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Ranchers Exit Winter Calving for Greener Pastures

Cost savings, easier workload, better animal and rancher health are driving a shift to calve with nature in South Dakota.

As ranchers tire of animal loss and human stress due to calving during extreme March and April weather, winter calving traditions are being re-examined in South Dakota. Instead, May and June calving is becoming a valuable management tool of choice.

More ranchers are taking the calving with nature to heart. Heifers and cows do more of the work by calving during May and June. This change requires less labor, feed and vet bills while delivering more live calves born healthier on green grass. This late May timing mirrors deer giving birth to fawns when conditions are best for their survival.

Blaalid loves checking cows and calves in May to learn what's going on in your grass, what plants the animals are targeting and how pastures are holding up.

Quality of life for cow, calf and rancher, along with improved ranch profitability, are the most significant reasons these ranchers push calving later.

Blizzards change mindsets

Rancher Mike Blaalid had always calved in early April on the J & M Ranch near Mitchell, SD. But back-to-back April blizzards in 2018 and 2019 ended his belief in safe mid-April calving. “When I got 12 inches of snow on April 15th, that was the last straw for me—after that, pushing calving dates back two weeks wasn’t a big deal.

“In 2021, I started calving on May 3. We had slow grass growth early due to cool weather, but it really worked out well timing it with nature. As a result, I think the cattle stay in a little better shape, and I don’t have to feed as much in the winter,” he adds.

Blaalid likes the easier maintenance of the herd, where the animals spend two to four weeks on grass before they start calving. “I can meet some of my grass goals of grazing and knocking back cool-season invasive grasses, and the cows can have healthier calves on green grass. It just really works for me, and it’s less stress on everybody.”

Cost savings beats tradition

Quinn, SD rancher Pat Guptill believes building healthy rangeland soil combined with later calving leads to better economics and the potential for year-around grazing.

“Since 80% of the cost to wean a calf is winter feed costs, we cut our feed costs almost in half by shifting to late-May calving, when the deer are giving birth in our area,” Guptill says. “When I last studied my costs seven years ago, it cost us just under $450 to wean per calf. At that time, the average cost to wean a calf in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming was $860.”

Guptill realized his costs and labor dropped dramatically when he stopped starting the tractor every day from November to April. When he shifted from March to May calving, his diesel fuel use dropped from 1,200 to 300 gallons. “All I do now is roll a bale of hay out every other day or every third day, so they get about 7 to 12 lbs. of hay, given my year-round grazing strategy,” he says. “That provides enough protein to keep them going and help digest grass better.”

Mike Blaalid - J&M Ranch, Mitchell SD

March calving expense

Ranchers understand the importance of high-quality feed in winter to maintain a cow’s body condition score (BCS) of 5.5 to 6 to calve in March and rebreed within 55 days. “That’s why March calving is expensive,” Guptill adds. “For our ranch, we wean in March with cows at a BCS of 4 to 4.5. Then the cows gain weight from grazing March through mid-May. By May 20, our cows have a BCS of 6 without buying any feed. Mother Nature feeds them across every acre of my ranch.”

Adding some cover crop grazing to his pasture mix helps Blaalid supply more nutrients to the cattle and build soil health.

Guptill recommends using a sharp pencil on the amount of savings possible, rather than simply ranching by the winter calving tradition. “Since we can’t make our calves worth more, we must raise calves with fewer inputs. And the fastest way we can do that is to calve later in the season and cut your feed costs. That takes a lot of stress off the family and your life as well,” he says.

Calf size isn’t the main concern with Guptill. “You don’t have to have that big March calf. My May calves are always lighter, but I’m selling more pounds of beef because I don’t lose as many calves. March blizzards not only cause greater calf loss during calving, but the added stress on those that survive also creates problems for a long time in the animals.”

Blaalid agrees and actually culls cows to achieve smaller framed animals that perform better on grass. “I’m okay with some smaller birth weight calves in the spring because it’s a little easier on everybody. We want calm cattle that move easily and cull animals with feisty attitudes.”

