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For those of us not in the sheep business, we tend to forget about the sheep industry at times. My mother’s side of my family came from sheep producers, so I’m always reminded of those times as I have the ranch now. The old bed grounds in the hills and the remains of wood piles on the tops of the ridges are a couple of reminders I see as I ride around.

The truth is, sheep made our state in the beginning as much as cattle – and maybe more. I always thought the sheep families homesteaded everything they could while the cattle producers just wanted the lands along the rivers, creeks or wherever there was water.

The sheep industry is alive and well in Wyoming. Wool and lamb prices are good, and the outlook for sheep producers is good. The Wyoming Wool Growers Association is on sound footing. We see the Executive Vice President Amy Hendrickson, officers and board all around the state, and they all are doing a great job representing their members. It is a livestock organization worth belonging to. The national organization, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), is very active all across the nation and represents their members very well. The American sheep industry plays a large part in the global sheep interests.

Mike Corn, president of ASI from New Mexico, had some interesting remarks in the “President’s Notes” of the August Sheep Industry News. His remarks came from a ASI prepared trade information for sheep leaders to present at an agriculture summit in Texas in July.

Corn believes the American sheep industry operates in a global market these days, especially with lamb and the traditional markets. What happens in China, India, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico and Canada affects American sheep producers, in both lamb and wool prices.

Corn said, “On the lamb side, exports are mostly limited to our North American trading partners, Canada and Mexico. We reopened the Taiwan market in 2016 and are hopeful that exports will add stability to the domestic lamb market.”

American lamb is the best in the world. It should catch on fast, and America exports most of their sheep variety meets into a number of countries, the same as with beef.

The latest press release from the American Lamb Council, ASI and the American Wool Council was headlined, “American Sheep Industry Adds $5.8 Billion to U.S. Economy.” The industry’s 2017 Economic Impact Study showed that the nation’s 88,000 sheep producers generated a total economic impact of $5.8 billion in 2016. With over $500 million in farm gate receipts for sheep and lambs, value added from processing, wool and retail, the American sheep industry contributes over $2 billion directly to the U.S. economy, with a multiplier impact of nearly three times the initial investment.

We heard this summer that the regional wool sheared this spring was the cleanest ever. The wool and lamb from our region is in top demand and that demand should spread to other countries.

As I ride across the grown over bed grounds and scattered wood piles, I take pride in the sheep industry we have.

 

 

Well, the Roundup Team made it through another State Fair. This past week, we were all dragging, but now we’re up and working on the weekly Roundup and the upcoming Fall Cattlemen’s Special Edition, focusing on farms, ranches and ag businesses in Crook County. We took a day off to see the eclipse. And really, we took the day off because our office is so close to downtown Casper the city closed most of the streets around the office. Plus, we just didn’t want to deal with all the people.

Since we, especially myself, hadn’t been focused on the eclipse, it really wasn’t such a big deal to us. We knew it was a big deal to Casper as we had a number of new downtown restaurants open in time for the eclipse, so we were happy to have more restaurants open close to the Roundup office. And then it happened.

Around Friday, we started to notice more cars on the north-bound lane on Interstate 25 and around Casper, especially in the downtown area. But we just were not getting the numbers we had heard we were supposed to get.

Gov. Matt Mead, on Aug. 19, said he and Homeland Security were worried about the large number of people who would just drive in for the day Aug. 21, and he was right on. They came in by the droves on Monday.

The highways were full early Monday morning, especially from Colorado, but the west central part of the state filled up, too. Lusk, Guernsey, Glendo, Wheatland, Shoshoni, Casper, Douglas, Dubois and Jackson all filled up with people. Estimates from the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WyDOT) indicated that traffic increased by 68 percent statewide on the Monday of the eclipse. Over 563,000 cars traveled on Wyoming’s highways on Monday. WyDOT said that if each car had two people traveling in it, that would be at least 1 million people visiting Wyoming that day, maybe more. WyDOT State Troopers responded to more than 1,800 calls on Monday, more than triple on the same day a year ago.

But there was only one death on Wyoming’s highways on Monday, and WyDOT issued around 100 tickets on Monday, compared to 25 on the same day a year ago. WyDOT considered this number of tickets very low, considering the number of cars on Wyoming’s highways.

Casper was where most of the people came into and not just by car. The Casper International Airport was filled to the brim. Some 170 airplanes landed on Monday morning, and a larger number took off after the eclipse. One plane from the Bahamas that could land on water landed on Alcova Lake. There were a bunch of nice personal jets landing in Casper that day, too.

Besides just one loss of life, the local hospitals and medical facilities were not flooded with injuries or sickness. Eclipse viewers for the most part were respectful of private property rights, in a joyful mood and alcohol consumption was not heavy as most had to drive home that afternoon and evening.

Driving from Wyoming was the hard part, nine or 10 hours to Denver, colo. was the normal, and every highway out of Wyoming was filled.

While I had an attitude of, “So what?” going into the eclipse after a full week at the Wyoming State Fair, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience – one I will always remember. As I look back at the darkness, the drop of 11 degrees and seeing the planets at 10:44 a.m., some say it was magical or mystical. I say it was God’s work.

