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A Taste of Winter

Written by Dennis Sun
      The past couple of weeks have certainly been a challenge for ranchers and farmers around Wyoming. Gathering, weaning, shipping and harvesting are just some of the management actions that have been attempted in recent weeks. Some of it was accomplished, but here at the Roundup we’ve heard several accounts of Wyoming farmers and ranchers using the Lord’s name in vain while carrying out their work this October!
    Like many others, I’m always putting a chore or repair job off until sometime later. Well, we never planned on the latest “taste of winter” that hit us this past couple of weeks, did we? For the first couple of weeks of October one on my rain gauges measured an inch and one half of precipitation, most of which was from snow. I was really one of the smart ones — I, along with the pumper of the local oil field, had our roads graded just before it started to rain and snow. The only good part is that it sure stopped any hunters from going too far. Most of them had to walk out. About the only thing we could do was stay away and plan.
    At this time of the year, the livestock newspapers and magazines are filled with articles telling us how to winter a cow or a calf, what feed and vaccines to use and the best livestock handling equipment to buy. It does make for good reading and, at times, good information. We’re always looking for that silver bullet on how to winter and manage livestock. Nobody in Wyoming has found it so far, but it’s fun to keep trying.
    I was reading one article this morning on what the real bottom line is in agriculture. They claim it’s what’s left over after covering all costs. The author, from Kentucky, stated that most small cattle operations that do not cover all costs tend to survive and thrive. A small operation is defined as less than 100 head. What this is leading up to — a large number of cattle and sheep operations are owned by part time operators, defined as people who spend their days working either full or part time away from the operation.
    I didn’t realize how large this sector of ranching has become until I read that if you combine the cattle producers in Kentucky and Tennessee they would become the second largest cow-calf state in the U.S. with 2,065,000 mother cows. That’s a lot of herds with fewer than 100 head of cattle.
    Take Kentucky and Tennessee and add them in with the rest of the beef cow operations east of the Mississippi and one has to wonder if someday they’ll be the dominating force in the beef organizations. These small producers back East don’t really care about the bottom line. Both management and labor is most likely one person. Working with their livestock is like a game of golf to others. They may just do it for fun and a form of recreation. Any extra dollars made can be tallied up as “gravy.” The bottom line for them is the lifestyle they wish to live and in America that is a choice for all to make.
    And, an early taste of winter is no big deal.
Dennis