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The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) spent time in 2013 evaluating roles, duties, structure, efficiencies and listening to the livestock industry’s input regarding the services provided by the WLSB. As a result of these efforts, the seven-member producer board developed and approved agency guidance documents and made changes to the structure of the agency.

Some of the 2013 Board accomplishments toward clearing up some unnecessarily “fuzzy” things within the agency included their January board work session and industry planning session; an update of the chain of command organizational chart; board member training and strategic planning session; development of Board By-Laws, Director/CEO and State Veterinarian job descriptions; development of an internal communication document; and some staffing changes as a part of agency reorganization. Development of the documents may not sound like much, but since by-laws and job descriptions were previously non-existent, it was a notable accomplishment.

The Board held a discussion during the strategic planning session and produced an updated mission statement we believe captures what the Livestock Board does as a state agency that distinguishes us from any other entity. The new mission statement is, “To represent and serve Wyoming’s livestock industry through protecting livestock health and verifying livestock ownership.”

The WLSB has a staff of dedicated employees – many with numerous years of service. The staff of the Livestock Board is vital to carrying out the mission of the agency and providing the regulatory functions involved in protecting livestock health and verifying livestock ownership. The challenges faced by the Board include recognizing the dedication of the staff and the need to make changes identified during the agency evaluation process. Heraclitus once said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” For an industry and agency that does not like change, embracing change could be compared to hugging a prickly pear cactus.

Agency reorganization recently occurred to adjust staff functions to better meet industry needs, work closer toward the eight to one worker to supervisor ratio and see where efficiency can be gained. As a result of the efficiency evaluation, decisions were made to forfeit the agency’s Homeland Security position. Duties of the position will be distributed amongst other staff as appropriate with the bulk of the duties falling to the staff veterinarians as emergency management for livestock revolves around animal health.

Other changes have been made in the structure of the law enforcement unit. We strongly believe that having livestock law specialists to aid in livestock-related criminal investigations is a crucial component of the WLSB and its efforts to serve and protect the livestock industry. We believe that the investigators are spread thin, but our partnerships with other law enforcement agencies in the state need to continue, and actually, we hope to strengthen these relationships. The investigators are “the experts” in Wyoming livestock law, and we need to utilize this expertise in the most efficient way possible. 

As of Oct. 1, the Director/CEO is serving as the administrator for the Law Enforcement Unit. This will allow our four full-time criminal investigators to serve their respective areas and operate as “in-the-field” investigators. Kim Clark, Southwest District investigator, has served as our senior criminal investigator for several years and will lead efforts to enhance education and outreach efforts.

We value the partnerships with local law enforcement officers we have throughout the state. We do not want to diminish these partnerships. The Board and I want to have a clearer understanding of how they are currently working, where partnerships need to be strengthened and how we can be a better resource to the counties in serving the citizens of Wyoming. 

Another change is in progress. We continue moving forward with our effort to computerize agency functions. Happy Jack Software from Laramie is the contracted vendor for the project. They are working to gather system requirements and to develop the database structure – the two crucial foundation pieces of the system. A contacts database will be the first step, with the brand record management module following closely. The 2015 brand renewal will be performed using the new system. These changes are exciting and challenging to say the least.

The brand inspection module of the computerization project is slated for later in 2014. It comes with its own set of challenges that we will address cautiously and on a case-by-case basis.

For more information on any of these topics or to voice a concern or opinion please call the Cheyenne Office at 307-777-7515 or email me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I am also always interested in hearing about what is working and what is not. If we don’t know there are concerns, it is hard to address them. 

Being a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in Wyoming can be a humbling experience. The numerous basins, mountain ranges and microclimates make day-to-day weather forecasting a continual challenge. The rapid advancement of technology – from smart phones to tablets to more and faster access points – has led to a demand for accurate point forecasts for every nook and cranny.

Part of the humbling experience is hearing from friends and neighbors about how we could miss the snow forecast by two inches. How come the low was 31 degrees instead of 34? The wind sure seemed stronger than what you forecasted!

So, how is it that the inexact science of meteorology makes forecasting the next week so difficult, yet one of the more frequent questions we hear is, “What kind of winter are we going to have?” Really? You will trust the person who cannot forecast next Tuesday’s high temperature accurately with giving you an accurate long-range outlook through the winter? One thing is for sure – despite our shortcomings, at least people seem to find us trustworthy!

With all seriousness, the science of long-range forecasting has certainly improved over the last 10 to 20 years. Computing power has allowed for more and faster calculations that allow scientists to ingest greater amounts of data into the complicated process of climate prediction. Factors such as global circulations, trends as compared with climate averages, soil moisture conditions and an ensemble of forecast models are all part of the process of seasonal forecasting.

