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Frequent-flyer Haven Meged moves on to RAM NCFR semifinals

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Jet lag wasn't a problem for tie-down roper Haven Meged.

Meged, 21, competed for Tarleton State University at a rodeo in Sweetwater, Texas, Friday morning and then hopped on a flight from Abilene, Texas, to Orlando, Fla., arriving at midnight Saturday morning to continue competing at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., Saturday afternoon.

The whirlwind trip paid dividends as Meged clocked an 8.5-second run – the best of performance four – and secured a berth into the RAM NCFR semifinals by placing second in the two-head average with a 16.3-second time.

"I woke up Saturday morning and I didn't feel good and had a bad sore throat," Meged said. "I feel better now, after my run. I was kind of nervous for my run today. Going in there I had 11 seconds to tie her down and I would move on. I went out there and took an extra swing and set up. I bobbled my string when I strung her, and that cost me a little bit, but I'm still coming back."

The RAM NCFR concludes at 1 p.m. Sunday. The top eight contestants in each event compete in the semifinals and the top four in each event advance to the finals.

"This is a great opportunity to get to rope here Sunday," Meged said. "This is a huge rodeo. The next two rounds are ($7,581) rounds, and if I draw good and rope good hopefully, I will win good."

At the RAM NCFR, Meged is riding his 9-year-old horse Beyoncé.

"She has been really good for me," Meged said.

This has been a strong rookie season for Meged. He's 10th in the latest PRCA | RAM World Standings with $26,954.

"I had a really good winter, I did well at San Antonio and I hope to keep it going," Meged said. "My main goal is to make it to the NFR. There are very few people who make the NFR, but that's something I wanted to do since I was little."

At the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo in Bracket 3, Meged won the first round (8.8 seconds); split the win in Round 2 with 11-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Matt Shiozawa (8.5 seconds) and was third in the third round (8.1 seconds).

Meged, of Miles City, Mont., is making his debut at the RAM NCFR representing the Montana Circuit after winning the year-end title.

"This has been great," he said. "I had never been to Florida before this week and it has been cool to be here. I'm really looking forward to Sunday. I believe I will go second to last in the semifinals, and I will know what I have to do (to be in the top four for the championship round). Everybody in the eight-man (semifinals) will be trying to win the round, because there's so much money to be won if you go to the finals."

Tune in to watch the RAM NCFR on CBS Sports Network on April 8 at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Tyler Bingham shakes off injury to qualify for semifinals

Tyler Bingham was thrown off his bull extremely hard in the first round. He shook it off to take second in the second performance with an 86-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Bonanza.

"We don't ever think about that, that was in the past, there's nothing we can do about that," Bingham said. "… I took a 30-minute nap at the hotel after that and I've felt great since then. It kind of made my back a little sore because I landed kind of weird, but you can't feel anything when you're riding. It's so fast and your adrenaline is going. If you can feel it while you're riding, you probably shouldn't be riding."

Diaz rebounds to win second round

After a no score on his first horse, Isaac Diaz bounced back to post an 85-point ride on Korkow Rodeos' Wiggle Worm to win the second round at the RAM NCFR.

"When you have a no score on your first round, that's always your plan to come back and win the round," said Diaz, who entered the weekend in 11th place in the world standings with $36,040. "It hardly ever works out that way."

Diaz, who won the RAM NCFR last year, did his part and Wiggle Worm helped out.

"I didn't know if I had enough horse for it, but that horse had the best day its ever had," Diaz said.

Team standings after the completion of the first round at the RAM NCFR

1, Texas, $65,595; 2, Mountain States, $51,479; 3, Prairie, $50,446; 4, Wilderness, $49,467; 5, Badlands, $46,114; 6, California, $42,595; 7, Montana $30,325; 8, Columbia River, $29,657; 9, Southeastern, $28,008; 10, Turquoise, $16,805; 11, Great Lakes, $9,476; 12, First Frontier, $4,549.

–PRCA

College student trades spring break for disaster relief

A college student in Nebraska isn't snowmobiling in Minnesota, like she had planned to do over spring break this week.

Instead, she's working fifteen hour days, collecting animal feed and medicines to help those farmers and ranchers in north central Nebraska affected by the devastating flood.

Katelyn Petersen, an animal science major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a resident of Lyons, Neb., headed to her home in Lyons, in the far northeast part of the state, about 115 miles east of the Niobrara River, where flooding had occurred, on March 15.

