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    The sour world economy caught up to the sheep industry in 2009. However, unlike every other facet of animal agriculture, fortunately sheep producers were spared from the severe price drops on the 2008 production. As we enter the fall run of lambs, prices are off from the unprecedented averages of the 2002 through 2008 crops.  
    The $2 million section 32 lamb meat purchase program that the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) secured this year is a bright spot for lamb companies to help keep meat moving and we believe it will strengthen lamb prices at the ranch gate. To date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has purchased eight semi loads of boneless lamb for delivery this fall. The remaining half of the funds still need to be obligated for additional lamb. This project is just one example of the benefit received when producers and feeders hold a joint annual meeting as the request for ASI to pursue this funding was noted repeatedly during the sheep industry convention last January.   
    The ASI insurance program designed to help manage the risk of lamb price fluctuations will once again be available for sale in September. The Livestock Risk Protection-Lamb has been off-line this summer as a number of changes have been approved for inclusion to the program. A different prices series under USDA’s mandatory price reporting will be employed along with a 20-week endorsement, as requested by sheep producers.
     Wool market prices are behind the 15-year highs experienced in 2008. Undoubtedly, this is because $500 to $1,500 wool suits are not selling like normal. The economy caused folks that typically buy a suit or sport coat every year to skip a season causing a struggle in the clothing retail business. The upside is that the U.S. military is buying wool in greater quantities and is working with the industry on new wool products for our service men and women. ASI hosted 12 wool firms and representatives from all branches of the military this July to further the promotion of American wool. The U.S. Army announced that it is streamlining its service uniform from the current green uniforms to one blue Army service uniform, creating an additional demand for wool. It is heartening to ranchers to see that their wool is clothing the men and women who fight for our country! I believe it is as inspiring for the military officials to meet the ranchers and to witness the animal care and natural production of American sheep and wool.  
    Also on the promotion angle, I commend the Wyoming sheepmen for stepping up with the rest of the country this year and approving the national referendum to continue the American lamb promotion program. This is the second vote since 2005 and each passed with over 80 percent approval by ranch and sheep numbers.
    On the industry’s legislative front, the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA), with the support of its senators, helped halt the USDA proposal to initiate lamb and live sheep imports from Argentina, something ASI adamantly opposes.
    ASI and the WWGA teamed up again to defend the registration of the M-44 coyote control tool which animal rights groups had petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to challenge. Hundreds of producers, state and federal officials and wildlife management rallied with the sheep industry to address the misinformation supplied by animal rightists. In January and again in March of this year, the EPA entirely rejected the challenge. USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS) did a stellar job with the documentation and demonstrated the professional practices used with this important coyote control tool. I found the same level of professionalism in their conduct of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for predator management across federal grazing allotments since its initiation in the mid 1990s. I would add that the agency has not lost a single lawsuit on those NEPA documents.
    Speaking of animal rights, I have not seen this level of activism or the responding level of concern from the livestock and meat businesses in my career as what we have seen this year. I think the federal elections and state ballot initiatives created excitement among those opposed to animal agriculture. This winter, rights activists asked the new administration to abolish the entire WS program – programs from airport safety to livestock protection to disease control. I find it pretty amazing that these groups continued their attacks on wildlife management even after geese knocked a jet airliner out of the sky and into the Hudson River in New York. In response, we found many legislative partners, beyond sheep and cattle, to support the activities of WS, including the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International and the pork industry (Wildlife damage management in some states now take more feral hogs than coyotes.). While protection of our animals is just one facet of the fight with animal rights groups, it is one that is in the forefront for sheep producers and increasingly for other livestock operators. Overall, we need to find a way for stockmen, meat companies and our partners in agriculture and food distribution to fund millions of dollars annually to seriously take on the animal rights community.
    A new project that is gathering interest nationally this year is a working group on livestock protection dogs. The Wyoming and Colorado sheep industries are leading the charge on the management, education and benefits of guard dogs to control depredation. Increasing recreation in historical grazing areas, both public and private, has meant increased conflicts. Protection dogs are critical to many sheep ranches so it is important to help ensure their continued use. Signage and educational materials are under development along with a compilation of management practices. The goal of the working group is to help sheep producers, neighboring producers and recreationalists co-exist.
    The Livestock Indemnity Program of USDA’s Farm Services Agency is a program ASI actively fought for in last year’s Farm Bill and we worked with the agency this year to implement the program to help with sheep lost to adverse weather. We didn’t imagine sheep producers would need the program straight out of the gate but, unfortunately, last winter and this spring were killer seasons in Wyoming, the Dakotas and Montana. We anticipate millions will be provided to operators in these states who lost sheep in snowstorms. Without this standing authority for the indemnity as provided to the Secretary of Agriculture by the 2008 Farm Bill, this help would be many months away, if available at all. We learned with the 2005 drought that disaster assistance for agriculture is very difficult to obtain in the increasingly urban U.S. Congress, so this stipulation in the Farm Bill was absolutely the right thing for livestock producers.
    The goal of the indemnity program is to help ranchers restock. The timing is important not solely because of the severe weather losses of the past year but because lamb and wool companies have also been visiting with ASI leaders this spring about ways to increase production. Both lamb and wool companies are lining up support to assist with new ways to increase production for the benefit of the entire industry. In fact, Mountain States Rosen Lamb has already committed joint participation with the ASI executive board. ASI programs led inventory increases in 2004 and 2005 but numbers are down slightly since then so we are interested in additional ways that all aspects of the sheep business can provide support to promote production.
    Peter Orwick is Executive Director of the American Sheep Industry Association. The organization can be found online at www.sheepusa.org.

