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By Frank Galey, UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean


I am happy, as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to have been invited to write this column for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup’s annual University of Wyoming (UW) edition.

The college reached a record enrollment of 1,083 students last fall. This mirrors the institutional growth in Wyoming’s only four-year university. Last year’s total enrollment was 13,551 students. Just a short time ago – in 2007 – student numbers were 12,875.

Numbers alone do not make a great university. UW regularly receives awards for affordable and also receives high grades from our students. More than 90 percent of UW students are pleased with their UW education and would recommend UW to friends and relatives, according to the latest UW Student Satisfaction Survey. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources consistently receives high marks from our students, who often cite the accessibility of faculty members, advising on their courses of study, and our scholarship program as exceptional.

During their academic careers and after graduation, our students continue to impress. Noah Hull, a Ph.D. student working on a quick-test method for brucellosis infection in mammals, including humans, received one of 10 national graduate fellowships from the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense. This year, four of the 12 finalists for outstanding graduating senior were students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Joshua Messer of Cheyenne received the Tobin Memorial Award as UW’s outstanding graduating man. Other finalists included microbiology major Kyle Bochanski and Mathias McCormick, a molecular biology major from Laramie. Animal and veterinary sciences major McKensie Harris from Laramie was a finalist for the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Award as the University of Wyoming’s outstanding graduating woman.

Educating young adults is only one arm of our core mission. Research and service to Wyoming citizens are the other elements of our land-grant charge. In the college, research covers everything from cell biology to community economics. Our Veterinary Sciences Department is home to both the Wyoming State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Wildlife-Livestock Health Center. In addition to brucellosis testing, the lab also tests for rabies, helps veterinarians across the state diagnose animal diseases and conducts research on health issues in livestock and Wyoming’s wildlife populations.

Other research areas important to Wyoming citizens include advances in ruminant nutrition. Research includes evaluating genetic factors that affect feed efficiency, sage grouse habitat research and projects that focus on reclaiming disturbed lands. One area of particular interest is a program offered by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to fund research on topics of concern to our stakeholders. Faculty members who receive one of these grants are also eligible for matching funds through the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station – a division of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Wildfires devastated much of the western United States this summer. Indeed, the skies in Laramie have been very hazy. Wildfire and soil/rangeland restoration after a fire are two other areas of research within the college. Anna Scofield, a former graduate student in our Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, together with faculty members Ben Rashford and Don McLeod, developed models policymakers could use to help reduce the cost of protecting structures threatened by wildfire. Professor Emeritus Steve Williams is using our Fletcher Park research site as a field laboratory for post-fire soil and rangeland recovery. The site was devastated by wildfire a few years ago and now provides a real-world laboratory for post-fire research. Information learned from this site will help land managers develop effective post-fire recovery programs for their areas.

Other changes this past year in the university include many new faces in leadership positions. Joining UW this year are four new academic unit deans: Sanjay Putrevuin in the College of Business, Michael Pishko in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Klint Alexander at the Law School and D. Ray Reutzel at the College of Education.

University of Wyoming Board of Trustees earlier this summer outlined the search process for a new university president to succeed Dick McGinity. Two committees have been charged with identifying candidates. The committee that will help launch the search, considering applications and identify a list of 10 to 15 candidates for further consideration met for the first time in August. More details are available at uwyo.edu/presidentsearch

The University of Wyoming, since its founding in 1986, has grown and evolved into the nationally recognized research and educational institution you see today. The university has remained Wyoming’s only four-year university and has not forgotten the founding principles of the land-grant system. We continue to strive to provide a quality educational experience for our students, conduct research programs that address key global issues, and offer outreach programs that provide services and scientifically based information to Wyoming citizens.

We hope you are proud of the University of Wyoming – Wyoming’s university.

Gillette – A rancher who obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming (UW) before World War II and continues to be involved in his family’s ranching operations at 94 is a recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Charles “Bud” Christensen built a ranching enterprise that grew to include properties in Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska and totals approximately 156,000 deeded acres. The ranches are operated by CJR Ranch, LLC, a successor to what was originally CJR Christensen Ranches, named for Charles, his daughter Janet and son Robert.

