Opinion by Jim MagagnaWritten by Jim Magagna
Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association
Sunday October 1, 2012 – The day that wolves were delisted in Wyoming (for the second time)! Some may view this as a day of celebration. Others may have taken up the challenge of killing a wolf on this first day. For Wyoming ranchers, Sunday might better be described as a day of Thanksgiving. Ranchers do not have a passion for killing wolves. We have a passion for protecting our livestock and defending our private property. This is a passion that most Americans do not understand. They have been falsely led by wolf advocacy groups to believe that Wyoming ranchers are killers. Today, our right to protect our livestock has been restored in one significant way. For that we are thankful.
Ranchers are also thankful to Governor Matt Mead and his staff, who led the way in securing a delisting on Wyoming’s terms. Ranchers should be thankful to each of Wyoming’s agricultural organizations that never wavered in their resolve to maintain the predator status of wolves in the greatest possible area of the state. We are thankful to those sportsmen’s organizations that stood with us in this struggle. We are grateful to those of our neighbors who have agreed to accept the heavier burden of being in the trophy game or flex areas of the state. This was a team effort.
As in so much of life, with success comes responsibility. Ranchers in the trophy game and flex areas must take the time to inform themselves regarding the complexities of property defense, take permits, reporting requirements and compensation criteria. Those who kill a wolf in the predator area must meet the requirement of reporting that kill, including the location and the sex of the animal, to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department within 10 days. We should willingly comply with the request that we voluntarily submit a hair or other sample for genetic testing.
Our actions can do much to demonstrate our true passion for the protection of our livestock. For a rancher, the decision to shoot a wolf is a business decision. Like our many other business decisions, it should be executed and publicized with discretion. Let us not feed the coffers of the wolf advocates with statements, photos and actions that facilitate their portrayal of ranchers as “blood thirsty wolf killers.” The Wyoming rancher’s response to this hard fought victory should, like all else in our daily lives, reflect the Code of the West that we have worked to perfect throughout our history.
Extension by John RittenWritten by John Ritten
By John Ritten, UW Extension Economist
Maybe it’s a bit late for a drought management plan this year, but this may be the best time to reexamine what happened and evaluate how you responded.
I assume many of you have already done a lot in response to the drought and may not require much more action this year, while others are still deciding whether or not they will have to cull deeper still. Regardless, I’m sure all of you have done something, and many wish they would have done more sooner.
Also, many of you likely want to forget about this year and move on as soon as possible. However, now is probably the best time to reflect and put on paper when some of those decisions you would have done differently might have occurred and what milestones would have signaled it was time, so next time you’re ready to pull the trigger. Also, now is a good time to start thinking about next year. What will/should you do if forage returns? What will or should you do if it doesn’t?
Plan for drought
There are a few key points to remember when planning for or responding to a drought. Make sure you have an accurate assessment of your environment, including both the herd and ranch situations. Include factors such as herd needs and current grazing potential, as well as current and expected market environment. For example, some people took animals to market this spring or early summer as forage just started to look scarce with the realization that prices were about as favorable as they were likely to get for some time, especially if they expected drought-related culling to continue across the region. These producers saved their forage and likely made money as they decreased herd numbers.
Along these lines, it is important now to understand what your current herd requires in terms of forage needs in the coming year(s). In Wyoming, drought events are often prolonged, and relying on precipitation next year may very well be a losing bet. It may make more sense to decrease herd numbers a bit more this fall, especially as current prices are still well above the five year average.
Once you have an idea of where you are, you need to decide where you want to be long-term and what you’re willing to do to get there in the short-term. For example, a lot of cows left our area this year. A majority of producers in this state refer to themselves as cow/calf producers. I assume a lot of them would like to stay that way. However, I also expect the price of both heifers and cows to be near record next year as the national herd begins to rebuild.
Rather than rebuilding with breeding stock next year, it may make some sense to further cull cow numbers in the next year or two in order to keep some calves back as yearlings. Consider, for example, culling after weaning this fall. Remember, cull prices are still much higher than historical averages.
This does two things. It reduces herd requirements on forage and adds flexibility if the drought continues. It’s often easier to send a steer to market in May than it is a pair. Then, after prices return to ‘normal’ levels, you can begin to rebuild breeding stock through purchases or increased heifer retention.
