PRAIRIE COUNTRY: An assortment of animals abound at Doyon, N.D., farm
DOYON, N.D. --Bob Nelson and Marte Stensil-Holen are counting on a diversified livestock operation to help them narrow their focus. The Doyon couple hopes that by raising a few sheep, goats hogs, horses and hens, they will determine the livestock...
DOYON, N.D. --Bob Nelson and Marte Stensil-Holen are counting on a diversified livestock operation to help them narrow their focus.
The Doyon couple hopes that by raising a few sheep, goats hogs, horses and hens, they will determine the livestock market that will be the most profitable.
"You've got to have them for a few years so you can pencil it out to see what will give you the most income," Nelson said. Nelson and Stensil-Holen began raising livestock after they married in 2001 and moved out to a farmstead they call Tangle Tree Ranch.
They operate Tangle Tree Ranch as a hobby while they work day jobs as special education paraprofessionals at Four Winds School at Fort Totten, N.D., but hope to become full-time farmers.
"We both grew up on farms and we enjoy the way of life," said Nelson.
Stensil-Holen, who grew up on a farm in Norway, said that when she lived in a Norway city after she graduated from college she got so lonesome for the farm that she asked a stranger who owned nearby land if she could pick rocks for him.
"When you work on a farm it seems like honest work," said Nelson's son Tim Hoffarth. The 18-year-old helps build the farm fences, feed the animals and enjoys working around the family's Dole horses.
Nelson and Stensil-Holen have 17 horses, mostly of them Dole or Dole crossbreds. Seven of the purebred Doles are the offspring of two mares and a stallion they imported from Norway. The couple decided to start raising Dole horses after they took one that Marte had brought back with her from Norway to the Valley City (N.D.) Winter Shows and a horse owner expressed interest in having his mare bred to a Dole.
"They are an all-around horse," Bob said. "You can pull a carriage with them. You can ride them."
The couple's 10 purebred Doles and two they sold to people in Oregon and West Fargo, N.D., are the only ones they know of in the United States.
During the summer, neither the horses, beef cattle or 46 head of crossbred Boer meat goats need a lot of tending to because they are on pasture. It does take a little time, though, to collect eggs from the 20 free-range American araucana chickens that scratch around the farmyard and to feed the hogs and dairy calves Nelson and Stensil-Holen bought in late July.
The eight Holsteins, especially, require patient, hands-on work. On a recent summer day a black-and-white calf stuck its head between the slats of the wooden stall gate and reached toward the bowl of milk that Stensil-Holen held in her hands. Murmuring to the tiny Holstein bull in a mixture of English and her native Norwegian, Stensil-Holen coached the youngster on how to lap up the milk with its tongue, encouraging it by letting it suckle her fingers, then dipping them into the milk.
Nearby, Mathea watched with interest as her mom worked with the calf her daughter has named "Memoe." The brindled black and white pattern on its neck made it the obvious choice to be the bull for the farm's future dairy herd.
"It doesn't hurt to have cute livestock," Stensil-Holen said with a laugh.
Bailey writes for special features sections. Reach her at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to email@example.com .