She and her mom, Lana Petersen, had planned to leave the next day for a snowmobiling trip, but on her way home, she called her mom, asking if it was OK to cancel the trip.

Petersen wanted to help out in any way she could. Her mom said yes, and so on March 16, Petersen swung into action.

She went to her local farm supply store, armed with her credit card, and maxed it out at $1000, buying cattle, horse, dog and chicken feed.

She also started a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise $2500 to buy supplies.

Then she took off with her mom and the trailer, dropping off the feed wherever it was needed, including in Verdigre, where they started.

She and her mom traveled around Verdigre and Lynch, Neb., sometimes not even talking to the farmer or rancher but leaving supplies. "Katelyn would get out (of the truck)," Lana said, "see a rancher and a horse, and she'd throw a bag of horse feed by their mailbox. If she saw they had a dog, she'd leave dog food."

Sometimes the two had to take back roads, since main roads and highways were closed due to flooding. The producers weren't usually available because they were working to save animals and their facilities. And sometimes they wouldn't ask for goods when she offered them. "A lot of these guys are proud," Katelyn said. "You'd talk to them, and they'd say, 'oh, we're fine."

During the mother and daughter's trip to Lynch last weekend, they had one of the most moving moments of the devastation. As they came over a bridge, they saw a rancher loading a dead baby calf into a side-by-side, with the mama cow standing there, looking at the calf. The rancher tipped his hat to the cow, as if in tribute to her loss. They cried. That moment "changed (Katelyn's) life right there," Lana said.

Donations have poured in to help her with helping the ranchers, "the animals' first responders," as she called them. On Sunday night, she got a call from a feed company wanting to donate. She expected a few pallets of horse feed, but the company sent a semi load full. Another business has also donated six pallets of trace mineral and white salt block, which "has been huge to the ranchers and their cattle," Lana said.

For a few days during the week, Katelyn has teamed up with a veterinarian in Lynch who she is working with to distribute supplies. She's been making rounds with her, helping treat animals. A few days ago, they visited a rancher who had lost multiple bulls and cows and an unknown number of calves. The calves are in a pile, and Katelyn started counting but quit when she got to 25, even though she wasn't halfway through the pile.

They are also dealing with calves that have to be put down, due to frozen feet, from standing in ice-cold water. And another calf they are doctoring is trapped by a huge piece of ice. To treat it, they have to walk across ice to get to it. The Niobrara River banks have large blocks of ice dug out from bridges and piled on the embankments. It will take weeks for the pieces of ice to melt, Lana predicted.

Every time she visits the ranchers, the people are positive, Katelyn told her mother. "These people are so positive and everybody says, 'I'm fine.' And they're not fine," Katelyn said. "Their homes are flooded, there are stacks of wet stuff thrown out of their houses, and their animals are dead.

"The farmers and ranchers say they've never seen anything like this in their lives," Katelyn reported. "I'm 22, and I hope I never see some of these things again."

She grew up on a farm, the daughter of Rich and Lana, and she's seen animals die, her mom said, but not this much at once. "She knows what death is, but not to this capacity."

Katelyn wants to emphasize that there are many other people doing what she's doing. She doesn't like the publicity. "It's about the animals," she says. She's shy, but that trait isn't evident this week. "She's orchestrated all of this," Lana said. "She's been amazing. She deserves all the credit."

She's careful with the use her credit card, her mom said, so for her to max it out to buy supplies was unusual. But Katelyn had faith. "She said, Mom, I know God will provide. I'm going to do this.'"

School starts back next week, and Katelyn has an obligation to be in Lincoln on Sunday, March 24 to make a presentation to a 4-H group that is collecting donations for the flood victims, even when they have their own flooding to deal with.

"People are so amazing and so grateful," Lana said.

Katelyn's quick organization and work was needed immediately after the flooding, her mother said. The big companies and big donations will come in as time goes on, but Katelyn's help was immediate. "We heard there's a truckload of vet supplies coming in and that's great," Lana said. "But it takes days and days to organize. She just went to the farm store and got it taken care of."

"She is doing what's in her heart."

As of press time, she has raised nearly all of her goal of $2500 on her GoFundMe page, along with many more private donations. Funds are still accepted on her page: https://www.gofundme.com/disaster-relief-for-nebraska-animals.

Various bovine castration options available for producers

It's a proven fact that steer calves will bring a premium over intact bulls, so here is a look at various methods available to producers.