He’s a sought-after resource for not only livestock and ranching but also mineral industry issues.

Bob Innes of Innes Ranch in Campbell County says Bud is one of the most informed persons he knows on agricultural-related issues.

“Very early in my profession, I learned that Bud was one of the most intelligent and informed individuals I would ever meet,” he says. “As a result of that understanding, I knew I should listen well when Bud was visiting with me. I was never disappointed.”

Early graduate

Bud entered UW at age 16 and was a three-year letter winner in swimming and diving. He graduated with honors at age 20. His father Fred had built the Gillette ranch to 65,000 acres. Bud and his brother split the ranch in the 1960s and after developing his own Gillette operation, he began adding additional places.

“My granddad is part of a generation that worked hard and built Wyoming,” says grandson Mark. “They set high expectations, worked hard and lived their lives with integrity.”

His grandfather had the vision to develop a vertically integrated operation across three states, he says.

All calves are brought back into the herd as replacements or fed in a retained ownership program for the packer market, notes Brett Befus with the University of Wyoming Foundation, who supported the alumni award nomination.

Heifer and bull calves from all ranches are shipped to the South Loup River Ranch near Broken Bow, Neb. in the fall. The best are developed into replacement heifers and herd bulls for the cattle operation. Cull heifers and steers are sent to commercial feedlots for finishing.

The majority of the herd is Salers and Angus crossbreds.

Contributing to the ranch

Though ranching operations have been continued by Mark’s father and aunt, “The success of the ranches lies with Bud,” Mark says. “To this day, at 94 years of age, he is still involved in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. He still pays the bills and handles the financial matters of the Christensen Ranches.”

Bud insisted that, even though there were monies derived from mineral development, the ranches always operated as a separate enterprise that made their own ways, says Mark.

Involvement

Bud served as director of the American Salers Association from 1983-88 and received the association’s President’s Award in 1996. He was named an honorary member in 2002 because of his early use of the Salers breed and his two terms of service to the board of directors, says Jim Wilson of V Ranch near Thermopolis.

“Bud has provided more carcass information on the Salers breed than any other producer in the nation,” notes Wilson. “He continues to promote the maternal aspects and range utilization capabilities of Salers and has been featured in testimonial advertisement for the American Salers Association.”

He’s also a 70-year member of the 143-year-old Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The membership boasts three generations of his family, says Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the association.

“Bud’s long, successful career as an agricultural producer is a tribute to his own abilities as well as to the education he received in the college of agriculture,” notes Magagna in his nomination.

Success

Bud's success can be measured by the number of distinct ranches he has brought together in a vertically integrated operation, Magagna says.

“However, a better measure may be his effectiveness in integrating family members from multiple generations into the business. There is no lack of words to describe Bud Christensen. Perseverance, determination, foresight, strategist and risk-taker all come quickly to mind,” Magagna adds.

Bud has become a respected expert on oil and gas leases and surface use agreements, notes Mark.

“He was one of the first landowners in Wyoming to negotiate annual surface use damage payments as opposed to just a one-time flat fee. In later years, Bud was asked for his advice on oil and gas development negotiations by many in northeast Wyoming,” he says.

Bud also gained a reputation for his fairness and integrity.

“I remember being told by an individual from whom we acquired a ranch that they were amazed at how my granddad negotiated the deal and his focus on fairness,” says Mark. “My granddad’s concern was the long-term relationship and how they would get along on the street in later years, Wyoming being the small state it is.”

This article is courtesy of the UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Laramie – An agricultural advocate at the state and national levels and whose roots are nestled against the western flanks of the Bighorn Mountains has received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Ken Hamilton graduated in 1982 from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He joined the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) in 1983 and is now executive vice president.

“Every decision and action Ken makes is led by his desire to keep the agriculture industry strong in Wyoming,” says Perry Livingston, WyFB president.

UW Animal Science Emeritus Professor Connie Kercher, who was a nominator, noted Hamilton’s communication efforts.

