Open for operation | TSLN.com

Open for operation

A beef packing plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota is scheduled to be up and running by mid-November. DemKota Ranch Beef plans to employ about 125 people when it opens and may eventually employ 6,000 people and process 1,500 cattle per day. Photo by Amanda Radke.

By mid-November, DemKota Ranch Beef, a beef kill plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota, will open its doors. The plant will serve area beef producers and, at full capacity, the 420,000-sq. ft. plant could kill 1,500 beef per day and employ up to 6,000 employees.

As DemKota Ranch Beef opens its doors for operation, the plant will employ 125 people, and equipment testing and employee training is already underway.

"Our plan is to start training our employees with cows (30 months of age and older), and then as we go forward into the future, we will eventually be slaughtering 20 percent cows and 80 percent fed cattle," said Jeff Russo, vice president of cattle procurement and producer relations. "We will be procuring cattle from local and regional livestock auction barns. We will have buyers in most of the region's sale barns, and we are also working to build longterm relationships with area feed yards."

The plant will procure cattle from the region — South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska, and is run by company president Keith DeHaan and New Angus LLC CEO Doug Cooper. Working in procurement, Russo has industry experience with previous employment with Laura's Lean Beef Co. and Meyer Natural Angus.

"We are looking for high-quality cattle that are high cutability and a high percentage USDA Choice," said Russo. "Our company is called New Angus, LLC, but the plant itself is DemKota Ranch Beef. We didn't want there to be confusion with folks that this is an Angus plant; we don't have any breed requirements with the cattle we will be buying."

As production ramps up at DemKota, cattle will be bought based on current market prices.

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"We don't have any formulas in place; however, we will be competitive in the market place," said Russo. "We have the freight advantage to local producers here who want to send cattle our direction. Contracts with specific feedlots are in the developmental stages, and we look forward to establishing our customer based."

While there won't be a specific branded beef program coming out of the plant, Russo said any potential programs will be customer driven.

"If a customer wants to develop a particular program for their brand of beef, we will explore our options and see if we can accomplish it economically," said Russo.

"We haven't talked to any local grocers yet, so we aren't currently set up for any direct sales" added Kevin Barnhill. "Our goal is to serve the community the best we can. We are centrally located, so beef will be available in the area through the open market."

As relationships with both feedlots and grocery stores develop, DemKota Ranch Beef hasn't publicly commented on any of these contracts; however, they are excited to get down to business and hope to be fully running by mid-November.

"We are very excited," said Barnhill. "This has been a long time coming. We are very confident that the model we are putting together will be successful and benefit the region's consumers and beef producers."

Russo added that everyone is very optimistic at DemKota Ranch Beef saying, "We know our predecessors had some problems, but we have good financial backing to process and buy cattle. Even once the plant gets to full capacity, we have a strong backing to keep things operational."

Not only will the region's beef producers benefit from the opening of DemKota Ranch Beef, but Russo said it will be a strong economic driver for the state and region's economy.

"With the potential to employ 6,000 people at full capacity, DemKota will have a major economic impact," said Russo. "More cattle will be staying here in South Dakota, which means more employees at the plant, in the feed business, in trucking, and at the cow-calf level. The more successful we are, the more successful the folks involved in the beef business — in any capacity — will be, as well."

Russo said they are interested in working with any producer, large or small, and if wanting to develop a relationship with DemKota Ranch Beef, contact him at 605-262-2333.

"We will work with any size produce and help them find ways to get the cattle to the plant," said Russo. "We are going to be very producer friendly and want to work hard to establish long-term relationships. Producers I've talked to lately are kind of bummed after the markets fell last week, but everyone in the industry will readjust to where things are going to fall and what the market dictates. We have to remember we are still enjoying some of the highest prices in history, even if they've fallen from the most recent record highs." F

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