Castration is the disruption of testicular function, usually by removal of the testes of male animals. And since ancient times has been a routine management procedure employed by stockmen, to prevent reproduction, simplify management and to improve marbling and tenderness of finished beef. Cattle can be castrated at any time, but research has shown that bleeding, infection and loss of weight are less in younger calves. A study at Texas Tech University found that calves castrated on arrival at the feedlot had more than twice the morbidity rate (17.5 versus 38.4 percent) of steers castrated early and almost double the mortality (4.0 versus 7.6 percent). In most instances, cutting the bulls at branding or younger than 3 months old is best.

Methods of castration are generally divided into two groups, surgical or bloodless. The surgical method involves splitting or removal of part of the scrotum and removing the testes by knife or emasculator. Bloodless castration is usually done by using an elastic band or an Emasculatome. The band cuts off the blood flow to the testes and scrotum and eventually it all falls off. An emasculatome is a tool used to crush the spermatic cord, thus causing a loss of blood to the testes and eventual testicular atrophy within the scrotum.

Surgical methods are really a matter of personal preference, a sharp pocket knife, scalpel or Newberry knife. Some are finding the Havalon knives with replaceable scalpel blades to be a very good option especially when processing large numbers, if the blade becomes dull or damaged it can be replaced quickly. The key to reduce bleeding, pain and improve efficiency is a sharp knife, so carry a spare knife or wet stone. A Newberry knife is a combination of a knife and pliers, the knife splits the sides of the scrotum, allowing rapid access to the testes and good drainage. Some believe using a dull knife to fray but not cut the cord helps reduce bleeding. Surgical castration should be done on clean ground with the calves turned out on fresh pasture to heal. To avoid injury to man and beast make sure the castrator is capable and paying attention to their job. Once a calf starts to hemorrhage, they can be caught and the scrotum packed and stitched closed to slow blood loss but it is better to try and prevent the problem before it occurs. Correctly cut calves will have less weight loss and lower infection rates compared to other methods. This method is almost fail proof, sometimes with bands a teste can retract and not be noticed.

Brigham Scott, DVM, of Cow Country Animal Clinic in Thedford, Nebraska recommends cutting off the bottom of the scrotum or splitting it and pulling the spermatic cord until the muscle separates. "The stretching and pulling make the (blood) vessels smaller and helping it to clot better. With older, bigger calves I use an emasculator to crush the cord and reduce bleeding. Just make sure that enough of the bag is removed to allow good drainage. Take your time and do it right."

He also recommends having an antiseptic solution to clean the knife and using it to wet the scrotum before cutting. Using a fly repellent spray is also a good idea.

"Banding calves will hurt them for a longer time than cutting." Scott said. "Using a lidocaine block for pain management is an option, but it requires restraining the calf for a longer period of time waiting for it to take effect and increases the risk of injury to the wrestlers, the calf and increases stress on the animal. If ranchers are having problems or have questions, ask your local vet for advice."

There are several different types of Elastrators available, the cheerio band type are used on young calves, generally before they are 24-36 hours old, but make sure the calf has sucked before castration because the stress can cause fatal results in newborns. Care must also be taken to be sure of proper placement of the band and that both testes are in the scrotum. Bigger Elastrators with heaver bands are employed for larger calves, often at weaning or later. Since it is bloodless, feedlots use it due to the dirty environment but caution should be used to watch for swelling in the scrotum. Removal of the bottom of the scrotum is advised to allow for drainage. Veterinarians recommend a tetanus shot with all banding because of the risk of infection.

Emasculatomes crush the spermatic cord but don't break the skin so can be a better choice in fly season. They have a higher rate of operator error and aren't as effective on young calves who can still sometime retain their breeding capabilities.

Whatever your preferred method, keep your tools clean, try to have a clean pen and avoid wet and cold days.

Nebraska crisis; cattlemen flooded with no place to go

Nebraska, a land of corn and cattle is half underwater, two thirds of the state declared disaster areas and over a score of towns evacuated. The heart of Nebraska's farm county was dealt a cruel blow. Farmers and ranchers were cut off from their livestock or were unable to get them out due to the rapidly rising water and ice. Many lost all their feed, calving supplies, everything. Not knowing how they are going to care for the animals they still have. At this point producers are just trying to survive, hauling hay by boat and helicopter to marooned cattle, saving calves and treating sickness. With so much of the state still covered by water, ice chunks and bottomless mud the actually numbers of dead livestock are yet to be truly known. Some ranchers are estimating they lost at least 25 percent of their 2019 calf crop. This comes at a time when the weigh-up market is low yet producers can't afford to feed a non-producing cow. These were some of the best and most productive members of the herd, the first ones to breed back, the ones who kept their calves alive through the bitter cold only to lose them now.