Just how tough is it to produce accurate long-term forecasts? Just take a look at the stark difference between 2011 and 2012 in Wyoming. The 2010-11 winter saw mountain snowpack in Wyoming river basins far exceed the 30-year climate normal and, in the case of the North Platte Basin, even exceed all-time record high snowpack values. Reservoirs across the state were filled to the brim, many rivers ran stronger than ever, and it seemed the drought was over.

Mother Nature, however, was quick to remind us who really calls the shots. The 2012 water year was the third driest over 119 years of record. And, the critical period of March through September 2012 went down as the driest stretch for those months over the same 119 years. The difference between these two seasons underscores how highly variable long-term, and even month-to-month, weather patterns can be. Combine the totals over these two years, and it was close to “average.”

The NWS Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in College Park, Md., specializes in long-range forecasting. The center issues weekly, monthly and seasonal outlooks using these data and model forecasts to determine long-term trends. At times the earth-atmosphere system provides strong clues as to what may happen over the coming months. One such clue is the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index, commonly referred to using the terms El Niño or La Niña.

The ENSO uses sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean to try and determine winter weather patterns across North America. During an El Niño winter, the general pattern is for warmer conditions across the northern tier of the U.S. with cool and wet conditions across the south. The opposite is typically the case during a La Niña episode. The current Pacific Ocean temperatures continue to indicate ENSO neutral conditions through the upcoming winter and into spring 2014. This means there is no trend toward El Niño or La Niña conditions, which, if there were, would provide more confidence in the North American winter forecast.

So what does all this mean for Wyoming? Well, this will sound just like what you would expect from a meteorologist. Right now the official CPC forecast, which can be found at cpc.ncep.noaa.gov, shows an equal chance of having near average, above-average or below-average temperatures this winter. Flip a coin! There is no strong tie to give confidence to how global circulations will evolve. Forecast uncertainty is high across the northern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest.

Over the past few months, however, the Wyoming winter forecast has trended from an expected warmer-than-average winter to one that will be more “average.” In fact, some of the model forecasts are trending toward a near to below-normal temperature forecast for the Wyoming winter. The wet soil conditions this fall are probably one reason why. September and October certainly provided a significant boost to soil moisture content heading into the winter months. Many areas east of the Continental Divide saw 200 to 500 percent of normal precipitation for that two-month period.

The snowfall outlook for December and January is a little more favorable. The active fall jet stream pattern that brought an earlier start to winter is expected to prevail. Accordingly, the CPC forecast shows a better chance of above-normal snowfall across Wyoming, especially the northwest quadrant of the state, through January. How about the critical spring months? You guessed it – the trend is toward an equal chance of above- or below-normal snowfall. It should be noted that long-term snow forecasts are generally less reliable than those of temperature.

Given that much uncertainty exists across Wyoming this winter, your best bet for assisting you around the farm or ranch will be to stay in touch with the seven day forecast provided by your local NWS office. We encourage you to visit us at weather.gov, or on your smart phone, mobile.weather.gov. We are also active on social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These media enable you to share your reports, photos and thoughts with us and have helped the NWS reach out in new ways.

Without internet access? Please call us toll-free anytime and speak directly with a forecaster. The two NWS offices located in Wyoming are in Cheyenne, at 800-269-6220, and Riverton, at 800-211-1448, and are staffed 24 hours a day. We routinely field questions about snowfall and travel forecasts, wind forecasts for spring burning and rain forecasts during the haying season. So, give us a try and see if we can assist you. Come on, you can trust us, can’t you?

Chris Jones is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton. He travels across western and central Wyoming working with agencies to prepare for hazardous weather and to give presentations to schools and civic groups. Please contact Chris at 307-857-3898 ext. 726 if you are interested in scheduling a meteorologist to speak with your organization or club.

Imagine if Wyoming was considered as a model of decency, where neighbors give a helping hand, where opposing viewpoints are heard and where people actually have face-to-face conversations.

The Wyoming Business Alliance has had many “neighborhood conversations” on the state level. The creation of the Wyoming Business Council, state energy programs, substance abuse legislation and the Hathaway plan are a few examples of economic strategies and solutions advanced by the Business Alliance over the years.

Here in Wyoming – a state of few people spread across many miles – we theoretically have embraced Cowboy Ethics. The legislature passed a resolution, the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership has been established and philosophies are being discussed. That is a big job. Increased polarization across spectrums of society is not the answer. Not now – really not ever.