Learn from others
I would also advise you to look at your neighbors. Some of them probably fared better than you this year and some of them probably worse. Learn from both of them. What did the good producers do? See if you can incorporate any of their strategies into your operations. What did the less prosperous do? Examine your operation and see if you are following any of their trends. Maybe you’re doing a lot of the same things, they got hit this year and you’re set up to follow the same path next year if the drought continues.
Again, this is a good time to evaluate your operation. What did you do, and where did it leave you? What could you have done? Are there any obvious opportunities available this fall or next spring? For example, maybe you can sell some bred cows next year at those record prices, and get back in the market in a year or two after things settle down a bit.
Are there any major threats you are or will be facing? You may have made it through this year, but how does your range look? Will it provide good forage next year if we get rain, or will it require additional recovery time?
Every operation is different, but learn what you can from those around you. Good and bad producers both can help us learn.
Also, visit with your local extension team. They will likely have some insight into range recovery times and expected animal performance in the coming years. And if you want to look at how different strategies perform on paper across extended drought, visit wyomingextension.org/agpubs/pubs/B1219.pdf.
You may want to bookmark the weather services 90-day outlook at cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/long_range/seasonal.php?lead=01 and visit it in the spring to see if there are early warnings of extended drought.
Also, a good resource regarding rangeland response to drought can be found at wyomingextension.org/agpubs/pubs/MP111_09.pdf.
Finally, I would again encourage you to do a good self-evaluation. Where do you currently stand? Can you afford another drought year? Then decide where it is you want to be in five to 10 years, and what you’re willing or able to do to get there.
Opinion by PriceWritten by Charles Price
Charles Cl. Price, District III Commisioner of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
In previous articles, I described a protocol that I believed could be used to booster vaccinate pregnant cows with RB51 vaccine without the risk of a significant loss to vaccine induced abortion. These articles were published in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup on Jan. 1, 2011 (Brucellosis – Strain-19 and RB51) and on June 25, 2011 (Brucellosis – Booster Vaccination with RB51).
In the second article, I related the result for a small group, 20 head, which had received a RB51 booster shot as yearling heifers prior to being bred and were given a second booster shot as pregnant heifers in the fall of 2010. The entire group of 20 heifers that received a second booster shot while pregnant carried their calves to term. As proposed in the June 25 article, my son Kent Price and I booster vaccinated all of the bred cows that we retained for the herd at our fall 2011 pregnancy test with RB51. All of these cows, numbering over 350 head, except one, carried their calf to term. We had two dead before birth, and both appeared to be full term. As for the one cow that was open we don’t know, she may have aborted or we could use the old fall back, ”blame the vet.”
The important lesson was that any RB51 vaccine induced abortion caused by vaccinating the cows while pregnant was insignificant or nonexistent.
One interesting thing that happened during this experiment was that all of our replacement yearling heifers carried their calves to term. So much for the “blame the vet” theory. Until these last two years when the yearling heifers have been RB51 booster vaccinated prior to breeding, we have always had a heifer or two slink their calf or show up with no calf by the end of the calving season. This has led me to speculate that perhaps the RB51 booster prevents abortions caused by other aborting type diseases such as BVD or similar disease. After all, the way the brucellosis vaccine works is to resist a brucellosis-induced abortion, thus minimizing the spread of the disease within the herd.
In summary, the protocol that we have followed with RB51 is as follows. First, give the calf hood vaccination, which is a legal requirement. Then, booster vaccinate yearling heifers prior to breeding. Finally, give the first booster vaccination to cows that have only had a calf hood vaccination while they are open. This allows us to booster vaccinate cows while we are doing our fall pregnancy testing. A point to keep in mind is that we booster vaccinated our cows in about their second trimester of pregnancy. I don’t know if a booster shot late in the pregnancy cycle would be a problem.
In conclusion, we have demonstrated a protocol that allows booster vaccination of pregnant cows during their pregnancy testing with an insignificant loss due to vaccine induced abortion. We have not addressed the time interval between booster shots that maintains this insignificant loss. We are currently going to follow the state veterinarian’s recommendation of every third year.
