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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

A Different Year

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

This year looks to be different from the past few years in reference to livestock prices, weather and politics.

Currently, weather continues to be the main topic of discussion for those of us in agriculture, and hopefully we’ll be getting some distance from the rough winter we’ve been having. 

In tougher areas of the region, I’ve heard reports of large death loss to mule deer and antelope populations. In my area, the antelope bounce back somewhat faster than other areas, but the mule deer have been playing catch-up for a number of years. 

The elk are like feral horses, they seem to get by in tough winters since they can move around more. 

This winter has also affected livestock in the region, and producers are holding their breath for a good spring. But, I heard it may not warm up for a couple of weeks.

Some people have been talking about floods, which is normal during high-snowpack winters. If we don’t have a fast runoff, considering we’ve had two and a half years of drought, a lot of the snowpack will just melt into the ground, hopefully. 

While on the topic of water, one of the issues I don’t understand is why people are arguing over building dams to store water – why would anyone be opposed to storing water? 

The proposed West Fork Dam, northeast of Baggs, is a great example of proper water management. Besides providing late-season irrigation water downstream, it will also provide wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for the region. 

We can either store the water and manage it, or let it go downstream where it will end up in swimming pools and golf courses in the southwestern states. 

Take a look around the region. Every community where there are dams and irrigation, even if it is a smaller community, is thriving because of the number of good banks and businesses in these communities. 

Despite recent bank issues and hints of a recession, cattle and sheep prices are expected to keep rising. Although cattle numbers are still dropping, it is at a slower pace than it was five to six months ago. Numbers of cattle on feed and cattle being processed are also dropping. 

On a positive note, ranchers are paying higher prices for bulls this season, and even though the prices are higher, the no-sales are lower.

A recent CattleFax update said, “Beef cow slaughter was massive in 2022, up 400,000 head from 2021, which was also elevated. As a percentage of the beef cow herd, beef cow slaughter was at 13.4 percent – the largest on record since at least 1960. This was a clear driver in the one million head drop in the inventory to start this year.”

It goes on to say, “The outlook for higher calf prices in coming years is hardly a secret, and many will look to take advantage of this. When pasture conditions and cash flow allow, cow/calf producers are expected to reduce culling substantially, which will continue to manifest in larger year-over-year drops in the beef cow slaughter. However, drought, forage and profitability are slow ships to turn.”

I hope the rise in beef prices won’t cause consumers to look at lesser-priced meats.

The positives are gaining on the negatives – it’s going to be a different year. I hope it will be one we will enjoy and remember fondly.

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