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A Success Story for Producers, the Sheep Industry and Wyoming
By Becky Gitthens, CPA, Director of Finance and Operations, Mountain States Lamb Cooperative

    With more than 2.3 million lambs marketed, total producer payments exceeding $375 million and 93 percent ownership of the largest domestic lamb company in the U.S., the members of Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) had a lot to celebrate at our recent 10th Annual Meeting. Following a roller coaster 12-month period, which saw record high prices of lambs and a short supply in 2011, followed by an industry-wide surplus of lambs and falling prices in 2012, our members are thankful to be a part of this Wyoming-based, producer-driven success story. In fact, one of the primary reasons MSLC exists is to provide its producers market access during the exact conditions we have experienced in the lamb industry the last nine months.
    The record high prices and short supplies of 2011 took a heavy toll on consumer demand. MSLC and our meat company, Mountain States Rosen, have had to deal with the consequences of this, right along with the rest of our industry. Many retailers reduced the limited shelf space allocated to American lamb even further or quit carrying lamb altogether. Restaurants often removed lamb from the menu or offered lower-priced cuts. In addition, drought conditions in key regions brought lambs into the feedlots earlier than normal last summer and fall. A mild winter in lamb feeding areas facilitated optimum feed conversion and accelerated marketing. The ethnic trade, which annually uses an estimated 1 million head of lighter weight lambs, pulled out of the market entirely due to price, thus increasing the supply of feeder lambs available over previous years. In addition, a weak global economy has contributed to increased pressure from imported product in the United States and a much weaker pelt market. The last nine months have been incredibly challenging for the entire lamb industry because of the inability to get lambs marketed in a timely manner.
    Market access is one of the primary benefits of our organization. We utilize a harvest schedule based on solid communication with both our meat company and producers. As shareholders in the nation’s largest domestic lamb company, our producers know they have a home for their market ready lambs every year. Members communicate with the Co-op throughout their marketing cycle regarding the number of lambs they have to market and the projected harvest dates. This allows MSLC to forecast its supply and work to align it with the needs of the meat company.
    We will be the first to admit there are a number of variables to work with, and much like the weather, some factors are always going to be difficult to predict or beyond our control. Perfect alignment of supply and demand will always be impossible, but because both our supply and meat company are producer-owned and controlled, we have proven that we are able to do so much better than our industry as a whole. As a cooperative and a vertically integrated organization, we have improved the communication between our producers and meat company tremendously over the last few years and diligently work at this each day. This communication and cooperation is key to our business model and gives us a competitive advantage over the rest of the industry.
    Mountain States Lamb Cooperative is current with all of our member’s committed supply. Based on the weights and number of lambs on feed in Colorado, it does not appear as if the industry as a whole will be current until much later this fall. As non-member producers have struggled to market their finished lambs during 2012, inquiries and new MSLC memberships have increased significantly. Producers from around the country are contacting us because they want to align themselves with the long-term vision of our organization and eliminate the uncertainty of where they will market lambs next year. Producers also want the opportunity to earn premiums on quality lambs, be paid for actual carcass yield and pelt quality, and earn dividends based on the profitability of their own meat company.
     We recognize that there are a number of serious challenges for the industry in the short term. Drought, rising production and feed costs, pressure from imported product and predator and environmental issues all plague an industry that currently has more product than demand. However, longer term the future is bright.
    There is still a worldwide shortage of protein and not enough lambs being produced in the United States. Lamb is a wonderful, nutritious product and is a favorite of diners, chefs and families because of its tender, delicious taste profile and ease of preparation. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and the assurance that it is raised responsibly. The MSLC story and all-natural program addresses those concerns and features an antibiotic- and hormone-free product.
    Lamb consumption in the U.S. still averages well less than one pound per person per year, so there are infinite marketing opportunities. Mountain States Rosen’s New York and Colorado case-ready programs are opening up new markets for our lamb. We are utilizing state of the art technology, which produces a high quality product, conveniently and attractively packaged with an extended shelf life, thereby increasing customer satisfaction, and enhancing the retailer’s product margin.
    Mountain States Lamb Cooperative is optimistic about the opportunities for lamb, our organization and most importantly our members. After 10 years of marketing more than 2.3 million lambs, paying each producer on time and in full and acquiring the controlling interest in Mountain States Rosen, our state and industry realize MSLC organization is the real deal and here for the long haul.
    Mountain States Lamb Cooperative is located at 327 E. Center, Douglas. They can be reached at 307-358-0235. To contact Becky directly, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
The Regulatory War
Ashley McDonald, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Deputy Environmental Council