The important question regarding booster vaccination with RB51 is, will a cow properly booster vaccinated be able to resist an abortion caused by the field strain of brucellosis? This is the critical question.
A challenge test of the RB51 and the booster vaccination protocol by the field strain of brucellosis is imperative. We need to determine how effective the RB51 with booster vaccination is in controlling brucellosis.
Opinion by BuchananWritten by Tom Buchanan
Tom Buchanan, President, University of Wyoming
On July 2, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, allowing for the creation of land grant institutions in each state to provide education related to agriculture, home economics and mechanical arts.
Twenty-five years later, even before Wyoming became a state, the University of Wyoming opened its doors based upon the foundation of the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act.
As we this year mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act and UW’s 125th anniversary, it’s important to note the university remains dedicated to its land-grant mission. Whether it’s educating students for careers in agriculture or conducting research to benefit Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers, UW takes seriously its mandate to serve the people of the state.
At a time when the agriculture industry is seeing its workforce age rapidly, I’m happy to report that enrollment in our College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has never been higher – more than 1,000 students for the second year in a row. Young people are entering these fields of study in part because agriculture remains such an important industry in the state and in part because of UW’s strong leadership. We have focused our programs in areas where our students really have an opportunity to enter careers, grow and succeed.
For example, we recently rolled out a new degree incorporating animal science and agribusiness. The targets are students who have an interest in the livestock aspect of agribusiness. In addition, we have a new bachelor of applied science degree that allows students who have two-year degrees, along with time in the workforce, to come back to school and finish bachelor’s degrees in two years.
We’re also cooperating with Sheridan College to improve our agroecology and horticulture program. Under this partnership, students who receive associate’s degrees in horticulture will be able to take their third year of classes in Sheridan, then their final year at UW, to earn bachelor’s degrees.
The Sheridan effort is getting a big boost from UW’s purchase and renovation of the Watt Agricultural Building from Sheridan College. The project’s purpose is to strengthen UW’s partnership with Sheridan College, enhance and consolidate UW’s program in agriculture and horticulture and provide a unified site for outreach instruction for UW students in Sheridan. We’re working with Sheridan College and Whitney Benefits, a nonprofit foundation in Sheridan, to lease the adjacent Adams Ranch at little or no cost. We plan to integrate the Adams Ranch into our Sheridan Research and Extension Center and curriculum for third-year agriculture students.
As Wyoming’s only four-year university, we recognize the importance of reaching out across the width and breadth of our big state. Nowhere is that more evident than in agriculture.
UW Extension – which, since 1914, has helped Wyoming farm and ranch families respond to challenges and changes – maintains offices in all 23 counties and on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Through various publications and personal contacts, UW Extension provides information and assistance to help rural communities thrive.
Perhaps our biggest contribution to Wyoming agriculture is our focus on research, both on campus and through our research centers in Lingle, Powell and Sheridan. Our scientists aim to help producers and constituents address a wide variety of issues important to Wyoming. In 2011, for example, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources completed a total of 79 applied research projects. Of those projects, 25 were related to crop research, 27 to livestock production and health, three to economics, three to weed management, 17 to horticulture and three to food safety. Key projects are reported and presented at field days and at public speaking engagements.
We’re making a particular effort to reach out to constituents across the state to make sure our research enterprise is responsive to the needs of our stakeholders. For example, producers have asked for more help with farm and ranch budgeting, so we’ve hired new personnel to work in the area of ag finances.
Emblematic of UW’s commitment to the state’s agriculture industry is the fact that Frank Galey, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, recently was honored by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association with its “Guardian of the Grasslands” award for his efforts to protect the state’s natural resources.
Along those lines, we recently received the largest research grant in UW history – $20 million from the National Science Foundation – for wide-ranging research into one of our state’s most precious resources: water. There’s nothing more central to the future of agriculture in Wyoming and the West. We expect this research to yield important information to guide water managers as they make decisions during a time of increasing demand and climate variability.
Be assured we will continue working to communicate what we’re doing and to seek your input in setting priorities. For UW to remain effective, we must always remember we are a land-grant university. That means quality instruction and research, particularly in agriculture, and remaining connected to the people who live in our great state.