By Cameron Clark, supervisory soil scientist in the Saratoga Soil Survey office, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

At 5:30 on a typical morning last summer the crew starts to filter in. It’s been a hot one, not record heat, mind you, but 85 degrees is still plenty warm when you are working outside all day. Between the dirt stains, the sweat, the smeared sunscreen, the bug-spray cologne and the wind-styled hair, we are all a sight to behold. For scientists, it is a far cry from a laboratory and a clean white coat, but most of us never wanted that, anyway. In Wyoming it is a blessing to work outdoors in the summer and be a soil scientist.

This summer’s crew consisted of two Saratoga-based soil scientists and two more on loan from other states, along with a student intern. Emiliano and I work full-time out of the Saratoga office. Laura came to us from the Kansas NRCS. Andrew came from the NRCS in Florida. Joxelle, our intern, came all the way from Puerto Rico! The latter three tended to roll their eyes whenever I joked about our intense heat, which was nothing compared to where they came from. Perhaps they should pay us for the privilege to map with us during our beautiful summers.

Laura maps with a one-ton truck equipped with a special Giddings probe, which allows her to drill soil cores using gas power rather than shoulder power. The power auger lets her sample more quickly and with less strain than a shovel would. On a good day, she can drill, analyze and record soil properties from 10 separate locations. That’s a big help because in Carbon County our field season is short and we need to cover about a thousand acres each day.
Andrew and the rest of us use more primitive tools. We specialize in using shovel (sharpshooter and spade) and hand auger. The hydraulic “bull” probes that make our trucks look unique work in certain areas and at certain times of the year but are hit or miss on dry and rocky soils. On those soils, the probe goes in a few inches, stops and then proceeds to jack the truck up. What can you do but break out the hand tools?

So, what exactly is it that we are trying to accomplish by looking at the soils? The short answer is that we are working on the Carbon County Soil Survey. That may or may not mean much to you unless you have farmed or ranched or otherwise stirred the soil in one of the nearly 3,000 counties that already have a published soil survey. It’s that thick white book with aerial photos in the back and lots of soils information in the front.

