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Animal Rights

The slide depicted two photos. One was of caged laying hens, and the other was a small birdcage containing two parrots. The message was obvious – why do many members of the public oppose the quality of life of these laying hens, but see no problem with the quality of life of these parrots? 

Candace Croney, associate professor of animal behavior and well-being in the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University, spoke to livestock producers about the role ethics play in current farm animal welfare debates. 

As Croney discussed the slide depicting the birds, she addressed the problems regarding animal welfare. 

Top of the mind

“Looking at these two photos, many people see no problem with the level of inconsistency in their thought process,” she said. “People don’t like to look at what they are doing in their own backyard. It is much easier to tell someone else how they should be doing things. When we think about animal welfare, everyone has a different idea of what that means.”

Livestock producers and consumers agree they want food that is safe, palatable, affordable and accessible. However, some consumers question the methods by which they get their food. This makes a huge division between rural and urban-surburban people on animal welfare and the need to regulate it. 

“Animal welfare is not a ‘top of the mind’ issue,” Croney said. “Most people do not wake up in the morning and their first thought is animal welfare.”

“However, when negative things happen or we have a negative story in the media regarding animal welfare, people’s attention becomes quickly drawn to the issue. They start to think about it, and they change their personal behavior,” she said.

Views

“Everyone agrees it is our moral obligation to do right for the animals under our care,” Croney continued. “But, what does it mean to ‘do right’ by our animals? This has been a big debate that has animal rights activists tapping into the public and trying to force them to form an opinion on these issues.”

“They are also using their influence to impact policy regarding animal welfare,” she said.

Individuals view animal welfare differently. 

For many, it is providing good animal husbandry and taking care of the physical needs of animals. 

However, others feel the biological and behavioral needs of the animal should also be considered. 

“To farmers, animal welfare means providing food, water and shelter,” Croney said. “Consumers know farmers are already doing these things, so they would also like to see animals living a natural life and having a quick death.”

Unfortunately, many consumers think raising animals naturally is like Old McDonald’s Farm, where the animals are all together, and the hens are scratching and pecking in the farmyard, Croney said. 

“This isn’t realistic for farmers who are expected to feed a population that is growing exponentially,” she added.

Influencing consumers 

Animal activists are successfully influencing the consumer’s view of animal welfare by appealing to the core values people believe in, like compassion, justice, fairness and freedom, the scientist said. 

The activists also pick issues that are easily understood by consumers, like housing, handling and pain, and develop modest appeals for change by adopting high moral ground or using religion. 

As an example, Croney referred to farrowing crates to contain sows. 

“The activists say, ‘Can’t we give this pig just a little more room to turn around?’ which sounds completely reasonable,” she explained. “The consumer, who lives in the city, doesn’t understand how a sow behaves. They don’t understand it is not that easy. Their opinion is, ‘What’s the problem? Just do it.’”

Disconnect

More people are becoming disconnected with animal agriculture as they move into urban areas. Their contact with animals is through pets, zoos and mass media, Croney said. 

“More people are thinking about animals in human terms,” she explained. “We don’t see animal welfare conversations happening in developing countries where people are still struggling to put food on the table. In the United States, the way many people think about their companion animals starts to color how they think food animals should be treated,” she said. 

Animal agriculture needs to do a better job reaching consumers through Extension, outreach groups, teachers and education. 

“People not connected to the farm are interested in what goes on at the farm,” she said. “Even though producers are busy, they should take the time to open their doors and show others what they do and why and how they do it.” 

Costly issue

“It is more expensive to ignore animal welfare issues than to address them,” Croney continued. “If we don’t address these issues, we will get left behind, and we can’t afford that.” 

“If there is anything done on the farm that causes pain and can be filmed, be sure we can explain why it is necessary and what is being done to control that pain,” she added. “When something bad happens that has to do with animal welfare, address that it was bad and be sure people understand we don’t do that.”

Producers must take the time to explain what they do to protect the welfare of animals and take the moral high ground in dealing with welfare issues.

Most of all, Croney encouraged producers to be their own voice and not let others, like activists groups, speak for them. 

“Make sure people know no one is more concerned about our animals than us, and that we are committed to their health and welfare,” she said. 

“Develop a statement committed to animal welfare and put it out there where people will read it,” Croney recommended. “Actions speak louder than words, but words can be very effective when people don’t know us or what we do.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SIDEBAR:
Responding to concerns

“Many times, agriculture’s response on housing issues is, ‘change isn’t really necessary, and then we go on to respond with food safety, nutrition, affordability, food access and sometimes environmental stewardship explanations that don’t really address the question at hand,” Candace Croney, associate professor of animal behavior and well-being in the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University, stated. “We are being challenged on ‘animal’ welfare and responding with food safety, which just upsets the consumer.” 