Mitchell, SD rancher Mike Blaalid strives for smaller framed, calmer animals that perform better on grass. “I'm okay with smaller birth weight calves in the spring because it's a little easier on everybody.”

Calf and grass health benefits

Vet bills are another cost savings. Blaalid says they’re not treating as many animals. “Having calves on fresh green grass starts them off on the right foot and helps keep them healthy and gaining weight all grazing season. We don’t have to do much to the calves after they’re born in May.”

Guptill adds that they used to spend $2,500 a year doctoring cattle for a 125-cow herd on large pastures. “Today, even with a ranch that ranges from 150 to 300 cows, our vet bill dropped to less than $50 a year. In 2021 it was less than $25.”

Calving in May gives these ranchers a better sense of pasture health, too. Checking calves in May provides an excellent chance to learn what’s going on in your grass, what plants the animals are targeting and how pastures are holding up, Blaalid says. “We’re working hard to manage the invasive grasses for early grazing benefit while encouraging more native plants through grazing management. And we have added some cover crop grazing to supply more nutrients for the cattle and to build soil health,” he adds.

Mike Blaalid - J&M Ranch, Mitchell SD

Start with a plan

Guptill admits that shifting to calving in sync with nature takes planning and an openness to change and to make mistakes. “If you move your calving date to where it’s supposed to be and cut your haying and feeding in half, you’re going to be able to run 75% of the cows you have right now in a season-long grazing program,” he says. “Find a mentor with experience and figure out how many animals you can graze in 365 days. Then as you gain experience, you’ll be able to run more cows but not double your herd in less than five years.”

Watch other ranchers describe their journey in the video “Calving on Grass: SD Ranchers on the Benefits of Alternative Calving Dates.” Learn more details in this Calving on Grass Q&A and Fact Sheet. And find mentors and listen to ranchers discuss their journey of change in the South Dakota Grassland Coalition’s excellent 25-video series on Alternative Calving Dates.

Mike Blaalid - J&M Ranch, Mitchell SD


Animal Agriculture Alliance: Interactive workshop to teach strategies to “influence the influencers” at 2022 Stakeholders Summit

Early bird registration discounts available through March 9

January 26, 2022 – Steve Lerch, president of Story Arc Consulting and former Google executive, will host an interactive workshop on “Influencing the Influencers” during the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2022 Stakeholders Summit. In this workshop, Lerch will help attendees develop a plan for engaging with key influencers online and in their communities on issues such as animal welfare, sustainability and responsible antibiotic use. Early bird registration rates are available through March 9 at bit.ly/AAA22Summit.

“2022 Summit attendees will have the unique opportunity to come together at our in-person event for several interactive workshops led by expert facilitators,” said Hannah Thompson-Weeman, Alliance vice president, strategic engagement. “In Steve Lerch’s session, attendees will walk away with a plan to reach outside of the agriculture bubble to connect with our target audiences and start changing the minds of the moveable middle.”

Lerch is president and founder of Story Arc Consulting. He’s an award-winning international speaker on topics like innovation, consumer behavior and marketing, as well as a strategy and marketing consultant. Prior to founding Story Arc Consulting, Lerch spent ten years at Google building the digital and marketing strategies for well-known brands like GoPro, respected non-profits like the YMCA, and major branches of the federal government including FEMA and the Bureau of the Census. Lerch also served as an innovation and culture leader at Google, teaching thousands of employees about the strategies and philosophies that drive innovation.

The Alliance’s annual Summit brings together thought leaders in the agriculture and food communities to discuss hot-button issues and out-of-the-box ideas to connect everyone along the food chain, engage influencers and protect the future of animal agriculture. The 2022 event, themed “Come Together for Animal Ag: Be Informed, Be Ready, Be Here,” is scheduled for May 11-12 in Kansas City, Missouri. Preconference webinars will be held in the weeks leading up to the main event. In-person and virtual attendance options are both available.