The soil survey is a detailed review of the soil types and associated plant communities found in a particular county. The scale and level of detail will vary from survey to survey, depending on the intensity of land use and the resources available to conduct the survey. On Wyoming rangeland, we typically map at what we call “Order III” level.  

At this level, we delineate areas of similar soil/vegetation/landform characteristics ranging from as small as 40 acres to as large as several thousand acres. These delineations are drawn as polygons on aerial photographs at the same scale as a topographic map (1:24,000). The land user can locate their property on the map, find the map unit number(s) that cover the area of interest and then look up the soil properties, vegetation communities, production estimates and engineering properties associated with those map units.

A typical map unit will consist of a “complex” or blend of two or three different soil series along with a few minor anomalies. This complex will occur on certain landforms and will have specific native vegetation communities (or ecosites) associated with them.

Additionally, each map unit will be used on numerous polygons with similar characteristics throughout the survey area. Otherwise, we would end up with well over 20,000 map units and a survey the size of bookshelf.

Soils are a dynamic entity, often morphing into one another, rather than having precise characteristics with sharp boundaries. Picture two different colored cans of paint (blue and green) spilling on the floor and running into each other. You will have a blue area and a green area, but in between will be shades of aqua or turquoise or blue-green. It is hard to say exactly where the blue stops and the green starts.

Thus a soil survey map provides a good indication of the performance and management considerations at the scale of a field or a ranch but not an exact prediction of what you will find at any one spot. To stretch the color analogy a bit, if your 80-acre field falls within the “Blue-Green complex” map unit, you can expect to find blue and green tones, not reds, yellows or purples. However if you look at any one spot, it might be a blue-green shade, rather than a pure color.  

There are more precise levels of mapping soils, such as Order I or Order II surveys, but they take longer and cost more to complete. In the end you want a level of detail appropriate for the level of management. For example, if you are estimating stocking rates on a section of rangeland with a single perimeter fence, you hope to arrive at a single value for the entire area. It would be cumbersome to average the values for 50 or 100 different polygons to get the carrying capacity for the section. On the other hand, if it is productive ground and you plan on splitting it up into five-acre paddocks for rotational grazing, a closer investigation would be profitable so that you could estimate the performance of each individual paddock.

This survey has been a long time coming. Parts of Carbon County have been mapped in the past by a variety of entities, including the BLM, the NRCS, the National Forest Service and private contractors but the data has not been correlated and significant areas were left unmapped. This is common with many of the sparsely populated counties in the West, where completion was not given high priority until recently. Here we resumed mapping in 2007 and should have the last unmapped areas completed next summer. From there we will correlate the data and begin proofing the earlier surveys, in order to produce a consistent soils map across the entire county.

Right now, summer is over, the office is quieter and the leaves are turning. We will still map until muddy roads or frozen soils keep us out sometime in November. As always, there will be plenty of data work to do in the long winter season. At least we are safe from any more heat waves!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in more 25 years with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, it’s that there is never a shortage of wildlife-related issues in this state.

And, as time goes on, those issues seem to become more numerous, more complicated, and more controversial than ever before. Since taking the reins of the Department last February, I am reminded every day of these realities and the fact that the future of Wyoming’s wildlife rests heavily on our abilities to face challenging issues.

Another fact that becomes more apparent all the time is that successful approaches to dealing with these challenges almost always involve Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers. From wolves to grizzly bears to brucellosis to hunting and fishing access, Wyoming’s agricultural industry is an invaluable partner. The department and Wyoming’s landowners have an impressive track record in working together to ensure a healthy state agriculture industry, the preservation of Wyoming’s western heritage and culture, and a rich wildlife resource.

Given the above, I would like to update you on some of the most important wildlife issues the department is working on, as well as some of our plans for making the department as responsive and effective as possible.

Wolves. There’s no arguing among wildlife managers and ranchers that wolves are fully recovered in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The original recovery criteria for wolves was 300 individuals. There are now more than 1,700 wolves in the ecosystem. But wolves remain on the Endangered Species List for a variety of political and legal reasons.