In addressing issues, she noted that producers must be up-front, honest and directly answer the question. Responding with answers related to other aspects of production is frustrating for consumers.

“We need to address each issue instead of being like politicians at a political debate who give canned answers to issues they are challenged about,” she continued. “When we do this, it makes consumers think there is a reason we are not answering the question.”

“Instead, we need to explain to consumers there are people going hungry in this country, and that requires us to maximize the use of land and space to meet people’s food needs,” she continued. “We also need to mention that it requires us to grow and finish a lot of animals quickly.”

“In the case of sows, we need to show the public how they are fed and that they are housed in a way to protect workers and other animals,” she said. 

While telling our story, Croney encouraged producers to be quick and to the point.

“The attention span of the American public regarding these issues is about two minutes, so we need to develop a quick and effective way to address these concerns,” she said.


On Oct. 29, United States District Judge Scott Skavdahl released his decision on the final portion of Wyoming’s hotly contested trespass to collect data law.

Skavdahl’s decision concluded, “The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech in this case leads the Court to find Wyoming statutes 6-3-414(c) and 40-27-101(c) are facially unconstitutional.” 

After the ruling, Western Watersheds Project claims, “A federal court judge overturned and permanently blocked Wyoming’s bad laws that sought to prevent the public from accessing and documenting land and land use decisions in the state by imposing civil and criminal penalties.”

While environmental groups publicized a loss for the State of Wyoming, Wyoming Senior Assistant Attorney General Erik Petersen clarifies, “We prevailed with two sections of the law in district court 18 months ago. The only part of the trespass to collect data law that was struck down is subsection C.” 

Into the details

Petersen says it’s easiest to understand Skavdahl’s latest ruling by looking at the background of the law.

In 2015, the Wyoming Legislature passed a set of laws that would make the collection of resource data from private lands illegal. The laws also made it illegal to cross private land to reach public land for the purpose of collecting resource data.

“This law has three provisions in subsection A, B and C,” he explains. “Subsections A and B relate to the collection of resource data from private property. One subsection relates to intent, and one relates to the actual collection of data.”

After Western Watersheds Project, the National Press Photographers Association and Natural Resources Defense Council contested the law, the District Court of Wyoming ruled against the groups on all three subsections. Then, the groups appealed the decision of the District Court of Wyoming only on subsection C of the law.

In September 2017, the 10th Circuit Court ruled unanimously on the appeal, reversing the District Court of Wyoming’s decision – again, only on subsection C. The 10th Circuit Court also remanded the case to Judge Scott Skavdahl for further action. 

The Oct. 29 ruling reflects Judge Skavdahl’s final decision on subsection C of Wyoming’s law regarding trespass to collect data.

“If someone goes and collects data from private property without permission, that is still illegal,” Peterson emphasizes. “These laws are alive, on the books and will remain there unless the Wyoming Legislature takes action on them. We prevailed with respect to the suit against these laws in the District Court of Wyoming 18 months ago.”

Affected provisions

Skavdahl’s latest decision, Petersen comments, relates to subsection C, which applied to people who crossed private property to collect data on public lands. 

“Subsection C both criminalized and imposed civil penalties for people who cross private property without permission to access adjacent property to collect resource data,” he explains. “This law has been struck down.” 

Ultimately, this portion of the law was the one that caused the most concern. 

“The thought was if a person inadvertently trespasses on private land on their way to public land, they would find to be committing a crime unwittingly,” Petersen explains. “However, folks are still not allowed to go onto private property to collect resource data.”

Specifically, Skavdahl struck down the law on the grounds of infringement of the Freedom of Speech.

“The government has not proven a strengthening of the state’s trespass laws would not accomplish the same goals without infringing on protected speech,” he wrote in his decision.

“There is simply no plausible reason for the specific curtailment of speech in the statutes beyond a clear attempt to punish individuals for engaging in protected speech that at least some find unpleasant,” Skavdahl added. “The laws are not narrowly tailored and fail strict scrutiny.”

Other portions of the law

Petersen also mentions that there are numerous other parts of the law that also stand. 

“Provisions of the law that say resource data collected in violation of the law will be expunged from the record,” he explains, noting that both state and federal agencies cannot use illegally collected data in decision making. “All of the ancillary stuff related to the trespass laws is still alive and on the books.”

