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Management

The stocker segment of the livestock industry does not seem to get as much attention as the cow/calf or feedlot segments these days. This is no doubt due to the fact that less people are currently involved in this segment than have been historically. The most recent statewide survey of livestock producers shows only eight percent of producers identify as cow/yearling operations, while 82 percent identify themselves as cow/calf operations.

However, a lot of recent work across the western U.S. has shown that having the flexibility associated with a stocker enterprise on a ranch can help alleviate the negative impacts of drought years. During drought periods, cow/calf producers are typically forced to liquidate breeding stock to balance herd demand with forage supply.

This strategy is costly for a few reasons.

First, as other producers in the area also are forced to sell cows, cow prices tend to dip, meaning cows are sold at lower values due to the temporary increase in supply. Selling these cows is akin to selling a factory at a loss after spending a lot of money to get it operational.

A second reason selling cows is costly is, after the drought ends, producers are faced with the lag of rebuilding the herd, meaning they typically have to forgo selling heifers to get their breeding stock numbers back to pre-drought levels. This means lower revenues until retained heifers start producing calves. If producers decide to purchase breeding stock, prices are usually elevated due to increased demand, and they end up replacing cows they sold at bargain prices with cows they paid a premium for.

If an operation has a stocker enterprise, cow numbers should be able to be kept at a lower, but more stable, number. The stocker operation is used as the “flex” option. Stocker numbers are increased during the good years and lowered or eliminated in the dry years. Using stockers to balance forage supply and demand eliminates the need to sell breeding stock.

Another nice option of using stockers as the flexible part of the herd is that producers are less likely to hold stockers very long into a drought – especially when compared to the cows they’ve invested considerable time and money to develop. The ability to destock during poor years can help ensure long-term productivity of rangeland resources. Managing the herd adaptively in response to precipitation and productivity can be challenging but is even more so without the ability to easily adjust grazing pressure on an annual basis.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics, University of Wyoming (UW) Extension, Colorado State University Extension (CSU) and the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are collaborating on two projects that are evaluating the benefits of both stocker operations and adaptive management.

The first project is a long-term, collaborative, adaptive rangeland management project. This project is unique in that management decisions are driven by a diverse group of stakeholders, similar to a board of directors, aimed at managing for multiple objectives including beef production, drought resilience and wildlife conservation. The project involves a comparison of continuous, season-long grazing and an adaptive, rotational grazing strategy. This project is also evaluating the use of prescribed burning.

This project is in its fourth year, and USDA ARS will host a field day at their Nunn, Colo. station about 30 miles south of Cheyenne on June 27 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. to showcase current findings.

For more information, or to RSVP for a free lunch, either contact myself at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Hailey Wilmer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Another joint project aimed at helping to understand and promote stocker operations is just beginning this year. This project looks to build understanding about the challenges and opportunities provided by stocker enterprise and hopes to connect producers that have experience with these operations with those that want to learn more.

Part of this project is to help facilitate the transfer of knowledge but also identify knowledge gaps that researchers at UW, CSU and USDA can help answer. The initial meeting for the Flexible Stocking Summit is scheduled for Sept. 19, also at the Nunn, Colo. station.

Again, if you have any questions regarding this project, feel free to e-mail me or Don Schoderbek at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you have any interest in either adding a stocker enterprise, discussing the positive potential or pitfalls with others that are interested in getting started or understanding how adaptive grazing strategies compare to continuous season-long grazing, I hope to hear from you.

Casper – Certified public accountants (CPA) Kim Garrett and Terry Grannan want small business owners to realize time is money when it comes to accounting services.

“When people bring their documents to CPAs, they are paying for the time and expertise provided,” said Kim Garrett, Lenhart, Mason and Associates manager. 

Garrett and Grannan presented their “QuickBooks 101” workshop on Dec. 13, 2017 for small business owners like farmers and ranchers. Wyoming Women in Ag hosted the workshop. 

Garrett said the purpose of the workshop was to provide tips to save money and avoid traps small business may face.

Compiling information

Most of the time, Garrett mentioned, clients either bring too much information or not enough for CPAs.