Talia Goes, Communications Director for the Nebraska Cattlemen spoke of the need these ranchers will have for fencing and vet supplies, feed, tools, many lost everything. "One producer knew the water was coming so he pulled all his calves and put them in a high barn because he knew he could save them. Thankfully the flooding wasn't as bad and most of his cows survived."

"This winter has been really hard on producers. Ranchers are always preparing, they are resilient and self-sufficient but there was nothing they could do here." Goes said. "We heard that some feedlots moved their cattle, most of the others are on high enough ground that the cattle are safe from flood waters."

Tye Bloom ranches with his family near the small town of Scotia, Nebraska. They have a cow/calf operation along with a little farming. He woke up in the night to their usually dry creek a raging river, cutting them off from their cows that were calving heavy at the time. "My house had water a foot from the porch, I could see rats and mice swimming, trying to get to dry ground. We were running around boarding things up so they couldn't get in the house. My grandpa is 73 and he said he has never seen Wallace Creek flood like that."

"It was the good eight inches of snow and the gale force winds that got us. Some of the calves drowned, others were tromped in the mud. The wind and snow pushed the cows. The worst part was going out once we could get to them and picking up the dead calves. The mommas were still standing over them, licking them, trying to get them up. We lost 34 calves; five or six of them were ET (embryo transplant) bull calves, our biggest calves." Bloom said. "We had a lot of sick ones for the first few days, but haven't lost any since. It is so hard to get around now with the bridges out and roads gone. Our Rangers are the only ways we can get around now."

Bloom and his family are now forced to leave their vehicles and take a four mile ranger ride just to get home.

Leah Peterson, fifth generation farmer/rancher at Cooksley Clear Creek Far, near Weissert, Nebraska, told me her story.

"Last Wednesday morning at 6am, I woke to the sound of gentle rains hitting the steel roof of our old farm house along Clear Creek in Custer County, Nebraska.

As I scurried around to roust the kids and put them on the bus, my husband returned home from making an early run through the heifers and he wore a worried expression.

He didn't say much as he gathered his things to head down the road for a meeting with local farmers who were gathering to talk all things planting season.

As the sun rose, and I readied our toddler to head out the door to morning chores, our local weather man was cautioning us all about concerns for localized flooding. I had been more concerned about helping move the big cow herd that morning in preparation for the blizzard and 70mph winds we were expecting later that night. It wasn't until I drove across the bridge at Clear Creek at 8am, that I began to consider the idea that flooding would pose as much danger as a blizzard.

We hurriedly fed all the fat calves in the lot and then my dad, our ranch hand, and I began to plan for moving the cows to shelter out of the wind. As we set out to drive them from their usual calving grounds to the safety of a large shelter belt, I became startled under the falling rain. Small streams were beginning to appear. Everywhere. Those that were running downhill from melting snowpack moved quickly. As we approached a low spot that occasionally has standing water, I stopped in my tracks when I saw cows going through in water up to their bellies. Water that was rushing. I quickly grabbed a set of hobbles and put them on a new calf and threw him in my Polaris.

We pushed the cows through and as we approached our "safe grounds" noticed the sounds of Clear Creek. She was beginning to sound angry in the distance. The area where we shelter the cows during blizzards was also beginning to collect water that couldn't flow away because the ground remained frozen.

The feed wagon we used to tease the cows out, got stuck.

Dad bailed out and waved us in.

It was at that moment, that fear crept in.

My father, ranching along Clear Creek since 1976, was worried.

We hashed our back up plans.

We began to try and execute them.

One by one, they failed.

And the water continued to rise.

The cows were getting exhausted and so were we.

The eye of the storm passed over and we knew that we had one moment of calm to enjoy before the winds turned to the north and the sun began to set.

Worry turned to some panic.

And the water rose more.

In a final desperate attempt, we went to move the cow herd one last time before the final bridge that remained above water disappeared. By then, Clear Creek had risen to level none of us had ever seen. We were cut off from the main ranch headquarters by waters rushing high enough that we could cross by tractor only. The cattle, being exhausted, were then in shock. They would not cross the bridge. Finally, we gave up and had no choice but to send them all through the raging waters for safety in a smaller shelterbelt. By the grace of God, they all made it. And so did we.