“My encouragement to people is, under our general trespass statutes, it's still illegal for people to trespass,” says Bobbie Frank, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts executive director. “Regardless, if landowners are concerned of people trespassing, then we have to notice them and say, you're not allowed on. Trespassing is still illegal.” 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“The most valued product from the lamb industry is the meat product produced,” comments Warrie Means of the University of Wyoming.

With margins across the agriculture industry continually tight, Means says fabrication of the carcass has become increasingly important, but he looks at the history of meat fabrication, as well as recent trends in the industry, to point out opportunities for increasing value.

A look back

Means notes there are three secrets to cutting meat. 

“The first secret is to always use a sharp knife,” he says. “The second secret is to cut the little pieces away from the big pieces first.”

Means asks, “Why do we call chops, chops, instead of steaks? Because they are chopped.” 

“Once upon a time, before electricity, we didn’t have electric band saws,” he says. “If it could be chopped, like pork or lamb, they were called chops. If it had to be sawed with a hand saw, it was called a steak.”

In general, Means also explains that the middle meats – those found in the center of the animal – are most valuable because they are most tender.

“In general, moving from the center of the animal to the extremities, there is more connective tissue, resulting in a more tender cut, which increases value,” Means says, noting that there is less bone and less waste, as well. 

Basic fabrication

“There are two things we need to learn when we fabricate cuts – the muscles and the bones,” Means explains. “Whether it’s beef, lamb, poultry or pork, the muscles and bones are conserved. We have all the same bones and all the same muscles.” 

The primal cuts are the first cuts made from the carcass, including the shoulder, rib, loin and leg. 

“It wasn’t that long ago that we would sell lamb as primal cuts to the grocery stores,” Means explains. “They are hard to sell.” 

However, from the shoulder, a variety of cuts can be developed that are more useable for the consumer and market better depending on the time of year. 

“Roasts might not sell well in mid-summer,” Means comments.

Basic fabrication 

Means explains the the arm chop comes from the shoulder primal. It can be cut into chops, but he says, “Some consumers don’t want the bone.” 

Blade chops include the scapula, and the foreshanks of the lamb can also be very good, according to Means, who recommended cooking them slow in a cast-iron pot with Mediterranean spices. 

“The foreshanks is a very old cut that is coming back into fashion,” he explains.

Lambs have 13 and sometimes 14 ribs. However, the rack of ribs only includes eight ribs, because one rib is on the loin and four are on the shoulder. 

“We have rib chops and loin chops,” Means says. “The tenderloin lays on the inside of the carcass. It is a very tender muscle that doesn’t have a lot of connected tissue.” 

The tenderloin is often fabricated into lamb chops. 

Fabrication innovation

Innovation in meat fabrication includes cuts like the lamb neck and volcano shank, which introduce unique, flavorful options for restaurants to utilize and entice customers to try lamb. 

Starting at the neck, Means says lamb neck is becoming more common in the culinary industry, particularly when slow roasted whole in the oven. 

“They become very flavorful and tender,” he explains, noting restaurants are also able to charge between $30 and $50. “This is an example of a product that has been upgraded, which is good for the lamb industry.” 

The volcano shank includes is cut such that the marrow is visible.

“If we take six of these, put them on half of a baking sheet and roast them, when the marrow heats up, it bubbles out like a volcano,” Means explains. “It’s very flavorful and, like the neck, is a more modern cut that we can sell in the restaurant for $30.”

He adds, “We used to grind this part of the lamb.”

Increasing value

When looking to increase value in the lamb, Means says there is a balancing act.

He explains, “We can make some pretty cute cuts, but it takes a lot of labor.”

Today, consumers don’t want large cuts or huge cooking times, so the industry must strive for smaller pieces of meat. 

As an example, leg of lamb can be butterflied, or rib chops can be French-cut, both creating nice cuts. 

When compared to other proteins, such as beef, Means notes individual muscle cuts, such as the flat iron steak, are isolated, but in lamb, he says they are far too small to make it worth the labor. 

“All the muscles are there, but they’re just too small,” he says. “In the plant, we often see that a cut is fabricated one week, but six months later, it isn’t anymore. It’s because of labor.”

“As we get rid of fat and create new cuts, we can make nicer portions of meat, but it takes more labor,” Means adds. “We have to assess what the cost and benefit is to make these cuts.”

Means spoke during the 2018 Wyoming Wool Growers Association Mid-Year Meeting, held in Laramie at the University of Wyoming in early August 2018. 

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..

Worland – With a variety of options for  diversifying farms and ranches in Wyoming to add income potential, John Hewlett of University of Wyoming (UW) Extension encourages producers to ask whether the option might work financially.

“If we find an option for diversification we think is good, the next question to ask is if it might work financially,” Hewlett said. “There are a series of tools that can help us walk through to determine if a different crop or enterprise might help our operation.”

