Current Edition

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        As you read in last week’s Roundup, the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee of the Wyoming Legislature is discussing Wyoming’s animal welfare statutes.
        As anyone who owns, raises, trades or trains livestock knows, we all have a responsibility to do it right. Therein lies the problem. Those of us who were raised around livestock in Wyoming know the right way to treat animals and how to care for them. Some in our state consider that knowledge a value to be passed on to future generations. In today’s more modern times we have too many people in Wyoming who own livestock, but really have no idea how to care for them.
    Here in Wyoming I don’t think most of the abuse is intentional, but instead a lack of knowledge about livestock. It’s a lack of education, a misunderstanding of the resources and their limitations and oftentimes a desire to own more animals than they’re able to care for. It’s lessons we in agriculture learned on an every-day-basis growing up. So, how do we as a society deal with that? More laws, more law enforcement or more government restrictions, is that the answer?
    To start with we need to better define the roles of the Wyoming Livestock Board. As statute reads, the agency is responsible for “all dumb animals.” I think we can all agree the agency’s most appropriate role relates to livestock. Pet stores and homes overrun with dogs and cats need to fall under the jurisdiction of a different agency or local government.
    As we approach this conversation I think we need to ensure the state’s laws protect our ability to ranch. We also need to make sure there are consequences for those who truly are abusing and neglecting animals and establish such actions as unacceptable in this state.
    Turning an eye toward the national scene, animal welfare is once again at the forefront. If the footage of improper animal treatment at a Chino, Calif. packing plant wasn’t enough, on May 7 the Humane Society released a second video, this time taking aim at livestock market facilities. When the Chino video was mentioned at the early February Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, Nev. the crowd booed. I suspect this latest video, showing some who aren’t doing the best they can to represent our industry, will receive the same reaction from cattlemen. In HSUS’s May 7 statements the group called its recent focus on the livestock sector an ongoing project.
    It would be easy for us to just ignore the subject of animal welfare, but we’d be doing so at the risk of letting anti-agriculture groups enter our state and dominate the discussion. It’s already likely their actions will result in troublesome discussions for agriculture on the national scene. It would be best if we can address this issue here at home without entering the realm of additional federal regulation. We need to keep this a state issue, not a national issue.
Dennis
      Well, the wolves are ours now. We never wanted them, but found them shoved down our throats in a legal and political sense. That’s all history and today we find the task of wolf management staring us in the face. It’s a good time to be careful with the rifles and refrain from doing anything that would provide the pro-wolf groups with ammunition, so to speak, to use against us.
    It’s one thing if wolves are raising Cain around the calving or lambing grounds, a scenario that warrants a response. I also know a number of Wyoming citizens want to be able to shoot, and in some cases have a taxidermist mount, a wolf before a judge overturns current management. I don’t blame them. It’s been frustrating, a helpless feeling, to watch as the wolf population has grown. With the growing wolf population have come increasing impacts on our livestock and wildlife.
    I’ve not had wolves in my area, but it certainly doesn’t temper my feelings about them. I have heard numerous personal stories from those whose livelihoods have been threatened by the wolf. Many of us have also heard the stories passed down from older family members. Wyoming has been given the task of managing a killing machine, there’s just no other way to put it.
    I was in Jackson last week attending an Ag in the Classroom Western Regional meeting. Early one morning I toured the elk refuge with a wildlife biologist who had some very good thoughts and was not biased against livestock. When we first arrived at the back of the refuge at dawn, my thoughts were “this is really something to see.” There were three large herds of wildlife bedded down. One was a herd of older bull elk, another was the elk cows and the rest were bison. There were around 8,400 elk and around 450 bison. All looked well-fed and waiting for spring to appear. From the back came six wolves trotting through the refuge. I figured things were about to erupt, but much to my amazement nothing happened except a bison or two got up and switched their tails. I was kind of disappointed, but I figured with all of the elk and bison around there had to be a few die each night. Why should the wolves hunt the live ones?
    From one corner, out came a large tractor on treads pulling a large feed trailer. Just like home, all the animals stood up when they heard the tractor and rushed to the feed lines. I learned they feed around 50 tons of alfalfa pellets a day. For me, it was by no means a typical wildlife experience.
    I can see where wolves have a purpose in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but I find them much less appealing in other parts of Wyoming. They are here, however, and they have become our responsibility. It’s been a hard-fought battle to get to this point and it’s important that we proceed with caution and smarts. This is no time for actions, by ranchers or by sportsmen, that strengthen the arguments and appeals of pro-wolf groups. The whole nation has its eyes on Wyoming as the transition of wolf management takes place. Let’s not do anything that jeopardizes the new management opportunities that have just recently been put in place.
Dennis
    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

 

       Ever so often during our daily lives we think of someone who has earned our respect for doing their job exceptionally well. If that person has worked in government, their job has been that much tougher. Couple that obstacle with spending your working life in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and you really find yourself wearing a bull’s eye as you carry out work important to a countless number of people.
    I’m talking about Terry Cleveland, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who last week announced his retirement. Terry has been with the Game and Fish since 1969 and, as we all know, a lot has changed over those years and the agency has seen some tough times. But, as Governor Freudenthal stated, “Terry will leave the Game and Fish Department in very good condition heading into the future.”
    We all know Terry will leave the Department in good condition, which is his way of doing things. But as Terry quoted a wise man in his retirement announcement, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” What impressed us all was the style in which Terry made the journey. He thanked agriculture for its contributions to wildlife and the habitat the industry provides. The state’s ranchers and farmers do not hear that statement often enough and Terry shares his accolades for the state’s private landowners every time he’s given the chance.
    Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” We may disagree with Terry at times, something easy to do when you’re talking about wildlife and ag, but it has been done with respect by both parties the past four years. Terry always seems to know the right words to use.
    Over the last four years, those in ag have noticed a change in attitude by Game and Fish personnel toward ranchers and farmers. This attitude change has really made it easier to work toward common ground, a measure that has benefited Game and Fish, wildlife and habitat along with the state’s landowners. I will always remember Terry’s tenure for his ability to lead in this way. Now it is up to the Commission and the Governor to make sure we all stay the course that Terry so wisely set forth.
    The game birds and trout will catch heck in the coming years, as we wish Terry and his family good health and good hunting. As a result of Terry’s contributions, our state is a better place.
    As Christy stated in last week’s column about the Roundup’s new web page, we really hope you take the time to look it over and use it to your benefit. We are really proud of all the work Christy and Brandy Evans have done in making this a quality service to our readers. It was done to give you a better product for your money. I think our classified ads will really grow through the new web page where you can submit ads on the Internet and pay for them securely. You can also include pictures of your items for sale.
    The surveys on the web page will let us and others know how you feel about important and current issues affecting agriculture in our state. It is there for your use and we hope you take full advantage of it.
Dennis