We fenced them in and put out as much hay as we were able and retreated as darkness set in.

Nothing was left to do but pray to God almighty to see our cows through the blizzard that raged the next 24 hours.

When the winds calmed and waters began to recede we took stock of our losses. We were spared much of the heartache that our fellow Nebraskans were not. Now, almost a full week later, it's difficult to even recall all that has transpired. For as much as we are grieving and concerned, life has gone on as it always does this time of year. The appearance of new life has reminded us that hope springs eternal and that we will persevere through these times.

With the help of God and one another we will get through all of this.

Nebraska is our home and we are Nebraska Strong."

Fifth generation rancher Karina Jones and family were hit hard by a terrible hail storm in 2017 and were just getting back on their feet, when the storm hit. This is her story.

"The National Weather Service and all local news outlets give us ample warning in the days leading up to our "Bomb Cyclone". They talked about the moisture that would start as rain and switch over to snow and the category 2 Hurricane force winds that were expected. But, really, who has ever experienced a "Bomb Cyclone" in central Nebraska.

Although, extremely weary and tired from a brutally, record breaking cold February in which we calved all of our AI heifers, we prepared for the storm like we would any blizzard.  We fed everything up with extra hay. We made sure that everything had access to canyons which have always served as their shelters from the spring blizzards that have come in the years before.

As the rain began to fall the afternoon of Tuesday, March 12, we were starting to see the run off from these rolling hills and some water was beginning to go over low lying roads.  We thought we had everything tucked in pretty good to handle whatever the weather was going to hand us that night but as we laid sleepless in bed, our stomach in knots, we were starting to get a grasp that this storm was of a different beast.  I honestly feared that the windows were going to blow into our home. The force of the wind and the driving rain is something I will never forget.

As the sun rose on the morning of March 13, the rain let up, the wind was still fierce.  Our school called at 6:30 am and asked that we meet the bus at another location because they didn't think they could get down our road.  I did not want to put our girls on the bus that morning, but they both had their Science Fair presentations and they were anxious about missing that.  When my husband returned from meeting the bus, my mother's heart sank when he said, "I don't think we will be getting the girls home today.  These roads are in too bad of shape."  I call my mother in law, who lives along Highway 2 and she agreed she could get to Ansley and pick them up and keep them until our roads would be safe.

The rest of Wednesday was spent trying to feed cattle and accessing the health and safety of our February calves.  Surely, those pairs would be fine.  The were behind a cedar tree windbreak, with guard rail fence, not to mention they had an open front calf shed bedded down with fresh hay. We had done all we could.  But as the rain continued to fall on our completely frozen ground, the run became torrential; the dams had all they could hold.  We have 3 dams that hold water out of our corrals and lots.  They were all spilling over and running right through our corrals like a river.  Including the one dam that breached and like an arrow that water ran right to that open front shed.

We worked to try and divert the water around that shed but we just couldn't keep up. We kept clinging to some hope that our cows were supposed to be another week off from calving and they were out on winter range and had those canyons to go to. We were hoping they were fairing far better than our first calf heifer pairs.

The rain changed to snow in the afternoon and evening hours of March 13. They said we were only supposed to get a few inches of snow. Surely, this has to be better than the driving rain. This was the blizzard we had been preparing for!  We had a barn full of goats kidding, so my husband, Marty, and I took turns through the night going back and forth to the barn to help new baby goats nurse and such.  It was the blinding, driving blizzard conditions we were all used to.

When the sun would come up on Thursday, March 14, our dig out from snow would begin. Snow had drifted as tall as the guard rail fences and right over them. The open front calf shed was now filled with snow as it had drifted in.  At noon on this day the sustained winds in Broken Bow, NE were still be clocked at 77 mph. This was now day 3 of this extreme weather phenomenon. The winds would not subside until well into that late evening.

The sun came out Friday, March 14th and we began to grasp our reality. Snow was starting to melt and we were finding dead baby calves underneath. Our cows, unfortunately, did indeed start calving during the storm. They took refuge in those canyons which have always served as their safe birthing center. They had no way to know that those canyons would turn into raging rivers. We would start seeing the how badly our fences were washed out and dams compromised. We would start seeing the sadness in the faces of our neighbors and we didn't even have to ask. Then we would watch the news and realize that everything in Nebraska has changed and we are now a state in crisis. We are now an Ag industry in crisis.

