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Wyoming CattleWomen Continue Beef Promotion Efforts

Wyoming CattleWomen – what does the future look like? We did a survey in the spring to see what members wanted and what should we be doing.  All came back strongly encouraging the beef promotion arena. CattleWomen do this extremely well and will continue to do so. The face of promotion may change as our times are changing. The food demonstrations in the grocery stores are becoming a rare thing, and serving meals is not such a mainstay as it once was. The hard part is how do we restructure our demonstrations to better reach out to the consumer?

CattleWomen will being doing two sessions of in-store demonstrations over the next couple of months trying to reach out to those consumers that are shopping for their families. One of the locations is in Cheyenne, and the other is in Billings, Mont.

One of the main items we have been known for over the years is the Beef Gift Certificates. This has been a great project for CattleWomen, but as time has evolved and banks went to gift cards, we had some problems with them and were unable to continue using them. We made the decision to go back to the old paper style, but we are finding that there are issues to be faced with them. People are not purchasing the gift certificates as much, and then, they are not being redeemed once they are purchased. Either people just forget they have them or the retailers don’t take them, and the bank that is listed on the certificate has changed names a couple times. The cost of reprinting is expensive. Are we really serving a quality purpose with the old beef gift certificates? We will be faced with the decision of if we continue to promote and use these, how do we adapt them to fit today’s consumers?

We have partnered with the Wyoming Beef Council in the use of some of the checkoff dollars for several years. As they structure their focus of how those funds can be used a bit differently, it makes us look at how we pass these funds on to our grassroots groups. There will now be a pre-approval process that will be looked at by the CattleWomen and the Beef Council to assure that the promotion is in accordance with the Wyoming Beef Council objectives.

Wyoming CattleWomen are like all the organizations  – looking to increase our membership. How do we show the benefits of belonging to the up-line organizations to our grassroots members. How we increase numbers is still a planning endeavor. One way we may utilize is that Powder River Panels is donating a chute to the state that has the largest increase in membership for the next year. Wouldn’t it be great if Wyoming could win that?

Wyoming CattleWomen will continue to be a voice and stay strong in the beef promotion arena. Who else will be telling our stories and sharing our great tasting healthy beef entrees if we don’t?

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Guardians of the Range Continue Strong

One day the telephone rang, and the rest is history still in the making.

Getting grass to grow for livestock that graze on public lands can seem darn near impossible some days, as any rancher can tell you. The only thing harder is getting a grassroots organization to grow by establishing solid roots strong enough to weather 10 years of public policy changes, drought, changes in board members, fluctuations in membership, fluctuations in financial dynamics and in the ever growing complexities of doing business on public lands.  

The Guardians of the Range have managed to do that and more.

Let’s get back to that telephone call.  I was at my computer writing an article when Clay Gibbons of Worland telephoned.  We hadn’t spoken in several years, but it was an easy, warm Wyoming reconnection.

He got down to business by asking me if I had heard of a new grassroots non-profit group “Guardians of the Range.” I had, but that was about the extent of it.  He began filling things in from around the edges until he got to the point where he wondered if I would be interested considering the position of Executive Director. I explained that I was pretty well tied up with forestry issues and was heading to Washington, D.C. that week.  The best I could offer was that I could speak with the Board of Directors about it upon my return. 

We did, and before I knew it, my focus took a right angle turn down the trail of range science, allotments, distribution of livestock, range improvements, etc. etc. That was 10 years ago.

Ten years filled with some things well done, some not done so well and much needing to be done. What the Guardians have managed to do is remain a viable, relevant and credible grassroots organization long after most others have faded away at the three to five year mark. Sustainability – that’s us!

The Guardians is a 501(c)3 non-profit focused on sound science and community partnerships in public land management with an emphasis on grazing.

We divide our body of work between large policy issues and range projects on members’ allotments. We service the Shoshone National Forest, Bighorn National Forest and the Cody and Worland BLM Resource Management Areas for those permittees who chose to be members.  The organization is open to the general public. We’re proud of the fact that we have members across 15 states and from all walks of life. These are people who support the living history and contributions that public land ranching continues to offer this nation.

The framework of our strategic plan is trifold. That means we try to be relevant and involved on the national, state and local levels. All of these are important components of working on the public lands.  

Currently, we are serving on the statewide task force to take a look at getting a handle on cheatgrass.  This particular silent invader is annihilating forgeable acres and wildlife habitat at lightning speed. It is an organizational priority to help find “solutions and/or major mitigations” to this national rangeland problem.

We’re now working to find funding to repair a road used not just by ranchers but by all the motoring public. The agency involved needs partnerships to solve this long-standing problem once and for all.  We’re glad to try and help.   