    Always a hot topic in Washington, D.C. is “regulatory overreach.” This phrase has been the battle cry for many industries over the past few years, and the cattle industry is no exception. As one of the top two enforcement priorities for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the cattle industry has seen an attack from all sides. We are fighting issues from dust and greenhouse gas regulation to preventing your ditches and dry washes from becoming a “water of the United States.” EPA is a power hungry bureaucratic machine, and it is in their own self-interest to continue to stretch their authority and gain power over every aspect of our operations. War has no doubt been declared on both sides, but while EPA may have won a few battles, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) will fight to ensure the cattle industry wins the war.
    Let’s examine where the agency has gone over the past few years. Immediately upon arrival, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson declared carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a direct threat to human health, and she went on to promulgate three major rules that will raise input costs to farmers and ranchers and subject them to permitting requirements for their emissions starting in 2016. That year as well, the agency published staff recommendations that the dust standard should be lowered to double the stringency of the current standard, subjecting cattle producers across the country to expensive regulations and fines for driving down a dirt road or cattle moving in pens.
    Next the agency dropped another bomb, usurping states’ rights in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by taking over all aspects of the Clean Water Act and setting a TMDL (total maximum daily load) for the 64,000 square mile watershed. While the usurpation of the states’ rights is atrocious, it pales in comparison to the economic impact this rule will have. Nutrient loadings have been set so low that only completely idling land is an option. Not only will municipal ratepayers in the region pay more for their water bill, but a 20 percent reduction in the amount of farmland in the watershed is relied upon by EPA in order for states to meet their obligations under the TMDL. Bad data and false assumptions plague the EPA “model” that developed the nutrient loadings, so much so that NCBA and other agricultural groups had an analysis done on these assumptions and found that not only was EPA’s model wrong in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that came from agriculture, but the model simply would not count many of the conservation measures producers had put on the ground.
    The agency next instituted the Florida numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) rule, again railroading the state’s rights under the Clean Water Act. That rule too will come with a heavy price tag, with estimates that the federal rule will cost the state more than 14,000 in job losses and cost agriculture over $3 billion in implementation costs. The list of overreaching federal regulations that directly hurt cattle operations continues, with ammonia regulation under the Clean Air Act, pressure on states to develop more nutrient reduction regulations, a guidance document expanding “waters of the U.S.,” and new reporting rules.
    While the cattle industry is bruised and bloody from these actions, the agency has also felt the sting of defeat, and NCBA’s “win” column is increasing. In the face of a tough re-election campaign, the Administration has decided to pull back in its war against farmers and ranchers. You will remember the heat the agency took over their consideration of lowering the dust standard, and eventually NCBA was successful in getting the Administrator to promise she would not propose to lower the standard.
    EPA also decided not to move forward with its plan for regulating ammonia under a Clean Air Act standard for oxides of nitrogen. And in July, EPA withdrew a controversial reporting rule it had proposed back in October of 2011 that would have put our industry at risk of increased attacks from animal rights activists and terrorists.
    The war is not yet won. The number of people involved in agriculture and living in rural America continues to decrease, while the knowledge gap about our industry continues to widen. Cattle producers must be outspoken about the measures we have put in place to protect the environment and how the U.S. cattle industry is more sustainable than anywhere else in the world. The knowledge gap does not reside with consumers alone. It is prevalent with regulators, congressmen and senators. NCBA works every day to close this gap and limit the number of harebrained regulations that seem to flow so easily out of the capitol city. While NCBA will not win every battle, we intend to win the war and keep ranching a viable way of life.


