Current Edition

current edition

By Charles C. Price, Region IV Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association

On Jan. 1, 2011 the Wyoming Livestock Roundup published a guest opinion where I wrote about a experiment that my son and I were doing to determine if we could safely booster vaccinate pregnant cows with RB51 at our fall pregnancy test.

In cooperation with the state veterinarian, we booster-vaccinated all of our yearling heifers and all of our adult cows with RB51 while they were open in Spring 2010, prior to breeding. When we pregnancy tested these cattle in the fall we had a good conception rate and found no adverse effects. At the fall pregnancy test we had our veterinarian give a second booster vaccination of RB51 to 20 head of our pregnant commercial replacement heifers.

On May 19, 2011 the last of our 88 replacement heifers calved. All of the heifers carried their calves to the full term, a little unusual for us because we often have one or two that will abort their calf or show up in heat by the end of calving. We lost one calf in the registered heifers because we waited too long to pull it.

Of the 20 commercial replacement heifers we had given the second booster vaccination to at the time of their pregnancy test, all produced a healthy live calf. Based on this result, we believe that cattle that receive their booster vaccination while they are “open” (not pregnant) can then be booster vaccinated at a convenient time when they are pregnant with a minimum risk for RB51 vaccine induced abortion. This following booster shot must be done within a time period when the last booster shot is still effective. We plan on booster vaccination of all the bred cows that we will retain at our 2011 fall pregnancy test.

While we are confident that giving the first booster shot to the cows while they are open allows the next booster to be given to them while they are pregnant with minimal risk of a vaccine induced abortion, a number of questions regarding booster vaccination remain:

What time interval is acceptable between booster shots with RB51 to minimize the risk of a vaccine induced abortion?

If we follow this procedure for booster vaccination, will it provide a sufficient reduction in risk for contracting the field strain of brucellosis from wildlife and constrain the spread of the disease within a herd that does become infected?

Time and further testing will provide an answer to the first question. This can be done by taking a herd of cattle of sufficient size and vaccinating one group annually, a second group every other year, another group every third year, etc, until the vaccine induced abortion become evident. From this information a reasonable booster vaccination interval can be determined.

The second question and the most important one will be the most difficult to answer. A partial but uncertain answer may be found when booster vaccinated cattle in high risk areas comingle with infected elk. If there is a significant reduction in the instances of the field strain of brucellosis crossing over to the cattle, this could indicate that booster vaccination is effective. However, the best way to determine if the booster vaccination with RB51 provides a significant protection against contracting or spreading brucellosis is a well planned test where cattle with different levels of vaccination are challenged by the field strain of brucellosis.

In summary, we know that the effectiveness of a vaccination with RB51 declines rather rapidly with time. For this reason it is necessary to booster vaccinate the cattle to maintain a high level of immunity. We have shown that by giving the first booster vaccination while the cows are open they can be vaccinated later when they are pregnant with a minimal risk of a vaccine induced abortion.

It may be that booster vaccination with RB51 is sufficiently effective against the field strain of brucellosis. This would be a welcome result. However, if it is not, we are wasting a lot of time and money following this route to an extreme without testing to determine its effectiveness. We need to consider the possibility that the booster vaccination with RB51 is inadequate and only offers a bridge to a more effective vaccine that can come from research at the University of Wyoming BSL-3 lab. It is my opinion that a challenge test is imperative and planning for it should start now.

By Mountain States Lamb Cooperative/Mountain States Rosen Livestock Supply Manager Brad Anderson

Hello sheep enthusiasts – I hope everyone has survived lambing season and this interesting spring that we have had this year. It seems that between cold spells, snowfall and floods, producers from the Dakotas to Washington have had a frustrating time this spring.

It looks like the crops in these areas may be 10 to 15 percent lower than last year due to inclement weather. Also, droughts in the southern states like Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas have pushed producers to cull ewes and put lambs on feed at a lighter weight due to feed shortage. This will, in turn, prove to cause higher costs of gain and lighter lambs at slaughter. The most disastrous aspect is the liquidation or reduction of ewe flocks due to high feed costs and limited forage. This will, in turn, hurt our future lambs supply numbers and keep the lamb industry in a very volatile state.     

The pelt market is still in a favorable position for the short term, but the market has seen some resistance concerning future sales. Therefore, a projected relief of five to 10 dollars per pelt is expected as we reach the fall months. This should leave a return of $15 to $20 for good quality pelts in the fall.

Even though meat sales have seen some price resistance in the past few weeks, the lamb market still has a strong outlook over the summer months due to an industry shortage in live numbers. Fat lambs and feeders are at an all-time high, and prices look to remain strong. The big question is, can the live, carcass and box prices support the high feeder lamb prices as we move into the fall marketing period? Risk is high and the downside is extreme if the market starts to slide due to inventory, pelt values and the influx of import products from New Zealand and Australia. There are several unknowns at this point to relieve a healthy amount of concern for risk on feeding lambs into the fall and early winter.

The Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC) will announce its two millionth lamb marketed at the annual meeting this summer, and this is a true testament to the perseverance and loyalty that the MSLC members have to our organization. Our members not only raise some of the highest quality lambs in the nation, but they also are committed to delivering day in and day out to help make this co-op great. This will be a great example of the solidity of the co-op and its members and will prove how steadfast we will be in the future.

The MSLC annual meeting is set for July 20-22 in Loveland, Colo. We hope to have a great turnout that will allow us to discuss the past events of the lamb industry and what our goals, strategies and expectations will be for the future. It is my hope that all of the members are able to attend and share in the discussions to provoke industry excitement, growth and what the forethought of the Cooperative and industry should look like.

Have a great summer.

By Dick Loper, Rangeland Issues Consultant, Wyoming State Grazing Board

On May 20, the Lander BLM issued the latest Final Grazing Decision for the Green Mountain Allotment. It represents the latest item in a long-running saga that will be considered historic when the next book about livestock grazing on federal lands is written. This new decision can in no way be considered the last chapter in this saga, but it’s the next step in the lives of the 19 family ranches that continue to try to make a living from that area of Wyoming rangelands.

This latest decision from the Lander BLM does make a few changes to the very large 550,000-acre common allotment that are desired by the permittees. The ranchers have proposed, and the BLM has now agreed, to divide the large common allotment into four smaller allotments, largely based on historic use patterns of groups of permittees that have not recently mixed (on purpose) their livestock with each other. The “west-side” group of permittees live mostly in the Lander/Riverton/Kinnear area, while the “east-side” permittees live mostly in the Jeffery City and east areas, and a new sheep allotment will be in the middle of the area. Also, the 46 Ranch on the far east side will now be separate from the old Green Mountain allotment area. In consideration of wildlife and recreation concerns, these new allotments will not have internal fenced boundaries and we hope the BLM will allow drift use along these new boundaries that would not be considered as trespass.

This allotment has suffered from a severe lack of science-based monitoring studies of the condition and trend of the rangelands and riparian areas. The lack of adequate quality and quantity data continues to contribute to significant disagreements between the BLM, the permittees and the radical “enviros” over the impacts of livestock and wild horses and the actual on-the-ground health of the land.

Three percent of the allotment is considered riparian, and the BLM owns only one-third of that type of habitat. But, the one-third they do own has been, and will continue to be, the “tail that wags the dog” with respect to how livestock are managed. To date, and for the foreseeable future, the new decision conveys that the BLM will continue to use “stubble-height” standards on riparian areas as the basis for moving livestock from pasture to pasture during the grazing season. If the “stubble-height standard” is not met, the permittees will be considered in violation of an important term and condition of their permit and future reductions will be imposed.
The Wyoming State Grazing Board, the state of Wyoming, our university and the permittees agree with the published literature in the range science community that stubble-height and utilization might be useful management tools on some sites, but they should never become the “objective,” per se. We continue to try to convince the Lander BLM that resource issues in this allotment can not be resolved until all parties are able to observe and agree on the actual cause and effect on the trend in the health of upland rangelands and riparian areas.  

The new decision does propose to accept the offer of the Wyoming State Grazing Board to facilitate an effort by the permittees and the BLM to determine site-specific resource objectives and develop a comprehensive, science-based Joint/Cooperative Monitoring (JCM) program. Our UW Range Department, Office of State Lands and Investment (OSLI) and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture will be active and valuable participants in this monitoring effort. The BLM, by statute, is required to involve all “interested publics,” (read: radical enviro groups) in a monitoring program, but the WSGB and the permittees will not include them in our efforts because they don’t want to contribute to solving resource issues – they want to eliminate livestock grazing and the livelihood of family ranches.

Unfortunately, the new grazing decisions continue to refuse to develop an Allotment Management Plan (AMP) in consultation, cooperation and coordination with the permittees and the OSLI. Many of us share the opinion that future management under the principals of consultation, cooperation and coordination is preferable and increases the odds for success over management by the BLM under a formal decision process.

A serious complication to the path towards sustainable ranching in these four new allotments is the continuation of legal challenges by Western Watershed Project (WWP) and a few local radical so-called “environmentalists” to remove all livestock grazing from these federal lands.

Last year WWP filed a legal challenge to the BLM and west-side permittee proposal to construct a fence that is vital to the ability of these ranchers to manage riparian areas just south of the Sweetwater River. An Administrative Law Judge agreed with WWP, and the BLM had to rewrite the plan to manage this allotment.