Farmers and ranchers interested in attending the 2022 Summit are invited to enter the Alliance’s Instagram photo and video contest for the chance to win free registration, a two-night hotel stay, and $300 travel stipend. Share a photo or video of you, your farm or ranch and a caption explaining why it’s important for you to “Be Informed, Be Ready, Be Here” in person in Kansas City. Entries are due by February 7. Full contest details are available at animalagalliance.org/resource/2022-stakeholders-summit-photo-contest/.

Be sure to check the Summit website for the most up-to-date information. You can also follow the hashtag #AAA22 for periodic updates about the event. For general questions about the Summit, please contact summit@animalagalliance.org or call (703) 562-5160.




Guest Opinion: Oppose South Dakota HB 1096, regarding RFID tags

Sometimes as producers we need to step back and ask ourselves what is important to our industry and what is important to our operation. I think a consistent form of official identification for cattle is important to both. Now that we have all experienced a pandemic, we have learned about the necessity of contact tracing to limit the spread of disease. Being able to quickly and accurately identify and limit contact with the disease carriers is important to reducing the number of cases and controlling the impact of a disease. That is true for both humans and livestock.

With the movement of cattle we have in the modern era, we need to have the ability to quickly and efficiently trace cattle’s movement from the location of detection to the point of origin. Being able to trace livestock back through the sale barns to the ranch of origin is nothing new to producers. We currently can trace back cows through brucellosis tag numbers. In South Dakota, the tag numbers are recorded by your veterinarian, sent to the state Animal Industry Board (AIB) where they identify the ranch of origin. The numbers are also recorded at sale barns when cows are sold and information sent to the state office. This system involves the sale barn and vet crew head catching the cows so they can read the number, writing on a piece of paper to be turned in the sale barn vet office to be sent to the AIB office. It has been done in this manner for many years, obviously it must work. But just because it works doesn’t mean that it is the best way of doing it.

We now have the ability to utilize electronic tags that can be read from a distance with the data being stored and transferred electronically to eliminate human record keeping errors. We wouldn’t be storing any data that isn’t already being stored, just storing it in a more accurate and efficient manner. While this technology is not currently used by all producers, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has considered making electronic tags the only acceptable form of official identification system. Last week HB 1096 was introduced into the South Dakota legislature. Essentially, this bill would limit the authority of the Animal Industry Board to establish the type of identification methods required in South Dakota, and it would not allow the use of any state funds to enforce a mandatory electronic ear tag regulation if USDA requires it in the future. If no state funds are used, this would lead to regulation of our local producers shifting from state Animal Industry Board to the federal government. Is that really the direction that we as beef producers want to go or the message that we want to send to consumers?

I am proud to represent an association that recognizes the need for a uniform official identification system and has formed policy clearly to that effect. Whether they keep calf records in a calf book in their pocket or electronically in their phone; or even keep calf records at all, our members see the need for an efficient and accurate official identification system that provides for trace back of animals that takes hours instead of days. Even our members that still use flip phones understand the need and benefits of using technology to track cattle movements and embrace this change instead of delaying it. Please join SD Cattlemen in opposing HB 1096 that would prevent progress and efficiency in the ability to trace back cattle when necessary.

MSU Extension’s Golden Triangle Barley Conference set for Feb. 22 in Conrad

BOZEMAN — The Golden Triangle Barley Conference, a triennial event featuring updates about the barley industry, will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 22, in Conrad. The event is hosted by Montana State University Extension and its partners and will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pondera Shooting Sports Complex, 972 Granite Road. Check-in will begin at 8 a.m.

Speakers from MSU will include Pat Carr from the Central Agricultural Research Center in Moccasin, barley breeder Jamie Sherman with the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, and Justin Vetch from the Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center in Conrad. Carr will present on successful crop rotations using barley; Sherman will provide an update on barley varieties and research; and Vetch will discuss research results on barley sprouting.

