By Jordan Gerard
t takes a lot of hard work, determination and know-how to successfully own and operate a beef farm, and Caledonia’s Bolduan family does just that.
Cindy Bolduan is no stranger to farming, having been around beef cattle for most of her life. She married Mike in 1996 and they purchased the farm located east of Caledonia. Mike started out as a truck driver, while Cindy worked at the nursing home in Rushford. When their first daughter, Hannah, was born, the Bolduan milked Holsteins.
They eventually sold the dairy cows, finished out the remaining Holsteins and found themselves with empty pastures. Cindy suggested beef cattle, having been around that industry for most of her life. So they purchased 25 head of Angus from the sales barn and that’s what happened, she told the Argus. In 2020, the Bolduans were named the University of Minnesota Farm Family of the Year for Houston County.
After the passing of Mike in 2020, Cindy, Hannah and Heidi farmed on and are the power behind the farm today. From herd management to calving to planting and beyond, the three Bolduans are looking forward to a long legacy.
“You get to be your own boss,” she said. “I think being out with the animals. Not everyone can do it. I feel that’s my talent. I’ve always been around animals, until the days they don’t cooperate.”
Most of the 71 cattle are Angus, while some are Hereford-Angus cross and Simmental-Angus Cross. The Bolduans have been working on improving the genetics of their herd through artificial insemination.
Heidi is able to do that after completing a course through the South Dakota State University Extension Office. Since it’s calving season, she gets to see the results of her efforts, and so far, there are five new babies. The herd includes 19 heifers, all of which received AI.
Eventually, they’d like to increase the herd size to 100. The Bolduans sell quarters and halves of beef right now. They also rotate crops and are trying to do more “no-till” crops to avoid soil erosion and water run-off. Cattle are pastured, and also feed on silage, hay and mineral.
Hannah graduated with a degree in ag business and ag marketing from South Dakota State University in 2020 (Caledonia High School grad 2016), and Heidi is double majoring in animal science and ag science and minoring in ag business at South Dakota State University (Caledonia High School grad 2019).
Both girls showed beef and dairy cattle in 4-H and participated in FFA. Hannah won a red Angus heifer through the Minnesota Beef Expo in 2011-12. Recipients are responsible for raising, breeding and maintaining complete records on the care of the animal while providing monthly progress reports to the original owner and the Minnesota Beef Expo, according to the website.
Running the farm with her mom and sister gives a sense of pride, Heidi said. Hannah adds that about 36% of women in farming are sole owners, while 50% of women have a part in bigger farming industry corporations, according to a recent USDA survey.
Cindy grew up on a farm, and as she and Mike started their own farm, she grew more confident in her abilities. At first, decisions waited until Mike came home from trucking. But Cindy’s father-in-law taught her a lot. Eventually, she learned how to bale hay, seed a field with alfalfa and oats and run a farm. She enjoys raising the cattle from start to finish.
“It’s no different if a man or a woman runs it,” she said. “Leave it in God’s hands to give us the knowledge ...”
“And the strength to do it,” Heidi added.
They’re not completely on their own though, as family, friends and neighbors are willing to lend a hand.
“Kind of everyone. When you ask, they’re there to help,” Cindy said, especially if two calves are under a fence or if a bucket gets dropped in the mixer.
“Everyone’s willing to lend a hand,” Heidi said.
The hardest thing about farming today is the industry in general, Hannah noted.
“With high inputs, how the market fluctuates year to year, compared to someone who works off the farm ... you’re not sure what your gross income will be,” she said.
Day to day operations can do a 180 also. Despite that, Cindy hopes her daughters will take over the farm. Heidi said she plans on coming back to the farm after college. Hannah hopes to incorporate more technology on the farm. She uses a scale that measures the feed and knows exactly what goes in. When they break out prices for their meat, they have a better knowledge of the break-even point, she said.