There is hope on the horizon. Late last summer, Governor Mead and Interior Secretary Salazar agreed on a plan to move forward with wolf delisting. The result is a revised wolf management plan for Wyoming and a proposed rule in the Federal Register to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List.
There are still a number of hurdles to clear before delisting can happen. The Wyoming Legislature will need to consider changing some state laws regarding wolf management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will need to finalize their rule after the mandatory public comment period. Finally, all of this will have to survive inevitable legal challenges.

No matter how this works out, Wyoming is committed to managing wolves in a way that makes sense for the people that live, work, and recreate in Wyoming. This means maintaining a recovered population of wolves in areas of the state where there is adequate habitat while minimizing wolf conflicts with livestock and wildlife.

Grizzly Bears. Like wolves, grizzly bears are fully recovered in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, and, like wolves, political and legal issues are stalling the removal of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

Many of you can relate to the fact that we are observing grizzly bears in new places and in higher numbers. We are also dealing with more grizzly bear conflicts than ever before. These conflicts include livestock killings, attacks on humans and property damage. One major difference here is that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been a major player in the recovery of grizzly bears, and we are the major player in preventing and dealing with bear conflicts in Wyoming. The department is spending nearly $2 million every year on its grizzly bear program. This includes educating people on how to be safe in grizzly country; trapping and dealing with problem bears; and conducting numerous research projects to understand more about grizzly bear behavior, population levels, habitat use, and conflict prevention.

As with wolves, we are hopeful that delisting is on the horizon. We remain optimistic that pending legal decisions will result in favorable rulings that open the door for delisting. And, as with wolves, the department is committed to managing grizzlies in a way that makes the most sense for Wyoming while maintaining a recovered population.

Brucellosis. This disease and the many issues surrounding it have combined to create some of the most complicated wildlife and livestock management issues in the Rocky Mountain West. We remain committed to continuing our work with livestock producers, the Wyoming Livestock Board, and the Governor’s Brucellosis Coordination Team to minimize transmission risks and inform ranchers about wildlife prevalence levels.

To that end, there are several things we are doing to reduce the risk of transmission. First, when possible, we make every effort to haze elk away from livestock commingling situations in high risk areas during the periods of the year when transmission risks are high (February to June). Second, our personnel and hunters invest significant time and effort in collecting blood and tissue samples to monitor elk and bison seroprevalence levels. Third, our brucellosis biologists, veterinarians, and other field personnel conduct multiple research projects annually that reveal new methods and techniques that we can apply to our elk feeding operations to reduce the risks of wildlife-to-cattle brucellosis transmission. These are a few of many brucellosis monitoring and management actions that we intend to continue.

We are obviously very concerned about the increases over the past year of brucellosis seroprevalence in free-ranging elk in Park County and the resulting transmissions to livestock. We continue to work with ranchers to increase our abilities to increase hunter-harvested elk and monitor the disease in these areas. We share the sentiment of many brucellosis experts that the ultimate solution to Wyoming’s brucellosis problems rests with our ability to develop an effective and deliverable vaccine. I see this as another opportunity for the Department and the livestock industry to work together to reach a common goal.

Hunter Access. Every year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission holds a joint meeting with the Wyoming Board of Agriculture to discuss items of mutual interest. One item that has been a point of discussion over the past few years has been hunter access to private lands.

In some areas, we are struggling to meet our big game harvest objectives because hunters don’t have access to the animals. In many cases, these access issues involve non-traditional and/or non-resident landowners who don’t understand or don’t care about the importance of managing our big game herds. The resulting overpopulation of big game can lead to damage on neighboring lands and damage to native habitats.