In addition, representatives from the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee will update producers on North American barley supply and demand, while representatives from the U.S. Grains Council will cover current trade and recent dynamics of U.S. grains. Arin Peters from NOAA will provide a weather outlook. Cort Jensen, attorney for the Montana Department of Agriculture, will cover a variety of topics, including knowing business partners, contract law and liabilities, contract language and recent industry changes and concerns.

The conference will conclude with a malting barley industry panel, featuring representatives from AB InBev, Molson Coors, Malteurop and Centrol Crop Consulting.

Private and commercial pesticide applicator credits will be available.

In addition to MSU Extension, event sponsors include the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, American Malting Barley Association and Centrol Crop Consulting.

Operations are asked to limit participants to two representatives. Registration is required by Feb. 18. To register, contact Adriane Good with Pondera County MSU Extension at 406-271-4053 or adriane.good@montana.edu.

–MSU Extension

Politics, Cattle and Beef

“Pre-COVID, we had a just-in-time meat supply chain,” according to Scott Bennett, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Packing plants chugged at full capacity, harvest animals left for slaughter as quick as they were ready, and meat left the plants and entered the supply chain immediately.

“After seeing some grocery store shelves empty in April and May of 2020, seeing part of the supply chain just jam up, I think the general public is wanting to go to a just-in-case meat supply chain,” Bennett said. He explained that’s the impetus behind consumer and lawmaker interest in developing small, regional packing capacity.

Bennett was speaking to members of the American Hereford Association (AHA), guests and allied industry partners during an educational forum at the organization’s Annual Membership Meeting and Conference in Kansas City, Mo, Oct. 22, 2021.

Some producer-relevant issues lawmakers are wrangling with stem directly from the pandemic, while others continue their long-time simmer. These are other insights Bennett shared.

Price discovery

Bennett noted heightened interest in cattle markets by Congress and producers. Plenty of that was driven by the eye-popping price spread between wholesale beef prices and fed cattle prices.

AFBF is currently the only producer trade association in Washington, D.C., that supports some form of mandatory minimum cash fed cattle trade, in order to increase price discovery. However, Bennett pointed out it would not necessarily be the silver bullet many want.

“Increased price discovery doesn’t necessarily mean higher prices. In fact, it could be the reverse,” Bennett said. “It could lower prices for producers.”

On a related note, Bennett emphasized the need for Congress to reauthorize Livestock Mandatory Reporting, which mandates public price reporting.

Gene editing

“I’m sure it’s alarming to a lot of folks. My family [Knoll Crest Farm] has had Hereford cattle since 1944. The reason we are in the business is that generation after generation we selectively breed those cattle to become better, and it takes time,” Bennett explained.

Now, technology enables making immediate changes like polling horned cattle or making black ones red. Less talked about gene edits include such things as making cattle resistant to specific diseases or more adapted to specific climates.

So far, U.S. laws mostly prohibit gene-editing technology, so developers are going to other countries.

“American Farm Bureau, with other trade associations, is working vehemently with USDA and FDA to try to come up with some kind of regulatory protocol that makes sense, that actually encourages development of this technology,” Bennett explained. “Even though you may disagree with the potential it has, it’s much better to have it in our own backyard than in another country where we don’t have the ability to control the outcomes.”

–American Hereford Association

North Dakota: Webinar addresses FSA risk management programs

Farmers will have the opportunity to learn more about the upcoming Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) election and the decisions the programs entail during a webinar that North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension and the North Dakota Farm Service Agency (FSA) are hosting on Thursday, Feb. 3, at 11 a.m. CST.

The webinar will also include information on FSA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).

The ARC and PLC sign-up period runs through March 15 which means farmers can now make elections and enroll in these programs for the 2022 crop year. These key USDA safety-net programs help farmers mitigate fluctuations in either revenue or prices for certain crops.

“Agriculture risk coverage or price loss coverage programs provide income support,” says Laura Heinrich, North Dakota FSA farm program director. “Whether you’re making changes to your elections or keeping them the same, you must still sign a 2022 contract.”

