The new immigrants: Cows and pigs

North Dakota State Roundup

Published May 1, 2007  | May 2007 issue

North Dakota is a top producer of a number of crops. Now it's trying to boost its four-legged reputation.

For example, after dropping steadily for decades, the number of swine farms has—for the time being at least—stabilized at about 430 over the past half-decade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In turn, the number of pigs has rebounded by 17 percent since bottoming out in 2002. Last year, the number of hogs rose 1 percent nationwide; in North Dakota, it shot up better than 7 percent to almost 170,000, helping the state move into the top half of states.

Part of the increase appears to be coming from across the border, where a huge hog industry in Manitoba province has been battling low prices and faces a moratorium on hog barns. But North Dakota ranchers face obstacles as well, including rising demand for corn for ethanol plants, which is pushing hog feed costs up as much as 50 percent over last year.

The North Dakota Dairy Coalition also hopes to add 100,000 head of dairy cows over the next five years—quadrupling the state's herd of 32,000—by helping farmers expand and recruiting more dairy farmers from out of state.

Ronald A. Wirtz