Last December WWP and local residents Tom Bell and Mike Hudek filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne to try to stop all livestock grazing in this allotment in 2011. U.S. District Judge Nancy Fredenthal recently ruled that livestock grazing could continue during the 2011 grazing season, but she has yet to dismiss the case, so this legal threat to these permittees is yet to be resolved. The next hearing on this challenge is set for July 7 in Cheyenne.

Many of the permittees hired a lawyer to help fight this effort to put them out of business. The Budd Falen law firm did an excellent job on their behalf, and the WSGB and the state of Wyoming aggressively participated in this defense. The economic costs to these permittees to help fight these legal battles is enormous. They are on the front line in Fremont County in the legal battle to keep livestock grazing on federal lands. But, if the radical “enviros” are successful in removing livestock from the Green Mountain area, many of us fear that other allotments in the Lander BLM Field Office area will become the next target of these people and organizations that want all livestock removed from federal, state AND private rangelands in the West.

The recently released final decision on the Green Mountain area will certainly be appealed by WWP, and perhaps some local radical “enviros.”

The permittees in the Green Mountain area will soon have to consider if they can afford to help the BLM fight the appeal from the “enviros” to put these family ranches out of business. The permittees must also consider whether or not there are terms and conditions imposed by the BLM in the new decision that they could not accept. Thank goodness for the recent moisture in this area that helps grow the forage necessary to support the grazing program.

On behalf of these permittees, the WSGB would like to suggest that all ranchers and local government and businesses in the Wind River area have a “dog in this fight.” If they lose, we all lose. Please consider how you can contribute to ward off these efforts to change forever our Western way of life. There are lots of ways we can help them that will also be helping ourselves. Your personal efforts to encourage the BLM, our local, state and national elected officials and the business community to support our ag community is critical. Please also take every opportunity to convey your appreciation to those whom you know are in support of the customs and culture we all enjoy.

By Pamela Dewell, Executive Director, Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust

In a 1789 letter, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

So far, all three remain constant and the intersection of the two certainties is an especially difficult burden, particularly for America’s agricultural community. Passing the family ranch between generations faces many challenges. Frequently there are multiple heirs; some may wish to keep ranching while others would rather have the cash that could be raised by selling out. Or, all of the children are interested in ranching, but the property is too small to support everyone.

Another problem is the federal estate tax and the broad array of factors that influence it. Without careful planning, families can be left with significant estate tax burdens when members pass on. If the family doesn’t have much in the way of cash or stocks and bonds, the only way to pay the estate tax may be to sell the ranch. Similarly, high property values sometimes increase the temptation of heirs to sell out. These challenges may lead not only to ranches being broken apart and sold out of agriculture, but to permanent rifts within families.

A conference is planned for Thursday, June 2 at the UW College of Law that will address conservation easements and how they can be used as effective estate planning tools.

Hosted by UW’s Rural Law Center, Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust, and the Jackson Hole Land Trust, participants will include Wyoming attorneys, accountants, appraisers, planners, realtors and land conservationists. Continuing education credits will be provided through the Wyoming Bar Association and the Wyoming Real Estate Commission. Please urge your family’s advisors to attend.

The conference will feature a wide array of topics including conservation easement basics, contributions and sales, appraisal issues, tax incentives, energy development and more. Professionals and the public are invited to register for the day-long event in Laramie or attend remotely via a live webcast of the conference. For more information visit www.uwyo.edu/law/.

While completing a conservation easement may not exactly be on your bucket list, it might help you with other objectives you do want to achieve - such as reducing estate or income tax burden, keeping the land in your family, or ensuring the operation remains intact and in agriculture.

Did you know…
•    A conservation easement can be granted during the landowner’s lifetime or by will; it is even possible for a landowner’s heirs to direct the executor to contribute a conservation easement that has retroactive effect, therefore saving estate taxes.
•    Easements can be written to allow continued ranching, recreation (including hunting and fishing) and even limited residential development, provided these uses are consistent with the conservation values of the easement property. Such values may be agricultural, scenic, wildlife habitat or a combination of these.
•    Conservation easements do not require public access.
•    Conservation easements can be donated or sold. In an easement sale it is typical for the landowner to sell the easement for less than market value and claim a tax deduction for the difference as a charitable contribution. This is known as a “bargain sale.”

The ability of a conservation easement to limit development on a property and the related reduction in the land’s appraised value may have a number of beneficial implications for transferring a ranch within a family and associated estate tax planning. We encourage you to learn more about this important tool through the UW Conservation Easement Conference. You can also contact the Stock Growers Ag Land Trust at 307-772-8751 or wsgalt.org and the Jackson Hole Land Trust at 307-733-4707 or jhlandtrust.org.

A longer version of this article may be found in “Passing It On: An Estate Planning Guide for Wyoming’s Farmers and Ranchers,” a publication of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.