The webinar will discuss farm program decisions for 2022 under the ARC/PLC commodity crop safety net, as well as the NAP, which can be valuable to farmers of non-insurable crops, protecting against losses due to natural disasters. Farmers must apply for NAP coverage ahead of an upcoming application deadline.

“NDSU has developed online ARC and PLC election decision tools that we will demonstrate on the webinar,” says Ron Haugen, NDSU Extension farm management specialist. “This will be a nice opportunity for farmers, agriculture professionals and agriculture stakeholders to learn more about current USDA safety-net program details and decision opportunities to assist their operations.”

For more information and to join the meeting, visit www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/ag-hub/events/arc/plc-and-nap-webinar.

Participants may ask questions during the live webinar. The webinar will be recorded, and the recording will be available at www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/ag-hub/events/arc/plc-and-nap-webinar for later viewing.

For more information on ARC and PLC, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/arcplc_program/, or find your local USDA Service Center at www.farmers.gov/working-with-us/service-center-locator/.

–NDSU Extension

Supreme Court to take up WOTUS case

The Supreme Court on Monday said it would hear a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule.

The court granted a writ of certiorari on the question, “Whether the Ninth Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are ‘waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said he was pleased the court had agreed to hear Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which challenges EPA’s Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

“AFBF is pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to take up the important issue of what constitutes ‘Waters of the U.S.’ under the Clean Water Act,” Duvall said.

“Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the resources they’re entrusted with, but they shouldn’t need a team of lawyers to farm their land. We hope this case will bring more clarity to water regulations,” he said.

“In light of today’s decision, we call on EPA to push pause on its plan to write a new WOTUS rule until it has more guidance on which waters fall under federal jurisdiction. For the past 10 years, Farm Bureau has led the charge on elevating the issue of government overreach in water regulations. The goal is simple, clean water and clear rules.”

–The Hagstrom Report

Dairy Foods CEO: Immigration reform in 5 years

PALM DESERT, Calif. — International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes predicted here Monday at the group’s annual Dairy Forum that Congress will pass immigration reform in five years.

Dykes, a veterinarian who was a lobbyist for Monsanto before becoming head of IDFA in 2017, said in his annual speech to his membership the workforce is the biggest issue facing the dairy industry but that the United States faces broader population issues.

“The U.S. has the lowest population growth rate in history, not just one year but for the last 10 years,” Dykes said. “More people dying and we have fewer people being born in the developing world. We have a people’s issue. Sustainability, health and wellness with research, many of these other things we can fix with money, we can’t create more people.”

“What do we do? I think we’ll see immigration reform passed within the next five year,” he said.

“Now, a lot of people think Dykes has really lost it this time, but I’ve always thought he’s crazy, but he’s lost it this time. It’ll never happen. I don’t know. Where we sit today, it seems a remote distant, far distant possibility, but these workforce issues are driving change. We’re going to have to have people that are working, which means we’re going to need a system of legal immigration.”

Dykes added that he does not think that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., will deliver immigration reform, but that it will be the next generation of politicians and business leaders.

Dykes challenged his membership, “You guys are going to lead this. You’re going to step up. You’re going to be bold, and you’re going to do the things that you know are in the best interests of this industry.”

“Yes, you’ll get some arrows shot at you. They’ll be a lot of people that think you’re crazy, they won’t like what you’re doing. Got to stay the course. You’re the leader, the future of this industry is resting in your hands.”

International Dairy Foods Association President and CEO Michael Dykes told convention members Monday morning that the U.S. is eating more dairy products than it drinks, as these graphs from his presentation show. At left is U.S. per capita cheese consumption, 1990-2020; at right is fluid milk consumption for the same period.

In other remarks, Dykes painted a positive future for the industry:

“Our farmers today are producing about twice as much milk today with half as many cows as we did 60 years ago. A glass of milk today has a carbon footprint that’s two-thirds smaller than it was. The things they’re doing with components, butter fat, protein, somatic cell counts, absolutely phenomenal.

