Thursday, June 11, 2015

Day 2 - Black Hills

The morning began with a tour of Blair Brothers Angus Ranch northeast of Sturgis.  Ed Blair, along with his brother, Rich; son, Chad; and nephew, Britton, operate a commercial angus herd that is a total AI operation, synchronizing 1200 to 1400 cows and yearling heifers a year.
The family markets 400 angus bulls by private treaty a year with customers from North Dakota to Texas.  The operation also offers to buy back customer calves with some going to feedyards in Kansas, while others are backgrounded in North Dakota, local feeders or at home.  Finished cattle are sold on US Premium Beef’s high quality grid.
The class received a tour of the pens where the bulls are fed, along with a tour of the Blairs’ cattle working facilities.  Chad and Britton also AI bred a few heifers,  a very interesting process for those not familiar with artificial insemination.   
The class was also treated to a delicious BBQ beef lunch provided by the Blair family.
Britton Blair discusses the ranch's AI program to the group.
The next stop on the agenda was the Belle Joli’ Winery located south of Sturgis.  Jackson Vineyards is a family owned vineyard started in 2000 with a small acreage of grapes where two rivers join to form the Belle Fourche River.  Belle Joli’ Winery is unique from other South Dakota wineries because it is home to South Dakota’s only enologist, Matthew Jackson.  Matthew received his enology degree from California State University, Fresno.  He has begun the task of nurturing the vines and growing the grapes that make for a great wine. 
 SDARL participants learn about growing grapes in South Dakota from the owner of Belle Joli'.
The class also had the opportunity to sample some of the wines produced by Belle Joli’ Winery.
The last major agenda item for the day was a tour of the Wharf Gold Mine, which was started in 1983.  The mine is an open pit heap leach operation near Lead, South Dakota.  Jake Thaler, our tour guide, gave the group an overview of the necessary permits, exploration procedures, operations, and reclamation requirements of the mine.  All in all a very interesting tour.
Looking into the Wharf Mine pit highlighted the pit tour.
The day concluded at Custer State Park Game Lodge with discussion of the day’s activities and socializing around a campfire.

Joel Erickson, Reporter