 

For those of you that attended the 2017 Wyoming State Fair or past state fairs, you need to voice your opinion of what you want future Wyoming State Fairs to look like. The future will likely depend on what your opinions are.

As most of you know, the 2017 Wyoming Legislature chopped off close to one-third, or around $410,000, of the Wyoming State Fair (WSF) budget. That was huge. The 2017 State Fair was operating on a past budget, so it didn’t get hit, but look out 2018 State Fair.

To be fair, all departments of the Wyoming state government took a large hit, which is what happens whenever the energy industry operating in the state drops due to low prices in oil, gas, coal, uranium and other mineral interests. This time, they all seemed to fall at the same time, and the state was in a crisis. Not that the state is out of money, but as our bankers tell us, there is no cash flow.

The state has a lot of dollars. It is in planned accounts we can’t touch, and no one wants to spend it. Really, it is a savings or investment account, and we should only spend the interest. Wyoming has had some wise State Treasurers lately, and they have done a tremendous job of managing the state’s money.

Your opinion is needed now because I feel that only a small number of Wyoming Legislators have ever been to the WSF, and it is an easy target to hit. They don’t realize the importance that the WSF has for 4-H and FFA members and their families, and the importance of showcasing past and present of agriculture to the rest of the state.

Not many state fairs across the country are self-sustaining, and the WSF has a harder time because of the low population in the area. The business support is just not there to keep the buildings in use during the off season.

WSF has some beautiful newer buildings, but there are some really old buildings that take a lot of money to keep going.

The WSF Director and Board have said they want to go around the state this fall and winter and ask the public what they want in a state fair that is affordable. All issues should be on the table to discuss. Just remember, you and I really don’t know how to manage a state fairgrounds. We just haven’t had the experience. But we know what we want to see.

Are the top priorities 4-H and FFA? I think that is a true statement. Do we want history of the state’s agriculture and other industries? Do we want to showcase Wyoming agriculture and the culture involved? Or do we want large carnivals and a trade show that gives away a lot of free trinkets? Do we want big name entertainment that costs a lot or local and state talent that is not so costly? As a state, what do we want?

After the meetings around the state have been completed, the WSF Director, staff and WSF Board will decide what the future will be, with discussions with the Governor and legislature. This is the point where they need your support. After all, it is your state fair.

As I was getting ready for the Wyoming State Fair, I soon realized that summer is starting to close. The nights are starting to get cooler, the mornings are allowing more time to work cattle if you have to, and this year, if you live along a strip from northwest to southeast Wyoming, you are talking about the eclipse.

  For those trying to make some dollars from the eclipse, we hope it works out for you. Good luck. For those who are visiting for the eclipse, respect private lands, take care of your garbage, have a good experience and enjoy the fun.

As most of our readers receive the Roundup on Saturdays, several of the goat shows, the Ranch Horse Show and the Ft. Fetterman Remount Invitation Horse Sale will be over. But there is still plenty to do and see until the fair ends on Aug. 19.

Please stop by the Roundup Tent, located in the same spot, as usual, right across from the beef show ring, to visit, sit for a while in the shade and enjoy an ice-cold bottle of water, donated by the Wyoming Rural Electric Association.

There are 22 booths this year in the Roundup Tent, showcasing everything from livestock supplies and livestock organizations to UW Extension Service and the Wyoming Hay Show. It will be worth the stop. We are proud of the success of the tent and what it adds to the State Fair, and we’d like to thank those with booths in the tent.

On Aug. 16 at 1 p.m., the Cattlemen’s Conference, sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America and the Roundup, will take place at the Ruthe James Williams Memorial Conference Center. Many of you know the building as the Wyoming Pioneer Association building on the State Fairgrounds. We have a great lineup of speakers for you.

Starting at 1 p.m., Rindy West, a board member of Wyoming Ag in the Classroom, will talk about the Wyoming Stewardship project. What a great program for students of Wyoming. Following Rindy will be Monty Gilbreath from the Converse County School District #1 on how the district are providing local beef in their school cafeterias. This program has and is spreading across the state.

Next, Steve Paisley from the University of Wyoming (UW) will speak on how what you, as a beef producer, should do to get your beef products into China and other importing countries. Congressman Liz Cheney will speak during the conference, as her time allows, on issues in Wyoming and around the country and the West. We welcome her to the conference and thank her for her time.

Whit Stewart, the new sheep specialist at the UW, will introduce himself and talk on Wyoming sheep issues. Don Day, famed Wyoming meteorologist, will speak on the next couple year’s weather predictions. Is there a drought in the future? He’ll let us know.

And last will be a 2018 Farm Bill listening session, hosted by Scott Zimmerman of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

That evening, there will be the Wyoming Ag Hall of Fame Picnic, sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America, Cargill/Vigortone and the Roundup. We will be honoring Keith Geis from Wheatland and Peter John Camino from Buffalo as new Hall of Fame inductees. We also will honor Wyoming Ag in the Classroom’s Educator of the Year Jill Blazovich from Rock Springs. All are noble Wyoming citizens. It promises to be a fun evening.

See you in Douglas.