So we are working with our partners in agriculture to find some solutions. In the meantime, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and Board of Agriculture have released a joint statement concerning this critical issue and its importance for Wyoming’s wildlife and Wyoming’s ranchers. Following are some excerpts from that statement:

“In a time when we are seeing a decrease of hunters nationwide, access to land for hunting plays a crucial role in maintaining our hunting tradition in maintaining funding for wildlife management and conservation funded by sportsmen… Access to private land is equally important to maintain adequate habitat for livestock and wildlife… Maintaining and, in some areas, increasing hunter access to private and landlocked public lands is critical to the future of Wyoming’s wildlife, outdoor recreation, and rural lifestyle. The BOA and Commission are committed to the ideals and will continue cooperative efforts to provide public access to private land for the future.”

As mentioned above, solutions to all of these issues and many others would not be possible without significant participation from our partners in agriculture and from other stakeholders across the state. Given that, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is embarking on new efforts to better engage the public in its decision-making processes.

One example of this has been happening for the past two years in the Wyoming Range, where we have been working intensively with stakeholders to develop a new management plan for the region’s treasured deer herd. Through an extensive process of “collaborative learning,” we asked the public to help us establish priorities and goals for management of this herd, and to identify actions to help us reach these goals. We are currently involved in a similar process in the Platte Valley, which is home to another of the state’s most valuable deer herds.

Public involvement processes like these can be time consuming and resource intensive, but they are becoming more and more important in the modern world of wildlife management. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is committed to engaging our stakeholders in management decisions and to incorporating their thoughts and opinions into our management strategies.

In the near future, the department is going to be taking a wholesale look at its mission, priorities, and future direction. We want to make sure our priorities are in line with our stakeholders’ priorities, which will require help from you and all of our constituents. This project will include both internal and external evaluations of our future plans and extensive public involvement. We intend to inform you and all of our publics about this effort and about opportunities for you to get involved.

Approximately half of Wyoming’s land is privately owned, and much of that private land is being used for farming and ranching. Our wildlife depend on the habitats these lands provide throughout the year. And while we are facing some access issues on private lands, it’s important to recognize the many landowners who currently do provide access. Thank you for everything you do to make this land available for hunting and fishing and wildlife habitat.

By Leanne Stevenson, Wyoming Livestock Board Director and Chief Executive Officer

I am sure most of you reading this article have heard about the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)’s proposed traceability rule for livestock moving interstate.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 11 and requested comments from the public. The comment deadline was recently extended to Dec. 9, and it is crucial for livestock producers and those businesses supported by livestock industries to write comments and make their voice heard on this issue.

The proposed rule has the potential to directly impact Wyoming’s livestock industries and livestock movement to other states with indirect impacts to livestock support businesses. The Wyoming Livestock Board (Board) is drafting comments for submission on this controversial topic, and the board members, who represent the livestock producers in the state, would like to hear input from producers on this issue to assist them in preparing comments.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack claims there are four standard features of the new animal disease traceability program that would make it acceptable to farmers and ranchers. The four features are: it applies only to animals moved interstate; state and tribal governments will run the program; it will use low-cost technology; and it will be implemented only through transparent federal regulations using full rulemaking. You decide if they are acceptable and make your voice heard.

The Board is scheduled to receive an overview from Dr. Herriot, APHIS Western Regional Associate Director, at their meeting in Cheyenne the morning of Oct. 24. There will also be time for the Board to ask Herriot questions and to take public input. They would encourage any producers to attend their meeting and provide input for consideration for inclusion in comments sent from the Board.

Additionally, if producers cannot attend the meeting but would like to have the Board know your position and concerns, they would welcome written comments in the form of an email or postal mail. To be considered by the Board in their comments and discussion, our office must receive your comments no later than noon on Oct. 21. Email comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a subject line of “Comments on Proposed Rule.” Send comments by postal mail to WLSB, 1934 Wyott Drive, Cheyenne, WY 82002 Attn: Comments on Proposed Rule.

For detailed information on the proposed rule, visit regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2009-0091. If you do not have web access, or just want a summary, contact our office at 307-777-7515 and we will provide them to you.