Hewlett cited RightRisk.org as a website with a series of tools that provide decision-making frameworks to explore the profitability of enterprise alternatives.

Hewlett continued, “We need to think about what we are trying to accomplish. Some people cite the idea that they want to increase profitability, but we need to make sure it can work first.”

Feasibility

The first step in determining whether an alternative crop is an option for the operation is feasible, Hewlett said. 

“We need to look at if something would actually work,” he said.

In general, an enterprise is an activity one engages in to generate one or more products for sale. An enterprise could be corn or sugarbeet production or sheep production. 

“One way to diversify is to think about what we can be doing that has more than one output to sell,” Hewlett explained. “Those products should be considered economically as they stand on their own.” 

Within the operation

While new enterprises need to be analyzed separately from what is currently occurring on a farm or ranch operation, Hewlett encouraged producers to be cognizant of how the enterprise would fit in with current business activities.

“When we start something new, it might have implications on what we already do,” he said. “It’s good to ask if it would fit, not only financially but also in terms of labor and risk.” 

For example, introducing a spring lambing enterprise to a spring calving operation may spread already limited resources even thinner, which would be detrimental overall. 

“I challenge producers to also think about if it is a competitive enterprise,” he said. “Cow/calf and sheep enterprises can be competitive in terms of labor resources. We can only introduce so much competition before our production suffers.”

However, the same enterprises may be complementary in the right situation. 

“A traditional crop grower might have a little free time in the spring, so adding sheep or cow/calf pairs might help them to engage in a new activity with available time,” he said.

Outside factors

Another factor for producers to consider, particularly if they work with a banker or lender, is whether or not they can obtain financing for alternative enterprises. 

“We need to make sure our lender is willing to walk down this path with us,” Hewlett said. “We might be looking for more resources, and if we want to add a dimension to the operation, we need to generate dollars of return.” 

“We can’t do this without our lender on board,” he said.

Hewlett also noted underutilized full-time employees or resources or land that may be suited for another use outside of its current use may provide opportunities. 

“We have to think about what we want to get involved in because success depends on our objectives,” he said. “There are a lot of details, and we have to think about them all.”

Considerations

“There are a lot of details to consider that go beyond ‘can we grow it?’” Hewlett said.

For example, marketing must be considered before embarking on alternative enterprises. If no buyers or markets are available for a particular product, the enterprise will be much more difficult.

“Another component we have to think about is our personality traits,” he explained. “A lot of us are involved in ag because we don’t necessarily like to deal with people, but if part of a new enterprise involves standing at the farmers’ market and selling our product, that might not work out like we hope it will.”

Hewlett challenged producers to seriously consider their level of commitment, their background and their interests. 

“We also have to think about the attributes of the product,” Hewlett said, explaining that some products, such as quinoa, can be grown conventionally, but there is no market for convention quinoa. “We have to think about whether organic or some kind of other attribute is preferred in the product we choose.”

Analysis

In terms of business planning, Hewlett told producers to conduct a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). 

“Our analysis should include internal factors, as well as external factors, to look at how well the idea stands up compared to other activities,” he said. “We also have to think about the risk we are taking and how we can spread out that risk.”

Hewlett continued, “In some cases, adding diversification might enhance our risk portfolio, so we have to carefully and deliberately consider alternative enterprises.”

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..

Union Wireless announced on Feb. 26 the company will expand the footprint of its fiber optic network an additional 125-miles from I-80 to Pinedale in 2018. 

The route will go through the communities of Granger, Opal, La Barge, Big Piney and Daniel, initially serving Union’s towers and anchor tenants.  The enlarged fiber optic system will complement the company’s extensive 550 miles of recently installed fiber that already provides service to cities and towns along the major traffic corridors throughout the state.  

Fiber has become critical to ensuring a dependable and seamless broadband wireless network in the cities and along the interstate, as well as the underserved rural areas of the American West.   

Fiber and high-speed data services are critical to providing the services needed to fuel an expanding economy. Without fiber, many businesses won’t even consider relocating to Wyoming.  

“Union Wireless is committed to investing millions of dollars in the rural areas of Wyoming and the West to provide communities with the resources needed to join the modern economy,” noted Brian Woody, Union Wireless Chief Customer Relations Officer.  “This is an investment that the big wireless carriers to date simply have not made.”

The extension of the fiber will cost more than $5 million and represents almost one-quarter of Union’s annual capital investment in Wyoming, yet it is only one of the many fiber optic route expansions Union has planned for 2018. This new segment is expected to be completed and in service by the end of 2018.