“He does an excellent job keeping the members informed about current agricultural issues,” says Kercher. “He is straightforward and honest.  His most important role, in my opinion, is his lobbying effects in the Legislature.”

Manderson-Hyattville High School grad

Hamilton received an associate’s of art degree in pre-law at Northwest College after graduating from Manderson-Hyattville High School. From 1980-81, he participated in an exchange program between the American Farm Bureau Federation and Agricultural Investments of Australia.

Hamilton worked as a ranch hand on the family operation near Hyattville after graduation from UW, then joined the WyFB in 1983 and has been the executive vice president since 2004.

Lobbying interests

He’s worked with state and national agencies and Wyoming legislators on behalf of the agricultural industry.

Legislators are used to being pressed by lobbyists, and rancher Mark Semlek, a 12-year past member of the body – six as chair of the House Agriculture Committee –  says he valued Hamilton’s input.

“I found over the years that Ken’s experience, his diligent research and his understanding of the broad issues before our committee provided us with important and useful advice for directing policy and establishing laws that were in the best interest of Wyoming agriculture,” says Semlek.

Trusted advocate

Semlek further notes that Hamilton’s most valuable contribution at the Legislature was his testimony to the committee and found him effective in working with other committee members and legislators not committee members.

“I also found Ken to be very helpful to me, and I sought his advice on how he believed legislation should be crafted that could affect the agriculture industry,” he notes. “Ken has a broad base of education, experience and interests, and he has been a premier supporter of agriculture in Wyoming for many years.”

So also says Kermit Brown, current Speaker of the House from Laramie.

“He was always well-versed on issues related to agriculture and was a strong and effective advocate for the agricultural community in general and Farm Bureau members in particular,” says Brown. “Time and again, he was a timely and deep resource on issues we faced in the Legislature, and I personally found him to be a great reservoir of knowledge I could call on when I needed a deeper understanding on an issue.”

Former legislator and rancher John Hines credits Hamilton’s professionalism and honesty in the information he presented.

“Ken is the type of individual who represents his job, the university and Wyoming in a manner that is very respected by those he comes in contact with,” he says.

Positive impacts on Wyo

Few have served the agricultural industry as well as Hamilton, and his efforts have had strong, positive impacts on Wyoming, especially in agriculture, says Brett Moline, director of government and public affairs with the WyFB.

On state-level issues, Hamilton has ensured agriculture’s views are heard and understood.

“He has made changes that have been very positive for Wyoming farmers and ranchers, working to reduce potential negative impacts of governmental rules and regulations,” notes Moline.

Nationally, Hamilton has diligently worked to have national policy that works as effectively as possible for Wyoming farmers and ranchers, he says.

“Ken has done a fantastic job making sure Wyoming farmers and ranchers are up-to-date on issues affecting them,” notes Moline. “He uses every form of communication available to inform people and encourages involvement from those he serves.”

High praise

Hamilton is highly praised by many people that he works with for his deep impacts within the ag industry.

“His work with the agricultural community reflects an in-depth understanding of the issues affecting agriculture and the ranching and farming professions,” says Mark Marquardt, emeritus of the Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company.

Dominique Giroux, office manager at Paragon Audit and Consulting in Denver, Colo., adds “Farm Bureau’s purpose is to protect, promote and represent the economic, social and educational interests of American’s agricultural people, not only at the state level but nationally as well. Ken’s life and time at Farm Bureau have been truly dedicated to these principles.”

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

By Bridger Feuz, UW Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

In researching for his book, Extraordinary Tennis for Ordinary Tennis Players, Simon Ramo found that professional tennis players tend to earn around 80 percent of points and only lose around 20 percent because of mistakes. Ramo found that amateur tennis was exactly the opposite. Amateurs tend to lose around 80 percent of their points due to mistakes and only earn around 20 percent.

When it comes to marketing cattle, it is very difficult if not impossible for even the very best producers to sell at the top of the market every year. However, just by avoiding a few common mistakes, producers can significantly increase their annual receipts. Unfortunately, the lure of attempting to hit the top of the market every year is a trap for many producers.