“The last two years have been the strongest on record. Per capita consumption is up three pounds per person. Now, we’re consuming that in different ways. We’re eating more of our dairy than we are drinking. Butter has been crazy. Cheese is driving the bus. Fluid milk is declining, but dairy demand is increasing.”

But Dykes also noted that the increase in exports could fail.

“We’ve got some significant issues on the geopolitical scheme in terms of Russia and Ukraine, in terms of China and Taiwan, in terms of decoupling our economy with China. These could be major disruptors when it comes to global trade,” he said.

He also said that the industry needs to make sure that wellness-focused consumers see dairy “as healthy and good for you.”

Sustainability, he said, “is moving from storytelling to accountability, with real science-based metrics that are measurable. And when we get things that are measurable, that means we can track them. And we can mark up on how well we are doing against our goals.”

Dykes also noted that the Rockefeller Foundation just put out a report that said $1.1 trillion is spent purchasing food, but that the true cost of food “is not just what you spend to buy the food, it’s what has to be spent on the environmental impacts of that food production and on treating the diseases, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, renal failure.

“The diseases associated with what you eat receipts for food, plus the environmental, plus the medical about 3.2 trillion. So we’re going to hear more around the true cost of food.”

–The Hagstrom Report

To Expedite Future Assistance, Gather and Submit Loss Records Now for Livestock Forage Disaster Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds ranchers and livestock producers that they may be eligible for financial assistance through the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for 2021 grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire. The deadline to apply for 2021 LFP assistance is Jan. 31, 2022.

For the 2021 program year, all 56 counties in Montana have met drought severity levels that trigger LFP eligibility. More than $473.1 million has been paid, to date, to eligible livestock producers in 26 states and territories for 2021 LFP. For LFP, qualifying drought triggers are determined using the U.S. Drought Monitor. Visit the FSA LFP webpage for a list of eligible counties and grazing crops.

LFP provides payments to eligible livestock producers and contract growers who also produce forage crops for grazing and suffered losses due to a qualifying drought or fire during the normal grazing period for the county.  Eligible livestock include alpacas, beef cattle, buffalo/bison, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, reindeer or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the normal grazing period.

To expedite the application process, producers are encouraged to gather and submit records documenting 2021 losses. Supporting documents may include information related to grazing leases, contract grower agreements, and more.


Behind the scenes at the NWSS

In addition to the washracks for the cattle shows, the warm up arena for the rodeo competitors, and creative parade entries that take hours of preparation, another event at the National Western Stock Show has some individuals planning months in advance to be ready. Agricultural youth come from practically every state of the union to compete in what is the Western National Roundup from January 5 to 9, 2022.

The WNR consists of a variety of judging events – the National 4-H Horse Classic -Western Division, the 4-H and FFA Livestock judging contest, Livestock Quiz Bowl, the 4-H and FFA Meat Identification and judging contest, the Family and Consumer Science Classic, the National Public Speaking Contest – Prepared and Impromptu and the National Parliamentary Procedure Contest.

Covid in 2021 prevented the National Western Stock Show, and the youth judging events, from taking place.

The Cattlemen’s Congress last year in Oklahoma during the same time frame as the NWSS gave show families the chance to exhibit their animals. This year the event coincides with the NWSS, pulling many of the longtime show families away from Denver (but that is another story).

The NWSS youth judging contests are headquartered at the Renaissance Denver Hotel with other activities at the nearby Holiday Inn East with livestock judging in the arenas at the NWSS complex. The following are excerpts garnered from FFA and 4-H team members and coaches.

Getting to Denver – took many forms – driving through winter conditions, flying with flights changing to or from, or in the case of Iowa – “I wanted them to experience new as much as possible,” Coach Cooley said. “We took the Am-trak from Creston and rode the trains.”

