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Bottom Line

Written by Dennis Sun
    People in the livestock business here in Wyoming hope they’ve made it through another winter in good shape. Now we can all hope for spring rains to ease the drought. Some, especially those of you in south central Wyoming, have had more winter than you deserve. Livestock and their owners in that area, along with some other parts of the state, really had a tough winter.
    The reason I bring this up is that whenever we read a livestock publication or attend an educational conference on ranching, someone is giving us information on how to be more efficient in managing our livestock, our farms and our ranches. I’m certainly not badmouthing the experts and those “in the know” as they are the source of great ideas that make use money. I just want to know how to make money when it is 20 degrees below zero, the wind is 30 miles an hour strong and there is two feet of snow on the level and four feet at the entrance to the hay stack. What kind of an efficient cow is out there that I can make money on in those conditions? And, who can tell me in November that I’m going to have that kind of winter? If it could be predicted I might get my cattle out of there. I know that I’m asking for too much.
    Some are predicting cow/calf operators will do well the next few years and I hope they’re right. I have given up on the cattle cycle, reasonable fuel and fertilizer prices, not to mention rising cake and grain prices and the price of groceries for my family.  I’m suppose to be happy that the price of corn and other grains have risen tremendously so someone can have ethanol to fuel their car with less efficiency than regular gasoline.  Now I’m hearing that the ethanol byproduct, distillers grain, will eventually be gasified to power the ethanol plants instead of being sold for livestock feed. The cattle feeders will again be hurt by the ethanol business.
    Others are telling us that there is an excess of capacity at the nation’s feedlots and at the packing houses. Current cattle numbers, they claim, can’t sustain them. But I have to ask – when there are so few of them, do they control the market? Do we fight the packer and feedlot efforts to get bigger?
    I keep looking for someone to tell me what I want to hear. Maybe I’ll even form a group of people who share my concerns and the livestock industry will be that much more fragmented. Remember, this is America and I have a right to be heard and belong to whatever group I want. My neighbors can also cuss me when I support a group they don’t like or they think is off the wall.
    There, I got that off my chest. It’s surprising how a normal winter with lots of wind will affect your mind. How did we ever live through it in the “good ol’ days” when every winter was normal with lots of snow, wind and cold?  I’m tired of Carhartts® and overshoes. I’m ready for spring!
Dennis