As we continue, day by day, we are now full into the throes of calving cows. Some cows were just too stressed from what they went through. Cows that were in the prime of their life, the heart of our genetics, and optimal body condition. While we lost calves during the storm, now it is the cows we seem to be nursing after the storm. Their bodies are trying to carry a calf to full term or are lactating and that is big enough pull on a female's body. But, the stress of the storm has just been too much for some.

I think many of us are realizing this really is just the beginning, the beginning of a lot of different stresses, rebuilding, and decisions. I am seeing operators with in a 60 miles radius of us saying they are selling out. They are not going to rebuild after these losses. Ranching has been so tough the last few years. Emotionally, most of us have been running on empty. Financially, it should be no secret that working capital has been depleted the last few years. Honestly, I think I speak for all of rural America when I say that we need the whole nation behind us as farmers and ranchers because this way of life is on the brink of extinction."

The stories keep coming and are heartbreaking, the blizzard took a heavy toll on the 2019 calf crop in the western part of Nebraska and it will be some time before the flooded producers are able to access what they have left. The USDA has a Livestock Indemnity Program to provide assistance to eligible producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather. The Nebraska Farm has launched a Disaster Relief Fund and Information Exchange Portal. The relief effort includes the fund where money raised will be given to aid Nebraska farmers, ranchers and rural communities affected by the blizzard and flooding. The Portal will give access to members requesting assistance, needing information and those looking to help. To donate or apply for funds visit their website at http://www.nefb.org/disaster.

Nebraska Cattlemen has also started a relief fund where 100 percent of the donations will be distributed to Nebraska cattle producers affected by natural disasters. Donations can be made online or checks can be mailed to Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund, 4611 Cattle Drive. Lincoln, NE 68521

If you would rather make donations of hay, feed, fencing materials, volunteer help, and equipment, or if you are seeking assistance, please call the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at 1-800-831-0550.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has established helpline for those needing counseling and information. Nebraska Family Helpline 1-800-866-8660 and Nebraska Rural Response Hotline 1-800-464-0258.

The Ag industry has been hit hard but rural America is coming to our aid. Semi loads of hay are arriving for displaced livestock, as well as donations of supplies, helping hands and a shoulder to cry on. Recovery will take years, but no one has to do it alone.

A hero in a green tractor: James Wilke loses his life trying to save another

James Wilke was the epitome of a kind, giving, Godly person, so much so that he left this earth in an effort to help his fellow man. The 50-year-old farmer from Columbus, Nebraska, about 90 miles west of Omaha, answered a call March 14 to rescue a motorist stranded in swelling floodwaters in Platte County, Nebraska.

It would be the last time he climbed in his John Deere tractor, something he had done hundreds or perhaps thousands of times before, often with his grandson Breckin, who turned four just days after his Papa's death.

As he was crossing an overflow bridge along Monastery Road, guided by emergency responders, the structure gave way and his tractor plummeted into the water. James' body was recovered on a creek bed downstream, near his home. It was a way, family said, that James could say he is home, family friend Jodi L. Hefti wrote on Facebook Friday.

"Not all heroes wear capes or uniforms," she wrote. "I know a true hero who wore a T-shirt, blue jeans, work boots, and drove a John Deere tractor."

James' family laid him to rest Tuesday, and the basement of Christ Lutheran Church, where a TV was set up for overflow, was standing room only, a great testament to the kind of person James was, said his cousin Paul Wilke. James was an elder at the rural church.

James' and Paul's dads, brothers, farmed together their entire lives, Paul said. They lived only a mile apart and shared equipment and labor. Paul and James stepped into their fathers' roles and farmed in a similarly close fashion.

Paul will step in to help James' only son Colton in much the same way in the coming days, weeks, and months. Colton, 23, will step into his dad's boots.

"We're going help him out, and a lot of the neighbors will too," Paul said. "The cattle needed to be taken care of right away, and a lot of people pitched in. He loves to farm, he's been farming since he was old enough to sit in the tractor with his dad."

Colton has been taking the loss of his father the hardest of any family member, Paul said, but the loss of their dad is far from easy on his daughters, Julianne and Abbie. Rachel, James' amazingly strong wife, Paul said, is leaning on her tremendous faith during this trial in her life.

James was very involved in his community, including being a member of the Bismark Township Board, Nebraska Cattlemen, and Platte Valley Cattleman. He was on several committees at Lakeview High School, and active in the FFA alumni.

"James was everybody's friend. He was concerned about other people and very close to the friends and his family that meant the most to him," Paul said. "He was very involved in the church and in the community. He didn't just talk about things that needed to be better, he made stuff better."