Costs – It is a right the team members received to be invited to compete at the Western National Roundup (WNR) in whatever their contest, but the cost to do so is $300 per member, and $400 per coach – at least for the livestock judging teams. This does not include the cost of lodging, several meals, or other incidentals. Fundraising was necessary or donations were greatly appreciated. “We want to thank the Dawson Co. 4-H Foundation, the Dawson Co. Cattlemen and the Nebraska 4-H Foundation for sponsoring us to this event,” stated Nebraska Coach Wolfinger. (Member Gregg Treffer rides with his Dad, Bruce, retired UNL Extension educator on the annual trail ride in the forest near Halsey every October that benefits the NE 4-H Foundation).

For Iowa – Coach Cooley set a budget of $4,000. “Production Credit of Osceola gifted us $1,500, and I applied for and received a Perkins Scholarship for continuing education that covered my cost, so the local FFA chapter only had to pay $500 of the $4,000 budget.” North Dakota member, Olivia Nitschke, said they did raffles and garnered a lot of donations from area businesses and individuals.

How they got to WNR – Many teams have been together for months practicing. Each livestock judging or quiz bowl team is made up of 4 members. Some teams are from one area, while others are put together after points compiled through other contests. For Nebraska, judges come to the state judging called Premier Animal Science Event (PASE). They can begin with up to 8 members, but after judging, giving oral reasons and other activities over the 2- day event, a team of 4 is selected. Dawson County has always had strong showing in many of the national contests over the years.

Coach Schaffer from Illinous brought 7 team members, flying into Denver earlier than most. The final 4 was decided on by the coach after hearing oral reasons from all 7 members the night before the actual contest on Friday, January 7. 21 teams were in the 4-H division while the FFA had 14.

Learning livestock judging – Two websites were mentioned that helped participants prepare, especially on Thursday when winter weather struck Denver and caused the cancellation of teams traveling to do hands on judging practice -www.livestockjudging.com and www.judgingpro.com. The Illinois team was able to go to Advance Feedyard in Sterling, CO to practice beef judging, and also to Little Bo Sheep in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to practice sheep judging.

Day of the Livestock judging – State opening ceremonies for the WNR were held on Wednesday evening with delegates from the states carrying the 4-H Flag and the American Flag and rules and guidelines as well as schedules were given. Elizabeth Hadley from Wyoming was the American Flag bearer.

Friday, Jan. 8 – Youth came dressed in business casual to the lobbies of the two hotels to load onto the buses by 8 in the morning to travel to the NWSS complex. Breakfast burritos and juice were offered by the hotel. Support staff, aka coaches and parents, had to find their own way there. Judging consisted of 5 classes of beef, 4 hogs, 2 sheep and one goat class. Oral reasons were in the Holiday Inn East after the youth arrived back. Six classes of reasons were given by the 140 youth in both divisions, where the 3rd floor rooms had been held strictly for that purpose. Team photos were taken at 10 p.m. that night.

Awards on Saturday – For full results see https://co4h.colostate.edu/national-western-roundup/

The following are just a sampling from the 4-H Division: Each species and the reasons so 5 categories of awards were presented. Winners from 10 to 6 stood and were recognized while winners 5 to 1st came and got ribbons. The winning states are listed.

Goats – 5th – NE, 4th – AK, 3rd- TX, 2nd- NM, and 1st – MT. Sheep – 5th -TX, 4th- IN, 3rd- IL 2nd -WY, 1st -ND (Jamie Geyer),

Beef – 5th NE, 4th – MT, 3rd – ND (Jamie Geyer) 2nd – CO, 1st – IN

Hogs – 5th – TX, 4th- CO, 3rd- IN, 2nd -ND (Jamie Geyer) 1st-WY

Reasons: 5th -CO, 4th- TX, 3rd – ND (Jamie Geyer) 2nd – IN 1st- WY.

The top five overall team in the 4-H Division received a banner with that acclamation on them. 5th – MT, 4th – TX, 3rd- CO, 2nd -ND and 1st- IN.

The high point overall team as well as the top individual judge also received belt buckle. If you followed the above results, top high point 4-H overall judge – Jamie Geyer from North Dakota.