“If a client brings in a lot of information, we feel inclined to got through every document, which takes more time. When there’s missing information, the project gets stone-walled, and then we have a list of questions for the client,” explained Garrett.

She noted client questions take multiple days to be answered and having all the necessary information expedites the whole process.

Oftentimes, client information is unorganized, leading to more work and longer delays, she said.

“Sometimes the QuickBooks reports don’t represent what a company did the previous year, and assets or expenses are in the wrong areas,” added Garrett.

Wrong data

Incorrect information that doesn’t support business documents is also a problem CPAs face.

“We use bank statements and other outside sources to reconcile balance sheets and make sure accounts match,” Garrett said. “Most times, important information is missing.”

Mixed transactions between business and personal expenses also create problems for CPAs, she noted.

“A lot of personal transactions get mixed up with business transactions, which decreases the integrity of clients’ data,” Garrett explained.

Software

By far, according to Grannan, Lenhart, Mason and Associates accounting specialist and certified QuickBooks Pro advisor, the most common accounting system is QuickBooks, which can be used on Mac products, in the cloud and on a PC.

“QuickBooks Pro is the most common version and is the most user friendly,” Grannan stated. “Some people use Excel or other types of systems, but QuickBooks definitely makes it easier to take information to an accountant.”

For businesses with a payroll, internet is required and an annual subscription fee is assessed for updates, noted Grannan. 

Solid books

One way to avoid extra time and money on accounting services is to have a solid set of books, according to Garrett.

“Financial books need to be accurate, which means the QuickBooks balance sheet needs to reconcile or be consistent with bank statements, fixed asset documents, payroll liabilities or loan statements,” Garrett stated.

In QuickBooks, the reports generated should be helpful management tools for small businesses to determine if they made a profit or not, she noted.

“The goal is to be prepared. A clean set of books makes accountants happy and reduces their bill,” added Garrett.

Foundation

A good set of books, stated Garrett, starts with an organized balance sheet.

“The first step is to go through the different accounts on the balance sheet and reconcile them with the bank statements, but people can run into trouble with checks,” Garrett explained. “Checks with the wrong dates cause books to not reconcile. It’s up to the bookkeeper to put in the correct dates and check them.”

She also recommended not going back and changing information that’s been reconciled because it upsets the data and takes more time to fix.

Credit cards

Grannan encouraged everyone to have a credit card and use it instead of a debit card, for both business and personal transactions.

“A debit card is more susceptible to fraud. Credit cards are safer and have a paper trail with a statement every month,” noted Grannan.

In the long run, it is better to keep business and personal transactions separate, according to Garrett.

“Be really strict about what is put on the business card,” she added. “Another good idea is to itemize credit card purchases as they come in, so the end of the year reconciliation turns out better.”

Garrett stated a major challenge for businesses and credit cards is not paying off the full card balance every month because funds can be misallocated and it takes more time at the end of the year to deal with.

“At the end of the year, if the full balance isn’t paid off, the accounts won’t reconcile,” she noted.

Credit cards are also considered deductible just like cash, Garrett mentioned. 

“If a credit card payment is due in January but most of the transactions are from December, those charges can’t be deducted,” stated Garrett. “Charges need to be entered into QuickBooks as they happen so they go into the right accounts and can be deducted in the proper year.”

Clients need to make sure they send all credit card statements, including the last statement with charges from the previous year, and other outside sources for CPAs to back up tax returns, Garrett explained.

“Also, watch for the due dates on card statements and insufficient substantiation. It is on the client to send in all of the necessary information,” she added.

Overall, if small businesses keep their financial books organized and have the paper work to support their books they end up saving money and time for accounting services. 

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In a Feb. 28 webinar by American Agri-Women on financial record keeping, South Central College Agribusiness Instructor Megan Roberts explained that there are several important financial records that producers should keep, both for personal use and for working with their bank.

Income

One of the most basic and crucial financial records that producers need to keep is an income statement.

“This is really the primary statement used to evaluate performance,” said Roberts.

While there is variation from operation to operation, the income statement covers the same amount of time each year.

“Some farms use different fiscal years, but regardless, we’re working with 365 days of income,” she continued.

