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Reflections of 2010

As the year 2010 comes to an end, and as I write this column, the staff here at the Roundup is in a rush to get two weeks’ issues out in the week before Christmas so as we can all take the year’s last week off. No one had a chance to catch their breath between the Winter Cattlemen’s Edition and the two editions being published this week, and everyone will be glad to get out of town and back to their families’ places before coming back to the grind after the holidays.
I’m always amazed at the amount of work accomplished by those involved with the Roundup, and as you all realize, I’m the weak link. We’ve really had a busy year with the paper, in addition to moving our office last June. The actual moving wasn’t so bad, but getting the kinks worked out of the phones and Internet services tested our patience. I sure would like to spend five minutes alone with the guy who hacked into our website and tried to use our Internet phone lines. No security was breached, but there were numerous threats from the staff about tossing computers out the window.
This past year was interesting, to say the least. For those in agriculture production in Wyoming, the weather was, well, should we say wet, dry, hot and cold. It was one of the best grass years Wyoming has seen in a long, long time, but it did turn dry in some parts of the state later in the summer. We experienced fall until almost Thanksgiving, and for some it was more like late summer than fall. For the first time in many years, Wyoming was not colored on the national drought map.
Cattle and sheep prices, beginning in June and continuing on, were, as some experts called it, “showing significant volatility.” If you were selling, it was good to great. If you were buying, bring along the jar of Tums. If the buyer was looking for cheap calves or lambs, there wasn’t such a thing. Tight supplies of corn hurt prices some this fall, and are hurting feeders, but as long as Congress gives ethanol incentives we’ll have to compete with corn, so I guess we live with it. For a while this past year, producers, feeders and the packers all made money, and that has to be good for the meat business.
For the most part, bull sales this fall and winter are setting records for being the best ever, and bulls for crossbreeding, such as the lonesome Hereford, are back in demand. Bred female cattle are averaging $100 more than a year ago, and with tight supplies in beef they should stay that way for some time. In some parts of the country some producers were looking to expand their herds of both cattle and sheep, but, at least for cattle, the numbers are still shrinking.
Across the nation there are fewer farms and ranches, as the ag industry consolidates even more and herd sizes per ranch and farm rise. That means fewer people involved in production agriculture, and where do our youth fit into that?
In 2011, things will come out all right, but it might sometimes take strong nerves just to watch. Happy New Year, and thanks for supporting the Roundup.    
Dennis