Preventing Dehydration in Horses

    There are five main nutrients that a horse needs in order to survive, water, energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.
    Water is the most important nutrient for equine. Most equine can survive a week or two without food but they can only go a few days without water. A horse’s body is approximately 60 to 70 percent water, and a foal is close to 80 percent. During the summer months when horses are worked more readily and sweating more often, water consumption and needs may increase.
    The amount of water required by a horse depends on several factors including but not limited to size, age, body condition score, diet, amount of work and the outside temperature. A fat horse generally requires less water than a horse that is more muscular as fat is generally lower in water content compared to muscle.
    The diet of the horse may also affect the amount of water a horse must consume on a daily basis. A horse consuming primarily a hay diet may have a need for additional water as well as a horse on a high protein diet, but a horse grazing on pasture may require less as grass is generally high in water content. Water is essential for digestion. Horses will typically drink between eight to 12 gallons (27 to 30 liters) of water per day. Most consumption will take place within three hours after consuming a meal. A 1,000 pound horse in a hot environment performing work may require up to 15 gallons of water a day, but only eight to 10 if not performing work.
    Also, consider offering a source of salt to your horse during hot summer months. When a horse sweats, not only does it lose water, it also loses salt and electrolytes. When a horse sweats it loses minerals/electrolytes such as sodium, chloride and potassium. Electrolytes are essential for your horse to maintain homeostasis within its body. Loss of electrolytes and water creates an osmotic response in the blood, thus creating a thirst sensation. Supplying salt and or electrolyte supplements is also of major importance.
    Always provide clean, fresh water to your horse. If you are traveling for several hours, stop and allow your horse to drink. Some horses will not drink water from other areas, so consider adding a flavor to the water to encourage your horse to drink.
    Also, supply a salt and/or mineral block to your horse. When traveling or competing, consider bringing or purchasing a small block. You can also add a few tablespoons of salt to their grain, but make sure adequate water is available when doing this.
    If you suspect your horse is dehydrated offer clean, cool and fresh water. If you still suspect your horse is dehydrated and not performing or looking well call your veterinarian immediately so fluids can be administered.
    Here’s a few tips to check for dehydration in horses:
    -Watch the amount of water being consumed on a daily basis, which is easy to do if you are providing water to your horse by a bucket.
    -Evaluate your horse’s manure. A hydrated horse will have moist manure, but one that may have depressed water intake will have firm manure with less water content
    -Gently apply pressure to the upper lip of your horse, and the color should change from a moist pink to white. Within two or three seconds it should return to the normal color. If not, this maybe a sign of dehydration
    -Use the skin tent test by gently pinching the skin in the neck of the horse. It should fall back to the neck within two to three seconds. If the skin tent is prolonged, this may be another sign a horse is dehydrated.
    Amy McLean is the UW Extension Equine Specialist and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Property Rights and Election Year Politics
Karen Budd-Falen, Attorney, Budd-Falen Law Offices

    In this election year, it is critical to ask what your current elected representatives – or those who want to be your elected representatives – believe when it comes to private property and private property rights.
    Private property is all tangible and intangible things owned by individuals or organizations over which their owners have legal rights, such as land, buildings, money, copyrights, patents, etc. Unless the mandates of the Fifth Amendment are met, private property can be transferred only with its owner’s agreement.
    Property can include every valuable right that can be owned, has an exchangeable value or adds to one’s wealth or estate. Property describes a person’s exclusive right to possess, use and dispose of something. It has been said that the rights to the ownership and use of property and property rights is a basic element of the capitalist system and is even the basis for the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
    “In its larger and juster meaning, [property] embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage. In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandise, or money is called his property. In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by  hem,” said James Madison (1751-1836), author of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, private property cannot be taken, unless it is for a public purpose, without due process and just compensation. The Fifth Amendment was written to protect individuals against abuse of government authority by requiring due process (i.e. a legal procedure). The Fifth Amendment guarantees stem from English common law, which traces back to Magna Carta of 1215. For example, the Fifth Amendment protects individuals from criminal double jeopardy and self-incrimination; it also protects property from being taken unless there is a “public purpose,” without due process and just compensation.
    Although often overlooked, in this election year, we the people should focus our thoughts on the Fifth Amendment’s requirement that property cannot be taken unless there is a public purpose. The courts have allowed legislative bodies, such as a city council, county commissions or the state legislature to determine what is in the public purpose. The determination of a “public purpose” by your federal, state and local elected officials extends to determining if eminent domain will be granted to companies for rights-of-ways, limiting land use through restrictive zoning decisions and taking private properties “for a higher and better use.”
    In this election year, it is up to you to determine how far your elected officials go in either eliminating or defending all forms of private property. As John Locke (1632-1704) stated, “The great chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property… Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people…”
    There is nothing your elected officials have adopted in the past that cannot be changed by a new elected body with the will to do so. So I would encourage you to ask these questions of yourself and your elected officials. How important is the guarantee of the ownership and use of private property and property rights? Do you have elected officials who listen to the citizens, treat them with respect and represent the people in the City, County, State or Country or do they merely represent the county employees who want to retain power to themselves?
    As stated by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
    And while not necessarily a Constitutional scholar, famous singer/songwriter Bob Marley (1945-1981) once stated, “Get up; stand up. Stand up for your rights. Get up; stand up. Don’t give up the fight.”