By Lura Roti for South Dakota Farmers Union
They started out with 10 cows, a goal and the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Two brothers who farmed this ground did not have children interested in farming, and they wanted a young couple to come and farm it,” explained Lincoln County farmer Jason Twedt.
In 2015, Jason, his wife, Bridget, and his dad, Milo, signed the papers to purchase all the farm’s equipment and they began leasing all the farm and pasture ground.
“We always say we are blessed that the Young family gave us a hand up to start farming ourselves because the start-up costs of farming without having a generational family farm we could join would have been too much,” said Bridget, who works as the Beresford middle and high school FFA Adviser and Agriculture Education Instructor.
Because of their backgrounds and passion for production agriculture, when the Young family talked to them about farming their land, they jumped at the opportunity.
When they first began leasing the farm and pasture ground, they both worked full time off the farm. The couple set a goal that Jason would be on the farm full-time within five years. They met their goal in three.
The couple say many factors played a role in making their farming operation viable. One of which is their mindset.
“Because we were not coming into a generational operation, we did not need to do what had always been done. We could make changes, choose how to market our cattle and livestock, and make goals to make a profit,” said Bridget.
The couple also credit beefSD. Hosted by SDSU Extension, beefSD is an intensive educational/management program designed for beef producers.
“beefSD exposed us to opportunities as well as every part of the industry. We toured many different operations, packing plants, whole foods markets, breeding facilities, which gave us so many ideas on how to expand our operation,” Bridget said. Today, the couple’s operation has grown to 120 cow/calf pairs. They raise registered Simmentals, background their calves, produce replacement heifers and sell bulls each year.
“We like the meat quality,” Jason explained. “We started with Angus and put Simmental bulls on our cows and liked the way the heterosis brought our pounds up.”
Jason explained that in his experience, in their herd, Simmental genetics increased feed efficiency without creep feeding, allowing for an increase in total pounds produced with minimal increase in cost.
In addition to raising Simmental cattle, the entire family is actively involved in the American Simmental Association.
Bridget serves as the South Dakota Vice President, their oldest daughter, Cassandra, 17, served as the 2022 South Dakota Simmental Queen. Cassandra is also on the South Dakota Junior Simmental board. and their son, Taten, 15, and daughter, Jade, 13, show cattle and compete in judging and speaking contests sponsored by the organization.
To help equip the next generation of cattle producers with enhanced leadership and management skills, the Simmental organization focuses not only on how the cattle/youth do in the show ring, but also how well they do in speaking, judging, cattle industry knowledge and sales talk competitions.
“We do things a bit different than just showing up to show your animal,” Bridget explained. “Those youth that compete in our state Simmental Contest at the Summer Spotlight are encouraged to also compete in two out of three educational competitions.”
Jason added, “To keep the breed strong, you need to get young kids involved and knowledgeable. The kids don’t love doing every contest, but this gives them insight into the industry.”
Their daughter, Cassandra, said she enjoys connecting with other farm and ranch youth.
“Going to the National Simmental Show is really fun. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people through this organization from all over and I enjoy livestock judging – it’s my strong suit – at the national and regional Simmental shows I end up judging all cattle which is my favorite to judge.”
Through livestock judging, Cassandra says she has learned how to evaluate and rank cattle based on industry standards.
Cassandra is not alone in her passion for livestock judging. Taten and Jade also enjoy judging. Jason said he appreciates his children’s opinions when it comes to the family’s herd.
“I will ask the family to pick their favorite 20 heifers out of our herd and then I take their picks, look at the genetic makeup of the animal to make the final decision,” Jason said. “It’s pretty cool having the kids involved in our operation.”
Bridget agrees. “We are the ‘bad’ parents who make our kids get up early to help us in the summer.”
Jade says she doesn’t mind the early mornings because she begins each day working with the family’s show cattle and goats. “I like working with animals,” said Jade, who plans on pursuing a career in the field of veterinary medicine.
This summer Jade is taking the lead on daily show chores because Cassandra is at volleyball and basketball morning workouts that begin at 7.
“There are not many farm kids in my class, so I usually get labeled as the stereotypical ‘farm kid.’ My coaches say I’m stronger and more aggressive – which is kind of true,” Cassandra said.
As she goes into her senior year of high school, she said balancing athletics, cattle shows and farm chores with other school involvement and activities is preparing her for life after high school. She is President of the Beresford FFA Chapter, serves on student council, is active in youth group, 4-H, plays volleyball, basketball and runs track.
“In college I won’t have anyone taking care of me,” Cassandra said. “Working with my siblings and parents has taught me how to get things done and how to work with people, even if I am not getting along with them at the moment.”
Her brother, Taten, would agree. He enjoys helping his parents out on the farm haying or treating sick animals. His favorite farm activities are the ones he can do horseback. In addition to farmwork, Taten spends his summers rodeoing. He is active in 4-H, FFA, High School Rodeo and 4-H Rodeo.
“I like roping, it is fun for me,” Taten said.
Taten spends most summer evenings in neighbors’ arenas practicing for the next rodeo. Because of opportunities the family farm has provided to him to do what he loves, Taten said he would not want to live anywhere else.
Bridget and Jason said it means a lot to hear their children share what they enjoy about living and working on the family farm.
“This farm is such a big part of our lives,” Bridget said. “And the livestock industry has been such a big part of both of our lives, we knew we wanted our kids involved from the start.”