibility and hard work. With the addition of cattle, we have the added bonus of being able to raise our own beef and to continue to grow the herd."

McCrossan Boys Ranch sits on 90 acres with another 120 acres of farmland. Menning hopes the ranch can expand to 30-50 head of cattle.

"The cows are bred for next year already, so we look forward to growing our herd," she said. "When the SDFB reached out to us about this opportunity, we were excited to bring cattle to our facility. We have seen other boys' ranches across the nation have successful breeding programs, and not only will we save money on our grocery bill, which is one of the largest expenses of the ranch, but the cattle will hopefully bring revenue back to our program, as well."

A total of $5,000 from SDFB and another $5,000 from the Minnehaha County Farm Bureau purchased the five cows with calves at side. These pairs were purchased from members of the South Dakota Hereford Association (SDHA), including Blume Herefords of Frankfort; Brandt Herefords of Milbank; Eggers Southview Farms of Sioux Falls, Sleepy Hollow Farm of Centerville, RCR Polled Herefords of Lake Andes.

"The SDFB got the ball rolling on this project and reached out the SDHA to try to find pairs of registered Herefords for the ranch," said Mark Johnson, owner of Sleepy Hollow Farm and SDHA manager. "We asked our membership who might have cattle available and several stepped forward. This is a great way for us to help at-risk kids, and we were excited to learn that the cattle will be used for teaching and programming as they learn to breed cattle, calve them out and manage the herd."

SDHA has extended an invitation to McCrossan Boys Ranch to become an affiliate with their junior program, and they hope to see future offspring shown at 4-H and area Hereford shows down the road.

"We're hoping the boys can participate in some of our state's junior programs," said Johnson. "We had the opportunity to be at the ranch the day the cattle arrived, and the kids were all really excited. They are going to be cowboys now. As a parent, it means a lot to try to help these boys out and give them the opportunities I had growing up on a ranch. This is a really neat program that I'm proud to be a part of."

"They were looking for docile Hereford pairs," said Mike Blume, owner of Blume Herefords. "With the drought, we were a little short on pasture, so this was great timing to move a couple of pairs and help somebody else out."

"This is a great opportunity to get more youth involved in the Hereford breed," added Joe Brandt, of Brandt Herefords. "We were excited that Herefords were McCrossan's breed of choice, and we were more than happy to help get them started."

On June 8, the public was invited to tour the McCrossan facility and take part in an educational beef activity and Grilled Burger Battle contest hosted by the South Dakota Beef Industry Council.

"One of the reasons we jumped on board with this is we know a lot of these kids have never been exposed to how to purchase, prepare and grill beef, so this was a great opportunity to reach out to them and offer them the tools and resources they need," said Suzy Geppert, executive director of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC). "Holly Swee, SDBIC's director of nutrition, talked to the kids about the vital nutrients that beef provides and how protein fuels their bodies. She also discussed food safety, general cooking tips and preparation methods."

SDBIC hosted the burger battle, which challenged 22 of McCrossan's boys on seven different teams, in a grilling contest, where they had to work together to select ingredients, barter with other teams to get anything else they needed to prepare their burgers, grill the beef and give a sales pitch as they presented their final product to the judges.

"We had judges from SDFB, SDHA, SDBIC and even a McCrossan boy," said Geppert. "Beef can be a little bit intimidating for consumers at first, so it was really great to see these kids gain confidence in beef preparation. They really got into the battle, and we hope with the sales and bartering portions of the contest, they gained some leadership skills, as well."

"SDBIC's pasture-to-plate demonstration was really educational for our boys, and they were all really interested and excited to learn more about how to grill their own beef," said Menning. "The boys not only learned how to prepare beef, but these organizations also offered insights on the cattle side of the business and how to manage the cows under our care. It was a wonderfully fun day at McCrossan Boys Ranch, and we hope to do more in the future with agricultural groups and area businesses. This was a unique collaboration that offered something new for our boys."

"McCrossan Boys Ranch has a long tradition of using ranch activities to help boys who have had some trouble in their lives turn into responsible young men," said Ron Krogstad, Minnehaha County Farm Bureau president, in a SDFB press release. "When we learned of the SDFB Centennial Community Initiative it seemed like a perfect opportunity to help this organization expand their ranching operation with a breeding beef component."

To learn more about the McCrossan Boys Ranch, visit http://www.mccrossan.org. For more information on SDFB's Centennial Community Initiative, check out http://www.sdfbf.org. F