Winners photos were taken afterwards not only for the livestock judging, but the reserve and grand champion Livestock quiz bowl teams had their photos taken as well.

L2R – Reserve Champion Livestock Quiz Bowl team from Minnesota – Jaden Weinkauf, Taylin Juller, Will Debates (5th ind also), Mabry McGunegill, and Tyenna Muller

L2R – Champion Livestock Quiz Bowl team from Texas – Austin County 4-H

Emma Eckelberg, Jr. Stewart Poffenberger, Jr. Morgan Hesters, Sr – Brooke Diezl, Jr Kailyn.capps2ag.tamu.edu

Thanks for the information for this story:

Thank you to 25-year Coach Sue Schafer and her 7 member FFA team from Taylorville High School, Illinois. Members included Sue’s daughter, Lizzie, a Senior, Cole Paulek, Jr and Sophomores – Audrey Curtin, Liam Steward, Drew Mickey and Jay Blier for an in-depth look of livestock judging at one of the upper echelons in the nation for ‘the sport’.

Fellow thank-yous to Nebraska 4-H coach, Janice Wolfinger and her Dawson Co. 4-H team members – Senior Greg Treffer, Lexington, brothers Spencer and Parker Walahski, Junior and Freshman, respectively, and Junior Jacie Wolfinger, coach’s daughter. Spencer and Jacie attend the consolidated school system of Sumner, Eddyville, Miller or S-E-M, while Parker attends school at Overton.

Other contributors to this story included from

Wyoming- 1st year FFA instructor, Kristina Sharp, Coach Heath Hornecker and the members – FFA , all from Casper – Kassidy Brooks, now a Freshman at Casper College. She is the state Vice president of FFA and in her 5th year and final FFA judging contest. Her other teammates include Brekken Hornecker, Jr. Miranda Dickinson, Sr. and Nolan Hornecker, Jr., cousin of Brekken and Heath’s son. Wyoming also bought a 4-H team all from Laramie consisting of Kolton Lake, and Mayci Wade, Sr., and Jr. Riley Miller and Kymber Stinson.

Utah – Coach Trudy Smith, Volunteer 4-H leader for 17 years. Her team is made up of 3 sophmores, 1 Jr. Members included Shaylee Rose, Brinley Baldwin, McKayla Morris, Valerie Skidmore.

Iowa – Coach and Ag teacher, Mike Cooley, in his sixth year at East Union High School in Afton, IA. His team was made up of 2 girls, 2 boys- all Jrs.

Idaho – Coach Jeanna Askew, 4-H leader and volunteer for 8 years. Team is from Emmett, ID.

North Dakota – 4-H Coach Brian Zimpirch and team members Olivia Nitschke, Jr., Jamie Geyer, Sr., and Soph. Paige Zimprich and Lilly Solemsaas.

Reserve Champion Quiz Bowl Team, from Minnesota - Jaden Winkauf, Taylin Muller, Will Debates, Mabry McGunegill, and Tyemma Muller. Will was the top 5th individual. Terri Licking
Courtesy photo
Teams judge hogs at the event. Mike Cooley
courtesy photo
Red Angus breeding heifers. Trudy Smith
Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Hadlay, Abbie Wuebker, Emmet and Peyton Long. Courtesy photo
Posing for a photo before they leave to judge - is the WY team - Coach Heath Hornecker, Kassidy Brooks, Miranda Dickinson and cousins Nolan and Brekken Hornecker (Nolan is Heath's son) This is Kassidy's last year of FFA judging, she is a freshman at Casper College, Vice Pres. of the state WY FFA. Courtesy photo
Nebraska 4-H Team - Coach Janice Wolfinger, Greg Treffer, Spencer and Parker Walahoski, and Jacie Wolfinger. all from Dawson County - Jacie and her coach/mom immediately went to Oklahoma to the Cattlemen's Congress where Jacie showed livestock. Courtesy photo