Current Edition

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Where is the Balance?

Written by Dennis Sun

Lately the University of Wyoming and the UW Extension Service have been doing a great service to the state’s ranching community in the past five years with the Ranch Management Practicum courses.   

The eight-day, four-session practicum is, as the university describes it, “an in-depth ranch management school designed to give the participants the skills and application of management tools needed to be successful in today’s complex ranching industry.” In reality, this course has really been needed for years. We all thought growing up on the ranch was all we needed for education, and many took ag courses in college to assist, but looking back, I realize I needed a more rounded education for all that ranching involves today. It really is a complex business, isn’t it? The course is focused on four areas of ranch management: range and forage resources, integrating nutrition and reproduction, cost of production analysis and family working relations.  

I have to admit, these topics sure beat the “starve a profit out of a cow” that a lot of us got at home. It is really hard to change things at home – first you have to change your own way of thinking, then your family’s, and either one is not an easy task.  

For those who ranch on public lands, that is another whole education most of us received through the school of hard knocks. I think just learning how best to utilize monitoring on both your public and private lands solves a number of the issues, but the politics of it all is the hard part. Sometimes dealing with the public and bureaucrats can be difficult, but, done right, you can make lifelong friends with some.

While there is a cost for the Ranch Practicum, $600 for an individual and $900 for a couple, to cover instructor cost, meals and materials, this has been helped by a $671,000 grant from USDA to the University of Wyoming through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. This action will allow the university to offer four new courses and the best part is that it will allow the university to provide scholarships to offset the $600 cost. The program will also offer ranching mentors for students and classes for those interested in ag who haven’t oame from an ag background.

I guess some want the government for all these days, and I like what the grant provides, but if it wasn’t for the heavy-handedness and involvement of the government it would sure be a lot easier to ranch and farm. So, here they are giving grants to help us stay in business while, at the same time, regulating us to death, filling us up with wild horses and intruding into our lives. I liked the old style of government better: assisting us with conservation, water and wildlife habitat and doing the state some good, where everybody had chips on the table and it was voluntary. We appreciate the help if we choose to accept it, but if they want America’s farmers and ranchers to stay in business, we have to be able to control our businesses. There has to be a balance.

Dennis