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Jasper-area ag student takes trip to China

By Renae B. Vander Schaaf
agripen@live.com

Date Modified: 07/08/2013 2:44 PM

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JASPER, Minn. — Brandi Raatz jumped at the chance to see China's agriculture.

The daughter of Craig and Angie Raatz helps out on the family's farm near Jasper.

South Dakota State University has offered agricultural students a trip to China for the past two years.

The 14-day trip started in Shenzen, where the students visited an outdoor fish market. From there the 33 students and four chaperones rode a hot pink and lime green bus to a fish farm. The ponds were built in squares with gates to separate fish species.

"Everything is compact," said Raatz. "Every square inch is used without much space left between ponds. The workers lived on site, married and single people were housed in one building, sharing a kitchen."

A trip to the office of Agricultural Affairs in Guangzhou gave the visitors an idea of the trade relationship between China and the United States.

"The most interesting thing I learned there was that there number one concern is to keep their people fed and happy," said Laura Schoneman, daughter of Nanno and Kathy Schoneman from Bingham Lake. "Their livestock industry would be much smaller if it was not for the U.S." she said.

Fellow student David Berning agreed.

"China cannot survive without the United States, and the United States would not survive without China,'' he said. Berning is the son of Mark and Julie Berning, of St. Michael.

A stop at fruit and vegetable market provided insight into how the Chinese shop.

"In a year four thousand tons of fruit are sold and eight thousand tons of vegetables are sold at this market," Raatz said.

At a government-owned feed mill, imported soybeans were ground into meal.

A dairy farm provided another view. Berning said the farm wasn't impressive.

"The farm we visited practiced limit feeding," said Berning. "The cows had very low body condition scores. Cows also had very low production partly due to the quality of feed and ration."

The cows were housed in a typical free-stall barn; but there wasn't a parlor. Two or three times a day the cows were locked in head locks by the feed bunk. A milker and bucket moved down the line to milk the cows and would attach to a milk line.

The beef farm had 500 head.

"They were fed for a much longer period of time about 26 months to reach a finishing weight of about 1,000 pounds. They also were given a special beer to be mixed in with their water, said John Weber, son of Alisa and Bruce Weber of St. Paul.

The group also visited a Pioneer Hi-Bred facility.

"In northern China there are larger fields like ours in the United States that would be farmed similar to the United States and they are run by the government," said Berning.

The May trip was organized and led by professors Robert Thaler and Rebecca Bott, of South Dakota State University in Brookings.