UW Economists offer strategy for cattle producers facing brucellosis risk

One red, one black calf with yellow ear tags stand in field with hay feeder, trees, hills in back.
For producers considering a switch to stockers, there has been little guidance on how to transition the operation.

Imagine this: Your cattle contract brucellosis from infected elk. The cows abort their calves. When the federal government quarantines the herd of 400 for a year, you face costs up to $143,000. Not only are your profits from the cow-calf-yearling operation wiped out, your neighbor’s are too, as all potentially affected animals are quarantined until infected animals are identified and culled.

This threat brought cattle producers to the table with a team of University of Wyoming agricultural economists and other experts in 2013 in Worland, Wyoming. The researchers were asked to investigate the economics associated with different types of cattle operations and their ultimate profitability for producers in the region.

The result is “Economics of Transitioning from a Cow-Calf-Yearling Operation to a Stocker Operation as a Potential Strategy to Address Brucellosis Risk in Northwestern Wyoming.” The new publication is available as a free download from UW Extension at http://bit.ly/stockeroperation.

The risk of contracting the disease is greatest in the Greater Yellowstone Area of northwestern Wyoming where brucellosis is endemic in wild elk and bison populations. The switch to stockers eliminates this risk completely, says Christopher Bastian, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and one of the publication’s authors.

Intact breeding females are replaced with stocker cattle. Stockers are males or females purchased in spring, fed and maintained until they reach a target weight, then sold. Steers and spayed heifers in a stocker operation cannot spread the disease to other animals.

The authors acknowledge the decision to switch doesn’t come easy. Analyses indicate the cow-calf-yearling operation is generally more profitable than the stocker operation. Brucellosis is the kicker.

“If you think you are at high risk of contracting brucellosis, it would only take one quarantine to negate the advantage of staying in a cow-calf-yearling operation rather than transitioning to stockers,” says Bastian.

This publication offers a starting point for producers in the Greater Yellowstone Area looking at alternative management strategies.

“No analyses to our knowledge have investigated the transition itself,” the authors explain. “Thus, for producers considering a switch to stockers, there has been little guidance on the economics of how best to transition to such an enterprise.”

Authors Shane Ruff, farm management specialist for the Kansas Farm Management Association and former graduate research assistant at UW; Bastian; Dannele Peck, director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub and adjunct associate professor, UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; and Walt E. Cook, assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Sciences, Texas A&M University offer comprehensive analyses for one-year and eight-year transitions, as well as remaining a cow-calf-yearling operation.

Here are some of their conclusions:

  • More total income could be available from the cow-calf-yearling operation if a producer is staying in the cattle business more than 20 years.
  • More total income could be available from the eight-year transition if a producer is staying in the cattle business 20 years or less.
  • A producer must consider the risks of infection versus profitability and income variability.
  • The switch to stockers (other than getting out of the cattle business altogether) is the only 100-percent effective strategy to avoid the costs associated with quarantine.

The guide is one of many free publications available at  bit.ly/UWEpubs, covering brucellosis, ranch budgets, finances and profitability and cattle markets and economics.

For more information, contact Bastian at (307) 766-4377 or bastian@uwyo.edu.

Donna Nelson receives UW Extension Administrative Professional of the Year Award

Donna Nelson, left, receives the 2017 UW Extension Administrative Professional of the Year Award from extension associate director Mary Kay Wardlaw.

Donna Nelson in the Johnson County extension office received the 2017 UW Extension Administrative Professional of the Year Award Thursday, September 21, during the group’s ESCAPE training conference in Cheyenne.

Nelson is credited with efficiently and professionally operating the extension office and keeping 4-H’ers, their parents, and volunteers up-to-date with the program’s operations and schedules.

“I am honored to receive recognition for doing a job I love,” says Nelson, who grew up on a Johnson County ranch. “Extension is my family.”

Nelson also works shifts for the local ambulance service on her days off.

Attendees at the Cheyenne training filled more than 160 bags for the homeless with items such as socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, water bottles and non-perishable food items. Some of the bags were taken back to attendee home counties for the homeless, and the other bags will be donated to a homeless ministry in Cheyenne, according to a member of the administrative assistants.