When looking at the income statement, Roberts explained, “Operating expenses would be related to the everyday tasks on that farm.”

When starting out, Roberts cautioned that income statements may not give a positive view for beginning operators, so it is important to also keep other records, such as a statement of cash flow.

“It’s really scary, but a lot of times, beginning farmers and ranchers are going to see some net losses, particularly in this climate,” noted Roberts.

Cash flow

According to Roberts, the statement of cash flow is useful “if we are going to a banker or trying to sit down and look at if we can make farming in the next year.”

It is an additioal statement that looks at a one-year time period in the future.

When going to discuss farm or ranch operations with the banker, Roberts said, “We should have one that looks at last year, but we should also have one we create at the beginning of the fiscal year for predicting the coming year.”

Statements of cash flow can give bankers insight on an operation before the bank makes lending decisions.

“Sometimes farms have negative cash flows, but their balance sheet looks great,” commented Roberts.

Owner equity

While not often discussed, another important document for farmers and ranchers is the statement of owner equity.

“If I were to say there is one document that is the least discussed, it’s the statement of owner equity,” commented Roberts. “In a nutshell, what this statement looks at is how has the value of our farm or ranch changed throughout the year.”

Part of this information goes into the accounting equation, which looks at the relationship of assets compared to liability plus equity.

She explained that there may be periods of the year where producers have all of their income and that it may not match up with when the most expenses are coming out of the operation, which may look “risky.”

Assets

According to Roberts, “Assets are items used in the production of farm products. They are the things used to create the product of our farm.”

Assets can be divided into the categories of current and non-current, which can be complicated to determine.

“Assets can be tricky to completely understand. There are some really great resources online that can help us with determining what kind of asset something is,” she said.

Roberts defined current assets as items that will be on the farm or ranch for less than a year.

“Current assets are things like feed and any of our finishing livestock. Those are all short-term assets,” continued Roberts.

Intermediate assets are items that have an expected lifespan of one to seven years.

“That doesn’t mean that they won’t last longer or shorter than one to seven years, but that’s what is expected,” she stressed. “Things like tractors and equipment typically fall into intermediate assets.”

“Long-term assets are things that are generally structures or land. All of our farmland and pastureland is long-term,” commented Roberts.

Liabilities

Roberts explained that liabilities are any monetary or other value that is owed to a third party.

“It’s not just money that we owe to a bank,” she continued. “If we are working with someone, that’s still a liability that needs to be on our balance sheet.”

Similar to assets, Roberts commented that there are different types of liabilities.

“Just like assets, we can look at liabilities in terms of current, so things we have to pay back in the next year,” said Roberts, “and then we have non-current, where there are intermediate and long-term liabilities.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Though agriculture organizations have been reluctant to make changes for the formulas used to calculate ag land values, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Director Jim Magagna noted that it might be prudent to consider adjustments.

“The formula for ag land valuation has served us well, and all of the ag industry groups have been reluctant to tweak it,” he said. “Most significantly, ag valuation for tax purposes is on a very steep incline.”

Irrigated cropland values are scheduled to increase 37.5 percent, non-irrigated cropland may increase 23 percent, and rangeland is set to increase 14 percent due to inflated prices for commodities used to calculate land values.

“The formula to calculate land values involves the price of commodities – alfalfa for irrigated lands, wheat in the case of dryland farming and rental rates in the case of rangeland,” Magagna explained, noting that the value of those commodities over the prior five years is used in a weighted average.

Because of high prices in 2013, the value of ag lands will increase significantly this year.

“If we look at ag land valuation in Wyoming compared to our neighboring states, we are lucky,” he continued. “We’ve fought hard to get what we have today, but there has been a call from our members saying we should put a cap or make efforts so the values can’t go up as rapidly.”

Wyoming Farm Bureau passed a resolution at their annual convention to support a five percent cap on property cap increases, and Magagna noted that if the level were to be capped on the upper end, it needs a lower cap as well.

“I think getting a 15 percent cap increase in place might be realistic,” he said. “Our policy has always been that we let the formula continue to work, but if the members feel the issue ought to be addressed, we can look at an array of alternatives and potential legislation in 2015.”
Nuckolls, WSGA Region One vice president, commented, “We need to recognize the livestock industry is getting a double whammy. Our feed costs are through the roof, and then we have to pay the big increase in our taxes.”

