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       Raising livestock these days, compared to 10 to 15 years ago, is pretty complicated given all the rapid change. Every time you pick up a livestock publication someone is telling you what you need to do to stay profitable. The good part is that most of those people are right and we all need to pay attention in order to stay in business.
    But, don’t you wish we all had a couple of months to catch our breath? It’s been a tough winter for a lot of people here in Wyoming, some say the worst since the early 80s. We may find out why we have all of those ditches around the place that haven’t run water for some time. For some it is almost calving and lambing time, which is renewing enthusiasm across the countryside.
    For some, the numerous options in raising livestock are a pain in the rear. Most of us, myself included, see them as opportunity. A lamb used to be white-faced or black-faced, a calf was black, red or whatever color and a colt was sound or crippled. Today color doesn’t matter as much as labels like “natural,” “organic” or the “plain Jane.” Some want us to write down around when it was born and put a numbered tag in its ear or attach a computer chip that will be its name as long as it lives.
    Some marketers like Wal-Mart and McDonalds want their products raised on environmentally friendly and non-abusive farms and ranches. We have to prove we operate that way. I’m thinking about changing my ranch name to The Happy Ranch or Hand-in-Hand Land and Cattle Company. That ought to make my products worth more, hadn’t it?
    I need to change the name of Muddy Creek to Clear Creek and Stinking Creek to Rose Creek while I’m at it. It’s hard to market with draws and ridges that carry abusive names. Who would want to buy a calf that was raised on Stinking Creek?
    We can all joke about it, but as long as the decisions regarding our lands and livestock are ours to make, it is an opportunity. The changes of the last years have provided us more options for more dollars even though it’s costing a lot more to raise livestock. Who would have thought we could sell the wind we all cuss and that selling something with a “natural” label would make you feel good.
    I’m not sure someone in New York City eating a natural steak from a black or red cow knows what it is all about, but they believe the advertisement that tells them it is good. Advertising and telling our story is as important as it ever has been and the public wants to hear what we have to say.
    This high corn and feed issue has really got us scratching our heads, but be thankful our livestock eat grass, too. If we were raising chickens or fish, where grain is the single feed source, we’d be in a real pickle. Corn prices are hurting us, but they shouldn’t put us out of business if we keep our eyes on opportunity.

With national elections that seem to go on and on, so long we can’t remember when they started, it is hard to stay involved in our democratic processes. I don’t know about you, but my eyes sort of glaze over while watching the national news and elections. Maybe it is because I’m not too thrilled about any of the candidates. The most entertaining aspect has been the numerous Hillary jokes I’ve been receiving. On a more serious note, the best part is that we can all participate one way or another in the process and we get to vote.

    We have to be the luckiest state in the nation with our hometown legislative process. We can all be heard time and time again. To reach our state representatives and senators, it only takes a telephone call or e-mail and you almost always receive a response. The same can be said about our elected state officials, past and present.

    Bruce Vincent of “Provider Pals,” whom most of us have heard speak on Western issues, always says, “democracy is not a spectator sport” and “the world is run by those who show up.” Both of those statements are very true. Those who have attended committee hearings in Cheyenne or around the state have seen one person’s comments amend legislation or see it pushed to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. We are lucky because not the loudest comments, but the words with the most common sense usually prevail. That comment comes from the hills and streets of our state by those who will be directly affected by the legislation. There is also a price to pay and a price to lose on every piece of legislation. Those in agriculture, being owners of property, always look at the price tag to recognize the benefits or determine if their ox will be the one getting gored.

    I understand the Joint Appropriations Committee has approved funding for some programs important to agriculture such as predator boards and conservation district water monitoring and watershed planning. They also funded, through Wyoming Water Development dollars, water accounts II and III. Water Account II is for infrastructure such as irrigation districts. Water Account III is for storage. It’s great as that means dams to me. We all want water storage, except in our backyards, but it has to be somewhere and takes years of planning, so we are off to a start.

    These funds just didn’t happen to be selected, our legislators and lobbyists from the agricultural community, along with personal contact from the hills, helped make it happen. The accumulative effect of all was most likely responsible for the action. That is how it works.

    Dollars for the legislative body to spend have dropped off compared to a couple of years ago. It is still important to get our comments to them on where to spend those dollars. Funding that helps agriculture usually helps other issues like open space, wildlife and recreation. We need to keep getting that point across.

    Legislators always need information to assist them in making decisions and this session will be no different. There are a number of ag issues coming up in committees besides the Agricultural, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee. These committees don’t always understand agriculture and natural resources. They need and most likely welcome our help.


A couple of weeks ago U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont. ruled the Yellowstone grizzly bear is indeed a threatened species, reversing the March 2007 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the bear.
    This ruling, needless to say, shocked the agricultural communities in the Yellowstone area and their respective states. The grizzly bear has been studied more than any other bear in the world and their numbers have increased to more than 600 in the Yellowstone area; Wyoming provides habitat for at least 75 percent of those bears.
    Along with more bears comes the need for more habitat, so grizzly range will continue to increase even as we all read about the injury to the sheepherder in the Wind River Mountains a couple weeks ago. He was lucky to live through the incident that occurred while he was protecting his sheep, even though some accounts in the news have said the herder was “injured while the bear was protecting her cubs and their food source.” Excuse me, but I don’t consider sheep a “food source” for grizzly bears. With this new ruling, it will even be more difficult to graze livestock in any area where grizzlies may be.
    The environmentalists who brought on the lawsuit against the Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to relist the bear would like to see the grizzly bear south into Colorado and as far west as the Cascades in Washington and Oregon. Also, under the Equal Justice Law, by winning the lawsuit they will be reimbursed for their lawyer fees by the U.S. Government. By winning the suit they not only made money, but struck a tremendous blow to livestock producers in those states. This judge has ruled in their favor time and time again, but a week earlier he did rule against them in the wolf hunting lawsuit. Maybe his conscience was bothering him?  
    True, the grizzly bear population took a hit in 2008 because of hunters shooting them and other causes, but this action is unreasonable. Maybe this all happened because there are now more grizzly bears out there. More bears, more incidents – it happens with other animals.
    What really shocked the agricultural communities is that the judge ruled that climate change and loss of habitat are the main reasons for the decision. It is true that past warmer winters may have caused an explosion in the pine beetle, and therefore the loss of the whitebark pine forests, which results in less whitebark pine nuts – the major food source for the bears in the fall. But, because of current state management and no proof the loss of the nuts will harm the bears, this ruling is just fishing for reasons and completely makes the Endangered Species Act a joke.
    A couple of years ago they also used climate change as a deciding factor to list the polar bear, but to use this feeble excuse of climate change without proof is ridiculous. The states have good monitoring that would result in relisting of the bear if its population dropped below a certain number. Now its future is out of our hands.