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After living through the summer of 2012, a farmer in my area might be tempted to plant longer season corn. That year it warmed up early and was a hot dry summer that stretched well into fall. The 117-day varieties out performed the 112-day ones that are common in central Nebraska. 

As most farmers know, corn that’s adapted to longer growing seasons is typically the highest yielding.

But most won’t make cropping decisions based on one year’s worth of data and certainly not on one year’s weather pattern. Our first average freeze is Oct. 12. Our average growing season lasts 156 days. There are curve benders, to be sure, but the crops are selected with those dates in mind.

Cattle marketing is much the same. There are normal price patterns, and then there are years that defy those trends.  

Cattle feeders have told us that some of their long-term retained ownership customers, still seeing the red from last season, decided not to feed their calf crop this year. Instead, those ranchers sold on summer video auctions and now may be wishing they hadn’t. Those who did stick with cattle feeding one more year are enjoying lower input prices and higher beef cutouts.

Just as it’s tricky to stand there in April and guess what the next several months of weather will bring, it’s difficult to predict the market. Even with the National Weather Service data, the latest gizmos and information at your fingertips, it’s hard. No matter how many market analysts you hear, what ag economic theories you study and how many historical reports you take into account, it still comes down to making an educated guess and hoping for a little bit of luck.

The only way to really beat the market is to get a program together that helps you capture better-than-commodity price, and then stick with it.

The best way to secure more than the market average? Producing cattle that are worth more.

That means genetics and management, paying attention to the details, big and little – and then finding a way to get paid for doing all of that. 

For many people that means owning those better cattle through the feedyard. Every year that means that they take a risk. Sometimes they see high calf prices in the summer, and yet they have the confidence to put those cattle on feed and wait another couple of quarters for their payout.


Darrell Busby of Iowa State University told me once, “We find many producers have spent time and effort selecting genetics for high-quality, fast-gaining cattle and have gone through the rigors of preconditioning their calves. Retained ownership offers them the opportunity to take advantage of the genetics and management that they’ve put into their cattle.”

They’ve seen that strategy work, and though it’s not perfect, it’s proven. And the more they improve their cattle, the better it works. 

That’s not saying you have to stick with the same marketing plan year after year but making drastic moves based on the whim of one odd year might make as much sense as switching to 120-day corn varieties in Minnesota. 

Next time in Black Ink® Steve Suther will look at decision-making tools. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Predator Management and Wyoming government have had a relationship in Wyoming since 1875.  Before Wyoming was even a state, the territory county commissioners were given authorization to pay bounties out of the general fund for many predator species that today are still recognized as predators or have been designated as trophy game animals.  

In 1890, Wyoming became a state, and the State Constitution provides for the protection of livestock. The cornerstone of our Wyoming predator management program was created in 1943 when county predator management districts were formed. 

Today, we have 22 active county predator management districts that are conducted and administrated by local cattle and sheep producers and, in many cases, by additional sportsmen, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. Most everyone has considered the additional wildlife interests as a real “asset” for better relations with local stakeholders and the additional benefits that predator control can provide to our Wyoming wildlife.

The bounty programs of yesterday can still be found in some counties, but many have since been replaced with more strategic programs that deal directly with specific depredating predators rather than the bounty “shotgun” approach. Today, many programs deal with targeting pre-lambing and pre-calving pastures and summer range before the livestock arrive. This concept is now being carried over for the benefit of wildlife, where local predator districts have partnered with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to conduct pre-fawning predator work for the benefit of mule deer and pronghorn antelope.

In addition local specialists, whether they are independent-contract trappers for the local district or contracted USDA APHIS Wildlife Service specialists, are capable of targeting problem predators on individual ranches in a timely manner.

Today’s programs are all possible by a host of cooperating partners. First, cattle and sheep producers pay a predator fee into local county programs that are collected by Wyoming Livestock Board brand inspectors. Second, thanks to state legislators and the governor, general funds are used to supplement predator fees and have greatly enhanced 19 county predator management districts that have obligated themselves to meet the qualifications for state funding. Third, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services provides services to many county programs through contracted wildlife specialists, disease monitoring, raven and bird control, aerial hunting and specific help for management of large carnivore predators for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The fourth partner is the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board, also known as the ADMB. The ADMB was formed by the legislature in 1999 and is comprised of 15 members representing a host of private and public interests. This board is lead by the co-chairs Jason Fearneyhough, Wyoming Department of Agriculture director, and Scott Talbott, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director.