Because of increases in commodity prices, as well as overall uncertainty in the ag industry over the past 10 years, WSGA members felt that a directive should be issued to the organization’s leadership to explore options to address extreme fluctuation in tax valuation of land. 

The directive, reading, “WSGA urges that an effort be made to address the extreme fluctuation in agricultural land assessed valuation due to commodity prices,” was passed by the organization’s full membership on Dec. 4.

“Under this directive, we are not asking for anything specific,” Magagna said. “Rather, we are saying we should be engaged in the process.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – “We have a lot going on,” said Mike Adams of AgriTalk at the 2013 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum. “These are amazing times.”

With agriculture continuing to change and adapt, Adams noted that despite these changes in agriculture, there will always be a new set of challenges.

Farmers have hoped for higher prices for a number of years, and Adams noted that now that these prices are a reality, a whole new set of problems exist.

“It reminds me of they saying, ‘Now that I have all the cards in my hand, everybody wants to play chess,’” he commented. “So we are here to get a keen insight into how we manage these risks, how we use the tools available to move forward in agriculture.”

“When companies can manage risk, a nation’s economic health is helped when companies can stay afloat, even in the most turbulent of times,” CME Group Chief Operating Officer Bryan Durkin said, “and the past year was a turbulent year for many food producers.”

Changing markets

Durkin noted that since it’s foundation over 150 years ago, the marketplace is still continually changing.

“Our markets in Chicago were formed 150 years ago because farmers needed a central place to manage their risk of doing business, a place to guard against wild price fluctuations and demand for their product,” Durkin said. “We have a special tie to agriculture in our company’s history, and it's embedded in our culture.”

The efficient and transparent markets that provide farmers the opportunity to protect against risk are essential. 

“Over time, farmers and agribusiness have increasingly used our markets to manage risks,” he said. “We don’t have to look far to see how this benefits the agricultural business sector.”

Managing risk

CME Group, he noted, also plays a crucial role in helping companies manage prices, as well, which allows customers to pay lower costs in the grocery story.

“Farmers, ranchers and grain elevators look to exchanges like ours to serve as a safety net, a way to lock in a price for their product so they can increase their gains and limit losses to continue planting the next year,” Durkin added.

He noted that business cannot function without fair, reliable and trustworthy markets, and the environment of trading is highly impacted by the economic regulatory environment of today, coupled with technological changes and reduced trust in the financial industry. 

“We’ve seen market participants react to the current situation in financial markets by deleveraging positions and trying to free up capital, seen in lower trading volumes across equity and commodity markets in 2012 – which is four years after the financial collapse,” he said. “Market users must have the confidence that the financial industry is improving and adapting, becoming more efficient and reliable.”

Electronic trading

New macroeconomic trends, noted Durkin, include electronic trading.

“Market participants, through accessibility of our platform in over 150 countries, see increased vibrancy, liquidity and depth of the markets,” he explained.

The news in electronic trading tends to revolve around dramatic price drops and a rise in high frequency trading.

“What’s most important, regardless of the platform, is a complete market ecosystem that includes soundness, safety and liquidity, integrity and transparency,” Durkin said.

Role of American farmer

“The role of the American farmer has changed in recent years, and the epicenter of the global economic growth is shifting from developed nations to emerging economies whose middle class provides for American-produced economies,” said Durkin.

Risk management by American farmers, he explained, has the ability to reduce food costs on grocery store shelves. Regardless, drought has consequences for food security, not only in the U.S., but also around the world.

“The USDA estimates that food prices will rise three to four percent this year alone,” he said, “and more for the meat and dairy product industries.”

Steady increases are also predicted in the United Nation’s Global Food Price index.

The world food environment will also ask U.S. farmers to contribute more.

“Technology, infrastructure and access to capital will play a major role to answer the demand for higher yield and increased productivity, but risk management underpins all of it,” Durkin commented. “Risk management is a critical resources farmers have relied on for over 150 years.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..