I attended a grain-marketing seminar this summer where Dr. Edward Usset listed five common mistakes in grain marketing. As a cattle guy, I decided to apply the same criteria to cattle producers and come up with five common mistakes in cattle marketing. Here is what I came up with – a failure to critically sort cattle, getting in a marketing rut, paying little attention to culls and other “out” cattle, not taking advantage of risk management tools and being a passive marketer.

Critical sorting

The first mistake is failing to sort cattle critically.

Oftentimes producers attempt to “sneak” in a few extra head that they know should have been sorted off from a set of cattle. This is usually done for convenience or with the thought that those cattle really weren’t that bad and should go with the main load.

If you are marketing 200 steers weighing 500 pounds, five of which should have been sorted off, what does it cost you? Let’s assume that because of the five head we receive a price of $255 per hundredweight (cwt) for all 200 head. If we sorted the five head off, we receive a price of $257 per cwt on 195 head and $237 per cwt on five head. Looking at this very realistic scenario we would make $1,500 more by sorting the cattle. Year after year, $1,500 adds up.

Stuck in a rut

It is also important to be cautious of falling into a marketing rut.

Market conditions change from year to year. Although market timing cycles can be somewhat similar, often taking advantage of slight differences can add two to three dollars per cwt. Just because you have always sold cattle the first week in October does not mean that is the best time to sell cattle.

Additionally, each year there can be regional differences in market price. This means the best auction barn to sell your cattle at last year may not be the best barn to sell cattle at this year. Often times the price difference between auction barns is even greater than the differences in freight and shrink.

Culling

Pay attention to culls and other “out” cattle.

Cull cow sales are approximately 15 percent of annual income for a cow/calf enterprise. Yet, cull cows are often overlooked when considering a marketing plan or strategy for the ranch. The cull cow market is one of the more predictable markets for cow/calf producers. If producers are willing to make some management changes, significant gains can be made from cull cow sales.

Dr. Dillon Feuz authored a useful bulletin titled “Marketing and Feeding Cull Cows.” It can be found at cattlemarketanalysis.org/downloads by clicking on the marketing cull cows option.

Even if a producer is not willing to make management changes to take advantage of cull cow prices, carefully watching the market can also add significant value. As I watched one of our Wyoming markets last fall, I consistently saw an every-other-week pattern on cull cows. This every other week pattern would often lead to price differences of five dollars to $10 per cwt. On 10 1,200-pound cull cows that could be as much as $1,200 just by watching the market and waiting one week to take your culls.

Risk management

Another consideration is use of a risk management tool.

Often times we think of risk management tools, such as the futures and options market or insurance products, as tools to help us in downward trending markets. However, as I watch producers I am convinced these tools can help as much in strong markets as well.

Cow/calf producers have a lot of capital and labor, as well as blood, sweat and tears, tied up in each calf crop. Because of this significant investment in each calf crop, producers are extremely motivated to sell and often are willing to take the first reasonable price offer.

One strategy to improve bargaining position could be to purchase Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) Insurance. A producer using this strategy would purchase LRP Insurance essentially establishing a floor price for their calves. That floor price would be the insured coverage price minus the insurance premium. Using this strategy takes much of the stress of marketing cattle away from the negotiation. No longer is a producer compelled to take that first reasonable offer, but they are in a position to be able to focus on getting a quality price. The knowledge that they are assured a minimum acceptable price through LRP insurance gives the producer a good bargaining advantage.

Passive marking

Do not passively market cattle.

This last of Feuz’s five common mistakes in marketing cattle really encompasses all of the above mistakes. Producers often devote significant time and energy into managing things like genetics, range, pasture, nutrition, etc. These things are important and can lead to profitability and success. However, these same producers often market cattle based on tradition, convenience or habit. After putting all of the effort into producing cattle, a passive marketing strategy can cost producers and reduce overall profitability.

Even if it takes you out of your comfort zone, spend as much time and energy on your marketing plan as your range plan and you will reap the benefits. Actively market cattle by seeking out market data, trends and niche opportunities to capitalize on the efforts that went into production.

Bridger Feuz is the UW livestock marketing specialist and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..