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Dairy expansion east of Willmar gets approval from Kandiyohi County Planning Commission

WILLMAR -- A 260-head expansion of a dairy operation east of Willmar was unanimously approved Monday by the Kandiyohi County Planning Commission.

The conditional use permit now goes before the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

The expansion at the Robert Larson farm involves an increase in the number of animals that will be raised on the farm, but does not include construction of new facilities.

The farm will increase the number of animals from 699 head to 960 head.

They raise dairy heifers and calves in partial confinement barns and open lots.

The project had the support of a neighboring dairy farmer, the Kandiyohi Township supervisors and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, which had representatives at the meeting.

The Larsons have a long history of good animal husbandry," said Dan Kleven, a Kandiyohi Township supervisor.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Harlan Madsen, who also sits on the Planning Commission, said the farm is an "excellent operation." Madsen, who is also a dairy farmer, said the county needs more animal agriculture.

Frank Ziebarth, a son-in-law of Larson who's working on the three-generation family farm, told the Planning Commission that the expansion is necessary because the dairy farmer for whom they custom-raise the heifers intends to increase his operation.

Ziebarth said they intended to "optimize" their existing facilities by revamping some of the open pens that will create an additional grass buffer between the feedlot and township roads.

The only concern raised Monday was that increased livestock could mean an increased chance of manure being left on township roads.

Kleven said the township's concern wasn't specifically directed at the Larsons, but was a general comment that all livestock producers should be aware of manure handling procedures when traveling on roads.

The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners will take final action on the conditional use permit at their meeting on Tuesday.