UW Extension bulletin explains grass-legume mixtures boost forage

Grass-legume mixtures benefit forage productivity, quality and stand persistence, according to a new bulletin from the University of Wyoming Extension.

Extension forage specialist Anowar Islam

The results are from three years of tests at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle, said extension forage specialist Anowar Islam, one of the authors.

At least 25 percent legumes in a mixed stand can produce higher yield and quality than monoculture alfalfa and nitrogen fertilized grasses, he said. A 50-50 percent mixture would be the optimum seeding proportion of meadow bromegrass and alfalfa under Wyoming conditions.

The bulletin, “Grass-legume mixtures improve forage yield, quality, stand persistence,” B-1309, is available for viewing and free download by going towww.uwyo.edu/uwe and clicking on Find a Publication.  Type the title or number in the search field. The bulletin is available in pdf, HTML or ePub formats.

 

UW Extension seeks public participation in health care survey

Juliet Daniels

Cowboy State residents can submit their health care concerns in an online survey by the University of Wyoming Extension and have them be part of discussions and decisions across Wyoming.

The anonymous short survey at bit.ly/wyohealthsurvey is an opportunity to share thoughts on health care quality and availability in Wyoming communities, said Juliet Daniels, an extension community development educator. No identifying information is collected.

Survey responses are requested by Friday, Oct. 13.

Concerns gathered in the survey will be used to develop discussion guides for UW Extension’s Community Conversations Wyoming (CCW) project.

Kimberly Chapman

“This project is about bringing people together to explore complex community issues and discover ways to move forward that meet community needs,” she said.

Daniels said CCW engages citizens in the work of their communities through leadership, service and public dialogue on issues of critical importance.

For more information, contact CCW coordinators Daniels in Cheyenne at 307-633-4383, or fellow extension educator Kimberly Chapman in Evanston at 307-783-0570.

New guide provides tools for ranchers, others in sage-grouse country

Nine brown birds in green field, red hillside in back.
Young sage-grouse congregate along an irrigation ditch in a freshly cut hay field. Photo: Leanne Correll

According to its authors, Landowner Guide to Sage-grouse Conservation in Wyoming: A Practical Guide for Land Owners and Managers is meant to enhance understanding and conservation of sage-grouse in Wyoming.

The new guide, which provides tools and resources, is available as a free download from University of Wyoming Extension at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

“It condenses scientific findings into a practical format that is easy to use and understand,” said Derek Scasta, a UW Extension range specialist and co-author.

In 70 compact pages, the guide covers basic sage-grouse biology, life stages, habitat needs, predator impacts, conservation planning and sagebrush monitoring.

More than 40 original Wyoming photographs and seven state-level maps illustrate the lives of these birds that coexist with cattle, other livestock and approximately 350 vertebrate wildlife species, including songbirds and small mammals.

Full-color photos show males in fall mating displays, the sagebrush shape that provides winter cover for nesting females, and the broadleaf flowering plants (forbs)  and insects that provide protein-rich food for chicks in spring. A wire mesh escape ramp in a livestock tank is presented as a simple alteration to reduce sage-grouse drowning.

“Sagebrush ecosystems are complex, and efforts to conserve sage-grouse are multifaceted,” said lead author and photographer Leanne Correll.

Correll heads an agriculture and natural resources consulting business in Saratoga and earned a master’s degree in rangeland ecology and watershed management from UW in 2017.

Wyoming is a sage-grouse stronghold, encompassing almost a quarter of the range-wide habitat and 37 percent of known male populations – more than any other state.

“Those who own or manage sage-grouse habitat play a critical role in conserving this umbrella species in Wyoming and the West,” said Correll. “They were the catalyst for developing this guide.”

Landowner Guide to Sage-grouse Conservation in Wyoming co-authors with Correll are Rebecca Burton and University of Wyoming professors Scasta and Jeffrey Beck.

Contributing support and expertise were local ranchers and conservation experts, other UW faculty members, and representatives of county, state, and federal agencies, including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The guide is one of many free publications available at  bit.ly/UWEpubs, covering sage-grouse, sagebrush, grasslands, grazing, conservation, and ranch economics.

For more information, contact Scasta at (307) 766-2337 or jscasta@uwyo.edu.