For 10 years the Guardians have represented agriculture on the Big Horn Basin Sage Grouse Local Working Group. We chaired the group for six years and are now again in that leadership position. The Guardians have dedicated a huge amount of time and resources on this statewide conservation effort and will continue to do so.

Local efforts include helping to keep animal unit month (AUM) reductions at an absolute minimum, getting water pipelines and stock tanks installed, reservoirs cleaned and fences where they need to be. One of our strong suits is in being able to substantively facilitate the communication between permittees and the agencies. We do this by focusing on where solutions might lie, and how to effectuate them.

We’ve developed a reputation for honesty and calling it like we see it relative to either the permittee or the agency. This seems to be appreciated by most – not all – but most!

The improvements in communication with both the Bureau of Land Management and U. S. Forest Service are ongoing success stories. We have butted heads – don’t think we haven’t, but the bond of mutual respect drives our working relationship.    

The unsung and sometimes frustrating part of our work is in tackling issues that benefit all public land ranchers and not just our members.  Many non-member permittees and communities do not realize that having the infrastructure of an experienced grassroots organization such as the Guardians helps all and not just the members.  

The uniqueness of the Guardians is that we give very personalized service to the permittees and their communities.  However, our national and state efforts have a very far reaching positive effect, which means many benefit from the efforts of Guardians without being part of its support structure.  We would like to turn this organizational dynamic to turn around in a significant way – a goal we have set for ourselves. 

I’ve now been directly involved in multiple use issues for 25 years.  I often think I could write a training manual about what to do and not do in helping to develop and manage a non-profit grassroots organization.  

I don’t know if I will ever write that training manual, but I can assure you that I couldn’t think of a finer organization or group of Americans with which to fill the chapters if I do.

Check us out at guardiansoftherange.org, on Facebook or feel free to contact myself or any of our board members.  Contact information is on the website.

Thank you and Happy Trails!

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Above average?

In some ways, my cowherd is average. In other ways, it is above and in still others, below. Those things are true of each cow in my herd, too. That’s all part of what “average” means. 

Usually this involves numbers like weaning weights, pregnancy percentages or carcass values of progeny. Add them up and divide by the number of cows. Just that easily, you can compare each cow to the herd average. In turn, you can compare your herd to averages from a cooperative or from government statistics.

That helps illustrate where they are above average as a group and where they need the most work, if any of the below-average numbers strike you as a need to improve. Of course, it’s great to note a below-average death loss as something to push even lower, but opinions vary greatly on the ideal cow weight.

Mature cow size also varies by region and as one northern report recently stated, the average says little without context. Cows that weigh 1,300 pounds (lb.) may be great if they wean calves heavier than the national average of about 575 lb., that go on to gain faster than three pounds per day and grade better than 70 percent Choice.  

But if they fall short in any of those areas, you have work to do on genetics and management. Heck, even if they are slightly above those numbers, the market says you have work to do on the way to filling demand for outstanding cattle.

Uniformity is a big concern all along the chain. Imagine the discounts, or remember them from last fall, if your calves have little in common and must be sold individually or in very small groups. Cows that average 1,300 pounds may have herd mates from 1,100 to 1,500 pounds. That’s about as wide as most producers want for a range, so they can produce somewhat uniform calves.

Think about the problems encountered from feedlot to packer and beef marketer when beef cuts are variable in size. 

Beyond weight, the range in value comes down to calves’ ability to gain and grade. Taking both of those into account, a decade of data from one Kansas feedyard found an average difference in value of about $700 from top to bottom among pen mates fed together, based on 2012 prices. Obviously that number has grown.

Records can help you find the cows that produce the lowest value calves over several years, and those can be replaced by heifers from cows that produced the highest value calves so that everyone in the beef supply chain wins. 

Rather than judge any cow by what happens in one year, look at her historical average and see if any one calf is significantly above or below average, and if her calves are getting better over time. Sorting by sire groups can help isolate genetic effects, so you can see if the bull or dam deserves blame or credit.

Computer programs can convert records into a comparison index to track over time and compare to other cows. At a more complex level, computer programs provide the expected progeny differences (EPDs) at breed associations that help you select bulls that are above average in the traits your herd needs most.

Whether choosing bulls or evaluating your cows, remember that average is never a target, just a reference point. 

Much is at stake in the cattle business today, as a Kansas report recently noted a cost of $1,150 to keep a beef cow for a year. Some herds go back to a collection of $100 bucket-calf heifers in the 1990s, but much has changed in the economy to where the average value of a cow exceeds $1,500 in most markets.

And when calves cost $1,500 per head with targeted end-values above $2,000, the entire system clamors for above average performance and grade. 

At the other end of the beef supply chain, when beef costs five dollars or $10 per pound, every consumer demands above average satisfaction. We have all the tools and incentive we need to get it done.