The Wilke's cattle were spared in the flooding due to their high vantage point, and the water levels went down just as quickly as they rose, but the damage that is left behind is astounding, Paul said. While Paul lives only a mile from James' house, he has to take an eight-mile route to get there due to the damage done in between. Many of their neighbors suffered loss of livestock.

The family is grateful that their husband, dad, grandfather, and cousin is being remembered for the grand and loving person James was.

"It's unbelievable how fast the word has spread," Paul said. "Hopefully it will inspire someone to be more like James."

Growing Predator Problem in South Dakota

In February of 2019, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association wrote a letter to Governor Noem thanking her for addressing the issue of predator control within South Dakota during her State of the State Address and asking to meet with her over changes that the organization would like to see within the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Wildlife Damage Management program. The SDSGA has worked on this issue since changes were made to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks predator control programs a decade ago.

Prior to 2009, the Animal Damage Control program within the GFP had an ADC supervisor, field supervisor and approximately 18 trappers across the state that addressed prairie dog, fox, beaver, nuisance animal and coyote problems. In 2009, the ADC and Wildlife Damage Control program, which historically addressed complaints regarding deer, elk, antelope, goose and turkey depredation were combined to make the statewide Wildlife Damage Management program which is used today.

With the merger of the two programs, the management structure changed as well as the percentage of time that the new wildlife damage specialist positions split between tasks that were traditionally done by each of the programs. "The amount of time the wildlife damage specialist spends doing ground hunting services, which includes traps, snares, calling, and M-44's, were reduced by 32 percent in 2009 during the restructuring and re-prioritization of the predator control program," states Scott Huber, former ADC trapper and currently on the SDSGA animal damage control committee.

Currently, there are 28 wildlife damage specialist positions with the GFP across the state. "Our wildlife damage specialist positions work hand in hand with the ranchers and producers in regards to damage done by wildlife," states Keith Fisk, administrator of the WDM program. "What that specialist performs greatly varies throughout the state depending on what type of wildlife producers come into contact with in that area. It can range from dealing with deer damage on crops to loss of livestock from coyotes. Coyotes, of course, are a major problem throughout the state for our ranchers and farmers and our wildlife specialists work very closely with producers to try and manage them."

The goal of the SDSGA is to see a professional, accountable, efficient and cost effective WDC. They believe that a shift in the management of the WDC towards supervisors with adequate predator control field experience that can properly train and guide new wildlife damage specialists will improve the efficiency of the program. "First of all, the local wildlife damage specialists that we have are doing a tremendous job with the resources that they have and are providing a great service to the local counties," states Max Mathews, chairman of the Perkins County Predator Board and former president of the SDSGA.

"We are being told that it is hard to fill the supervisor positions right above the wildlife damage specialist with individuals with predator control damage experience because many of those individuals do not want to sit behind a desk," explains Mathews. "If we could have supervisors that have trapping background that would be great for the wildlife damage specialists that are in the field especially when it comes to training and managing the ins and outs of the job."

Other concerns that the SDSGA have with the current management structure is that it re-prioritizes activities away from predator control duties towards other wildlife duties that might negatively affect predator control. This includes activities such as preventative maintenance, which is the timely removal of coyotes in historic problem areas before those coyotes kill livestock. Currently, a producer has to call the wildlife damage control specialist with report of livestock damage before management of the coyote can occur.

Historically, an important part of controlling predators in South Dakota has been through the use of aerial hunting. In the past the aerial hunting program was managed within the South Dakota GFP. Currently, Wildlife Services has a plane that helps control the coyotes.

"After receiving feedback from ranchers and producers, the GFP hired a second aircraft that the department now pays 100 percent of," explains Fisk. "The aerial hunting is a very active program, actively responding to thousands of predator calls. There are now two hunting air crafts in South Dakota flying between 500 and 600 hours a year depending on demand."

The WDC also provides cost share towards local predator boards yearly depending on the available funding. This funding helps allow them to hire local pilots and planes that can help control coyote problems in specific counties. "We are very appreciative and supportive of the excellent aerial hunting services provided by the USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Service," states Steve Clements, former SDSGA president and animal damage control committee member. "They are a great asset to the area and do a wonderful job. There is no doubt that livestock losses from predators could be greater if not for the excellent aerial hunting services provided by Wildlife Services."

