Otter Tail County Board holds feedlot expansion hearing; purchases new $368,000 wheeled excavator

Members of the Otter Tail County Board held a public hearing for a potential 250-cow expansion at a feedlot on County Road 51, north of Perham, on March 14.

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Wayne Stein, auditor-treasurer for Otter Tail County, speaks to members of the Otter Tail County Board during a regular meeting on March 14, 2023.
Screenshot / Otter Tail County / YouTube

FERGUS FALLS — Members of the Otter Tail County Board held a mandatory public hearing for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) concerning a 250-cow expansion at a feedlot north of Perham on Tuesday, March 14.

During the hearing, Arnold Gruenes, owner of Twin Spruce Farm North, said his facility already meets the requirements to house the additional livestock and is hopeful the permit will be approved by the MPCA.

Gruenes said they purchased the feedlot in 2019 and reconstructed a lot of the facilities in 2020, which included a 14-month manure storage capacity. The MPCA only requires a 9-month storage capacity, so they want to increase their herd size to maximize the additional capacity.

"We have chosen to re-permit to add about 250 cows," said Gruenes. "We feel we can overstock the cows a little bit and see how the cows handle it, and they'll tell us."

He added there aren't plans to expand any of the feedlot's existing structures or facilities for the additional cows.


Gruenes was the only person who spoke during the public hearing and no online comments were made concerning the feedlot, according to county staff.

Currently, Twin Spruce Farm North holds 1,390 heads of dairy cattle and, pending approval from the MPCA, hopes to expand its capacity total to 1,668 cows.

Wayne Johnson, commissioner for District 2, said the county doesn't have any hand in the permitting process and was only holding the public hearing on the MPCA's behalf. But, he added, he was excited about the possible expansion.

"We're excited that you are moving forward and expanding agriculture in Otter Tail County," said Johnson. "I personally think it's a great thing."

Dan Bucholz, commissioner for District 1, said he has visited Twin Spruce Farms North multiple times in the past.

"The place is very well run," said Bucholz. "Very clean, and I know what a cow looks like, and there were no sick cows or nothing like that. They were very well kept, so I would definitely give my stamp of approval for this to move forward."

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency governs the "collection, transportation, storage, processing, and land application of animal manure and other livestock operation wastes," according to the agency's website . Their rules affect about nearly 18,000 permitted feedlots across Minnesota.

Board approves purchase of a new $368,000 wheeled excavator

A new 2022 Caterpillar M319H2R wheeled excavator is coming to Otter Tail County.


County commissioners unanimously approved the $368,000 purchase. The final cost is $158,000 more than commissioners included in their 2023 budget, but decided to take on the extra cost after realizing they could have the equipment in a few weeks as opposed to the 18-to-24-month lead time required to purchase new heavy equipment, according to a county staff memo.

The excavator is the main piece of heavy equipment used to load trucks at the county transfer station, which ships between 60 to 100 tons of municipal solid waste per day between Fergus Falls, Perham and Dakota Landfill in Gwinner, North Dakota.

The new excavator will replace the M315C that was purchased in 2006 for $155,000 after it reached a total of 9,850 hours of service time at the transfer station. However, instead of trading the older model in, the county's solid waste department hopes to extend its life at the new expanded transfer station in Henning. They also believe they will be able to sell an older backhoe at the Pelican Transfer Station to recoup up to $35,000 in costs from the new purchase.

Lead Multimedia Reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus.
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