Yet, putting into practice, day in and day out, the fundamentals of civil discourse is a tall order, whether in Wyoming, other states or in Washington, D.C.  Indeed, the essence of forward thinking dialog necessitates factual information, reason and compromise – not a stampede of 30-second sound bites, innuendo or castigation. That is why the Business Alliance recommended “Economic Strategies and Civil Discourse in Society,” as one theme for the upcoming Governor’s Business Forum.

The Nov. 19-20 forum, being held in Cheyenne, will bring together leaders from across Wyoming and the nation.  These leaders, as beacons of reason, individually and collectively, can reinforce Wyoming’s tradition of civility – both past, present and, hopefully, into the future.

So what does civility have to do with a better economy? Frankly, it just makes good business sense. The inability to be civil and compromise when developing public policy eats up valuable time in costly stalemates and hurts people in business and citizens in local communities.

Increasingly over the past few years, we have observed the pressures that state legislators face. When bills come up in session – especially dicey ones – they are besieged by emails from individuals and special interest lobbies. The shrillness of some these communications takes its toll, especially given the nominal compensation for what is a year-round volunteer job. I have heard concerns about the lack of civility.

In the past year alone, Wyoming has faced issues with obvious and underlying tensions – state per capita spending reliant on mineral development, which ultimately will be exhausted; high K-12 education spending but less than stellar results; highways beginning to deteriorate, but a resistance to increase the gas tax; and political candidates subjected to “black and white” survey questions, and then being lambasted for their answers.

Advancements in technology constantly move our society forward, but an overreliance on social media, emails and texts to communicate hinders genuine communication and progress. So why not get back to basics and try actually talking to each other for a change on the phone or in person? Moreover, we need to place a value on obtaining factual information from recognized sources, going beyond blogs, tweets and Facebook posts for our news.

Perhaps, we should begin with an old-fashioned cup of coffee around the kitchen table where trust is developed and sustained. This model is somewhat akin to Leadership Wyoming – where we bring together people from different walks of life. They get to know each other, talk about issues and gain trust. And, hopefully after they graduate from the program, they can talk about disagreements.

If Wyoming wants to continue to be a great, we need to talk to each other, take time to listen to different perspectives and be willing to compromise. So come join the conversation at this year’s forum. Have a cup of coffee on us, as well.

Bill Shilling can be reached at 307-577-8000. Visit the Wyoming Business Alliance online at wyomingbusinessalliance.com.

I can give you advice. Your friends can show you what’s working on their ranch. You can read articles and learn from your local team of experts – Extension specialists, veterinarians, nutritionists and so on.

But when it comes down to it, you’re the one who needs to make the decisions. You have to determine what’s right for your cowherd.

Some decisions need to be “split second.” When you have to figure out which way to dart to keep that feisty cow from breaking out of the group, when you’ve got to say “yay” or “nay” on a set of replacements going for a little more than you expected at the auction, when an extra minute means life or death because you did or didn’t call the vet during a calving predicament – it’s then that you have to make your mind up fast.

Other times you have the luxury, and burden, of a little more thoughtful introspection. When you’re picking a breeding philosophy and genetics for your herd, that’s a time that deserves more consideration than the honed instincts that contained a bolting bovine.

Yet, the decision still lies with you.

Not everything is black and white. In fact, most important decisions involve gray risk, because there are nearly always several elements to consider. Profit potential has to be a motivator. 

Everyone gives you advice on how to raise your cattle, what breed or breeds you should pick and how you should implement that breeding strategy. But if you just look at what will net you the most dollars with the fewest “headaches,” it could be a pretty clear choice.

I ask a lot of ranchers across the country about their breeding programs. Many have established programs through decades of trial and error. Some of them even say it’s taken several generations of ranchers to come to a system that they’re still improving on today. Quite often I hear, “Well, grandpa started out...,” and then they describe all of the decisions that have led them to where they’re at on that day.

Some of them talk about a neighbor who paved the way with something revolutionary for the time, or they credit a specific seedstock supplier for helping them develop their program. Others came back from college with a new idea to try to implement and still others admit they were about the last in their country to make a switch to what works today. 

Whatever their route as they introduced different genetics and focused on a new set of traits or a different breed, the road still goes back to that same point of origin – they had to make the decision. Almost always, it came back to dollars.

There’s a quote I’ve heard many times as producers tell their stories. Maybe it’s become a cliché now, but it takes a core of solid truth for any words to reach that level of familiarity – “It doesn’t cost any more to raise a good one than it does a bad one.” 

Of course the route to raising those good ones depends on the controls in your hands. Happy deciding.

Next time in Black Ink® Steve Suther will look at 2018, the year. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..