The ADMB was established for the purposes of mitigating damage caused to livestock, wildlife and crops by predatory animals, predacious birds and depredating animals or for the protection of human health and safety. 

More to the point, the ADMB distributes state funding to the qualifying predator boards through an application, interview and reporting process. They also distribute funding to different entities that are doing predator research or performing special projects that deal with predator management in Wyoming.  

The ADMB strives to work with various individuals and government agencies to eliminate hurdles to successful livestock and wildlife enhancement.

Most recently, the ADMB has developed rules for the distribution of funds for grey wolf management in the predatory area of the state. Through this process compensation for loss is not available, but agreements have been made with USDA APHIS Wildlife Services and local predator districts to help pay for wolf management.

I wish I had room here to acknowledge the many people that have helped develop this program over the years.  It is a tribute to them that this program is now the envy of many U.S. states that deal with predator issues on a daily basis.

When times are good, the lights come on and the bill is affordable, it is easy for all of us to take for granted a very basic human need – electricity.  But when the lights go out or rates go up, whom do we call first?  Your local rural electric cooperative, of course, because they are the people who you can trust to get the juice flowing again and provide you with answers to your questions.  However, the Wyoming rural electric cooperatives are so much more than just electric companies.

Like all electric cooperatives around the United States, Wyoming’s rural electric cooperatives adhere to the seven cooperative principles as our business model.  One of these principles is “Commitment to Community.”  This commitment comes in many forms, from the volunteer work that our employees and directors perform in their communities, as well as many elected and non-elected capacities, to financial contributions made to various educational, service-oriented and other community-minded organizations.

Here are just a couple of benefits that your local electric cooperative may offer.

Operation Round Up is a voluntary program that asks every cooperative member-owner to increase his or her electric bill to the nearest dollar.  These extra pennies go into an account to help fund community needs such as the purchase of a new fire truck or ambulance or to help a family in need.

The Co-op Connections Card is a cooperative member benefit card that offers co-op members product and service discounts at participating national and local retail businesses. In turn, participating businesses benefit from increased customer traffic, as well as from promotions in co-op communications and advertising materials. 

The Co-op Connections Card not only offers valuable discounts, it provides members a sense of belonging to the cooperative and strengthens the partnership between local businesses and the co-op.

At the statewide level, the Wyoming Rural Electric Cooperative Association (WREA) shares this same commitment to our community and because our “community” is the entire state. 

We are involved with and make financial contributions to various organizations that benefit people across Wyoming.  For the past several years we have been involved with Wyoming Ag in the classroom, Future Farmers of America and the State Fair. 

More recently we contributed to the Wyoming Agriculture Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) program, as well as the Rancher Relief Fund, to help those folks affected by super storm Atlas.

But we need your help.

It is because of this commitment to our communities that I hope you will feel compelled –whether or not you’re a member of a cooperative – to help Wyoming cooperatives continue to be a positive presence in our communities and a trusted electricity provider.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be considering several proposed regulations in the coming year that will have a dramatic impact on your electric cooperative and, in turn, on you.  Because of these anticipated impacts, we are asking those who are concerned to take actionby going to  

By going to this website, you’ll be able to not only submit comments to the EPA asking them to reconsider their “All-But-One” approach to energy policy, but you’ll also be signing up for the WREA Grassroots Network.  You can also visit the WREA website at to find out more information.  

Your comments matter, and I am hopeful that you’ll take a few minutes to register your views on these important issues. Together we can make rural voices heard and ensure that our opinions are a part of the policy discussion in Washington, D.C. going forward. 

Shawn Taylor is the executive director of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association. Learn more about the WREA at or call 307-634-0727.


The Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems has been around for more than 25 years, but 2014 will mark our formal 25th anniversary year as an incorporated trade association.  Most people have heard of us by our street name, Wyoming Rural Water.  Our membership includes all 99 incorporated communities in Wyoming, 126 special districts, 51 individual members and 83 corporate partners.  We are an affiliate of the National Rural Water Association and, collectively in all 50 states, our associations have over 31,000 members.

Primarily, we administer technical assistance programs to help water, wastewater and solid waste entities comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  

Each year a field staff of seven very experienced water industry professionals make about 2,500 on-site visits to councils, boards or utility staff to give assistance on rate structures and forming new districts, assist in loan or grant applications, assist in governance or financial issues, and train operators in the operation and maintenance of their system. Our staff also assists with developing a system of maintenance, helps to take required tests and teach operators the correct testing or sampling methods, assists with specific maintenance problems or helps with leak and line location, trains on record keeping, and assists or trains on reducing cost of power and water losses. We can help find leaks in sewer systems with sewer smoking services or we can provide line camera services as needed.  

And we are always around for “any other assistance necessary to meet the needs of our membership and to ensure the protection of Wyoming’s water – our most precious resource.” Our field staff collectively has over 120 years of experience in utility operations, governmental accounting, finance and public administration.

We also provide advocacy assistance on rules, regulations and legislation at both the federal and state levels.  We work actively with every state and federal agency in Wyoming.  As we say, we only deal in matters that affect water, and so far, everything affects water.

Members of our staff currently sit on numerous boards, task forces and working groups to keep abreast of and up to date on issues affecting Wyoming.  We have members on the Governor’s Non Point Source Task Force, the Governor’s Citizens Advisory Committee on Solid Waste, the Small System Task Force, the Wyoming Water Association and numerous work groups organized within several state and federal agencies.  

Our Training and Technical Assistance program provides training sessions to almost all of the state’s more than 1,100 licensed water and wastewater operators on an annual basis at either of our training and industry trade shows or in more than 300 on-site sessions.  Over 15,000 man hours of training is provided annually to operations specialists and in excess of 2,500 man hours of training to boards and councils.

Wyoming Rural Water also administers a multi-jurisdictional voluntary program for Source Water Protection Planning. This program assists in creating steering committees within a community and surrounding area comprised of most if not all water users.  The group then attempts to define all of the potential contaminant issues or sources that could affect their community drinking water supplies.  Understanding where a community’s source water comes from is one of the first tasks and usually the first task that surprises everyone in the room as to “where their water comes from.”  Sometimes, the ground water “recharge” zone is many miles from the wellhead.  Once identified, the group looks at development issues, industrial issues, discharge areas and all types of use issues that could leach and contaminate the recharge zone.

The source water protection program in Wyoming can take into account every state and federal agency, as well as major companies. It is not uncommon in Wyoming for the steering committee to have members and input from the BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Game and Fish, Oil and Gas, Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), U.S. Geological Survey, conservation districts, Chambers of Commerce, agricultural users, State Parks, Forest Service, County Commissions, City Council and major employers in the area. Industrial site selection, subdivision development strategies, emergency response plans, emergency mediation and mitigation are common outcomes from Source Water Protection Plans.

We also administer a technical assistance program dealing with for profit or some nonprofit public water systems such as guest ranches, campgrounds, mobile home parks, man camps, churches or other entities that are classified by EPA and DEQ as transient/non-community public water systems. These entities are not required to hire certified or licensed operations specialists but must adhere to the Safe Drinking Water Act.  This program makes over 420 on site visits per year and numerous outreach speaking and educational events to help these businesses that are so vital to Wyoming’s tourism industry maintain compliance with applicable drinking water standards.

We administer the Best Tasting Drinking Water in Wyoming contest every year during our Spring Training Conference.  The winning system is then hosted at the Great American Taste Test held in February each year in Washington, DC.  Wyoming has had one top five finish, coming from Afton in 2005, and no entry has finished outside the top 10 in any year. This year’s entry will be from Ten Sleep, which won the state contest over 27 other entries.

Due to membership fees, industry support and some grants, all of our services are provided to the water industry in Wyoming free of charge.  

We can be reached through online at or by calling our office in Glenrock at 307-436-8636.  All of our specialists are available by email or cell and contact info is available on the website.