Next time in Black Ink® Miranda Reiman will talk about sharing. Questions? Call 330-465-0820 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Members Find Strength in Wyoming Wool Growers Association

This has been a year of transition for the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA). WWGA has undergone some significant changes but is clearly emerging as a stronger and more effective membership association. The focus this year has been to strengthen our grassroots membership through a concerted and determined outreach effort.  

Key to this is timely and relevant information. 

The sheep industry faces some substantial hurdles that quite literally threaten the future of sheep ranching in Wyoming, and making certain that our members are aware of these problems and the myriad complex issues that surround them helps us be more responsive and allows our members to feel confident that WWGA is functioning appropriately as their collective voice. 

Member organization  

Often I am asked, “What is the Wyoming Wool Growers? What do you do?”  

My first response is always to reiterate that we are a member organization, which means we were created to ensure that the interests of Wyoming sheep producers are represented and voiced when it comes to issues that impact the industry. 

WWGA is more than 100 years old. Understandably, such long-standing organizations can sometimes lose clear sight of the original purpose in forming a membership association, especially among younger producers who may not immediately see the need for such an association.  

For WWGA, this year has been about bringing that purpose back to the forefront of our mission and to strengthen the Association though improved membership services. We have focused on creating opportunities for our members to interact among themselves and with Association staff, so they may provide important direction and input on industry issues and Association matters. 

Town hall meetings have served as an excellent tool in this regard. We hosted six such meetings throughout the state.  

This year, we will also host our first midyear producers meeting. Scheduled for July 30-31 in Casper, the meeting will allow WWGA members to gather together in one place to discuss issues of importance to them and their organization.  

In November, we will gather together again with our counterparts from Utah and Idaho for our annual Tri-State Woolgrowers Convention. The larger annual meeting provides an opportunity for Wyoming woolgrowers to hear from other wool producers in the region and to share experiences on the issues they face.    

Improving membership benefits 

We continually work to identify services that will give members the sense that belonging to the WWGA is worthwhile.  

We have created a new weekly newsletter, the WWGA Weekly eUpdate, which is provided exclusively to WWGA members at the end of each week via email. For those not on email, we provide a monthly compilation of the weekly updates to ensure that all members are aware of the work being done by their Association. 

Each update contains timely and relevant information on WWGA activities, state and federal legislative and regulatory activities and other bits of news of interest to producers. 

Visibility 

However, reaching out to just our members is not enough. We must also reach out to those outside the industry who play key roles in the business of sheep production. 

WWGA has regularly provided input on important issues, from commenting on proposed federal regulatory changes, like the Proposed BLM/Forest Service Sage Grouse Nine Point plan, to weighing in on federal legislation, like the Grazing Improvement Act and the Water Rights Protection Act.  We work closely with our congressional leaders and our state entities to ensure that they are aware of our interests in the issues they are responsible for.  

Voice for the industry

Like all ranching, sheep producers, of course, face issues that affect their business, like soft markets or animal health issues, and weather-related difficulties, like drought. These are the risks of ranching. 

But today, our sheep industry faces even greater threats, like a labor shortage and a dysfunctional federal guest worker program, which has already forced one of Wyoming’s largest producers out of the sheep business, and the regional expansion of a misguided Forest Service decision on Bighorn Sheep that has already pushed three Idaho sheep producers out of the industry and one rancher completely out of business. 

WWGA proudly stands as a voice for Wyoming’s sheep producers in the effort to counter the chorus of anti-grazing and anti-livestock activists, which work to influence Congress and federal agencies, from the Interior Department to USDA to EPA, to support heavy-handed measures that will serve to eliminate the grazing rights of sheep producers and will diminish one of America’s premier food and fiber industries.  

Our voice is also strengthened through our relationship with the American Sheep Industry Association, the national organization for woolgrowers.

Promoting Wyoming wool

One of the initiatives we are most proud of is our American Rancher Collection™ – Wyoming Blanket Series.  

This project is designed to showcase Wyoming’s fine wool and the rich history of sheep ranching in the state. This wool blanket is made from the finest merino wool harvested from a sheep herd in Johnson County, was spun in an eco-friendly process by Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, and woven at the Faribault Mill in Minnesota, using virtually the same production methods in practice since 1865.  

The result is a durable, American made, premium wool blanket worthy of being passed on generation after generation.

Learning more

For more information about WWGA and its activities, visit wyowool.com.The website contains information about Wyoming’s sheep industry.  Our News and Events page reflects the issues we are currently working on and the positions that we have taken to date.  

In addition, we are also building our Market Place page to help our producers both small and large find or share services that can help them. We are also on Facebook as Wyoming Wool Growers and Twitter as @Wyowool.

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