Schwartz resigns after five years at WLSB
Cheyenne – The last week of June marked Jim Schwarz’s last as Director of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB). After serving a five-year term, Schwartz resigned and is looking at other opportunities in the agriculture industry.
“We’ve done a lot of good things over the years. I’m very proud of this agency,” says Schwartz.
During his time at the WLSB, Schwartz has seen growth in a number of programs and offers praise for progress made, as well as growth he’d like to see in the future of the WLSB.
Schwartz fondly speaks extensively about the brand program, and the inspectors who help the program’s success.
“The livestock inspectors that we have are our most valued commodity and are the foundation of the agency,” says Schwartz. “They are good guys that are very knowledgeable and know the livestock industry inside and out. I can’t compliment them enough.”
For the future, Schwartz hopes to see complete computerization of the brand program. He says that, to accommodate quick recovery of information, computerization is vital.
“Computerization is key for disease traceback and ownership. Today it is difficult for us to track things as quickly as we should,” explains Schwartz.
While there is some resistance to computerization of the brand program, Schwartz feels the addition of technology is a necessity and expects to see implementation in the next year.
“Having a healthy brand program is key to guaranteeing that livestock owners can protect the ownership of their livestock,” says Schwartz. “It’s been really good because our program involves local people working together. The brand program is key to Wyoming custom and culture.”
However, when looking at disease traceback, Schwartz feels that brands aren’t enough.
He refers to an independent study done by the WLSB, with results that show 80 percent of people want disease traceback within 48 hours.
When the hide comes off a steer at the slaughterhouse, the brand disappears and traceback is very difficult, says Schwartz.
“I think Wyoming will have to look at some type of dual identification system,” says Schwartz. “The disease traceback issue for animal health will be paramount for the future.”
Animal welfare is another buzzword in the world of agriculture. Schwartz has dealt with a number of welfare cases in his time as Director, and he describes a recent victory.
“In the past, the Livestock Board has been responsible for the welfare of every living dumb creature, including pets,” explains Schwartz.
In the past year, however, the responsibility of the WLSB has been redefined to include only the welfare of livestock, while local law enforcement handles the welfare of pets.
“It’s been a huge benefit to us,” says Schwartz. “We haven’t seen all the effects of it yet.”
But the calls coming into the WLSB office every year are still numerous. While some are serious, Schwartz also sees calls from people who are concerned about horses not wearing coats in the winter, or livestock standing in pastures in the summer sun. It’s an issue of upbringing and education, says Schwartz.
On the same token, hobby farms are also of concern for Schwartz. While he says education efforts have been geared up, there are still many people who don’t know much about animal husbandry or Wyoming’s livestock and animal health regulations or brand program.
“That brings additional problems to us,” says Schwartz, saying they’re particularly where animal health is involved. For example, he says a lack of knowledge on the part of people who bring livestock into the state could decimate Wyoming agriculture if a disease, such as tuberculosis, is unknowingly brought in.
“We’ve tried to do a lot of things to educate people,” says Schwartz. “I think we still need to do a lot more, but it’s tough. How do you get to the right people in something they will read?”
“Animal health needs to do everything we can to control imports,” says Schwartz. “We are making huge strides to improve.”
These efforts include education campaigns as well as improvement of relationships with sale barns and private veterinarians in the state.
Maintaining these relationships, as well as those with other organizations within the state, including BLM and county sheriffs, is important.
Schwartz says dealing with another livestock disease issue, brucellosis, has also proven to be difficult. Contact between infected wildlife and cattle in the northwest corner of the state has proven to be problematic, and little is being done to clean up the disease’s prevalence in elk and bison populations.
“We could clean up the elk and bison, or we could make strides to do so, but I don’t think there is the political will. I think that the ag industry should demand the wildlife be cleaned up,” says Schwartz.
Overall, Schwartz says he’s seen the WLSB do a lot of positive things in his time with the state agency.
“When the position opened, it amazed me that it was the first director position in the state of Wyoming for the Livestock Board,” reflects Schwartz.
Schwartz says it has been a tough decision, but he feels it is time to move on.
“I’ve had five years here, and almost eight years as the deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Ag,” says Schwartz.
While plans for his future aren’t definite, Schwartz says he’s not ready to retire yet.
“I’ll probably continue to work for another four or five years, at least,” he says. “I think the livestock industry is where I’ll be. The independence of the ranching industry and being able to visit and figure out solutions is something I enjoy.”
“I’m investigating a lot of different opportunities,” continues Schwartz. “I’m looking at some new partnerships, but everything will still be tied to agriculture.”
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.