From a local county stand point, the wildlife damage specialists play an important role in helping control the predators in an area. "Our wildlife control specialists work very frequently on a local level with the county predator board, if there is one, and are there as often as they need to be to supply information, planning and assistance for all types of wildlife encounters including predator damage done by coyotes," explains Fisk. "They assist the Wildlife Services plane as well as the planes hired by local predator boards in hunting coyotes and are a valuable resource to the local predator board."

In the letter sent to Governor Noem, the SDSGA outlined the 2014 USDA survey on sheep and lamb predation which indicates that the South Dakota Sheep Industry lost $1.4 million to predators in 2014.

"Since 2009, sheep numbers have declined by 30 percent in the northwest corner of the state and 15 percent statewide even during times of high sheep and lamb prices," explains Wade Kopren, president of the SDSGA. "Those declines in sheep inventory have led to huge losses in revenue to the respected counties as well as revenue losses to local predator control districts and the state fund that relies on a county tax formula based on sheep and cattle numbers."

"The justification for any ADC program is not comparing the costs of the program to the resource losses or to the number of coyotes taken," states Huber. "The justification for any ADC program is what it costs relative to what the resource losses would be in the absence of such a program. Without the basic understanding by those is charge of managing a predator control program, the program is doomed to fail."

In response to concerns voiced by organizations like the SDSGA, the South Dakota GFP wants to make sure that the WDM is running as efficiency and as effectively as it can. "We will be hiring an outside entity in the next couple of months to come in and asses and review the program to see if adjustments need to be made to increase efficiency," states Fisk. "We want to make sure that the program is as effective as it can be to serve the needs of the public."

Kids in Ag

Nebraska Blizzard/Flooding Resources

Editor’s Note: we will add to this list as we gain more information. Please e-mail us at: editorial@tsln-fre.com with any resources you are aware of.

NDA has put together a list of resources available to farmers and ranchers affected by severe weather.

Hay and Forage Hotline

NDA's Hay and Forage Hotline, 402-471-4876, connects buyers with sellers of hay, pasture and other types of forage. This Hotline service is available at no cost to buyers and sellers.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Resources

State Agency Resources

Additional Resources

Bombogenesis: Epic spring storm pounds Nebraska, Dakotas, Wyoming, Colorado and more with wind, rain, snow

Meteorologists said it could act like a hurricane over the plains. The March 13-14 storm brought sleepless nights for many in plains and midwest states with rain, sleet, snow, wind, mud, flooding and freezing temperatures as producers are in the thick of calving.

"Bombogenesis," a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone, according to the National Weather Service. And by many accounts, the March 13-14 storm "Ulmer" qualified.

The storm delivered and then some. Snowfall was estimated at more than a foot, possible flooding and extremely high winds. In many cases the snow piled up even higher. While heavy snow fell in Wyoming, South Dakota and northwest Nebraska, much of the cornhusker state received inches of rain, preceded by a 50 degree day that melted much of the snow that was still on the ground from the previous storms. The ground is still frozen so the melting snow and rain has pooled in all the low areas, flooding towns, roads, and swelling rivers and streams. Dams and bridges are washing out and blocks of ice bigger than semi trucks are wreaking havoc.

Joe and Christi Leonard ranch north of Bassett, Nebraska and had cattle pastured along the Niobrara River. During the night of March 13th the ice went out on the river and propelled by massive amounts of runoff, huge ice blocks pushed over the banks, across the road and even trapped a bull and a cow among the chunks. "There is only about 50 feet of fence left on the east side of pasture he had them in, the ice washed it all out. I can't believe the cow and bull were still alive, they were on ground but surrounded by huge chucks of ice, I do believe God was on their side last night. Thank God it was only two head," Christi Leonard said. "One piece of ice was bigger than Joe's pickup, and knee high thick." Joe moved the cattle using a sharp shod horse.

Tyrel Licking reports that the county roads in north Lincoln and southeast Logan Counties Nebraska are impassible in many places, with water crossing them in numerous places after more than an inch and a half of rain. The extremely high wind even blew over a large creep feeder out on a pivot. Licking works for Lincoln County Feedyard in Stapleton, Nebraska. "Cattle are bunched up, tails to the wind and are almost impossible to check," he said on March 14. "The wind is horrible, gates are harder than hell to open or close." Licking said. "Not many are sick this morning but the next few days might be bad."

Mike and Lori Waldron, who ranch north of Draper, South Dakota, figure they got 16 inches or more of snow.. "We have 10 foot drifts in places. It is a really wet heavy snow." Lori said. "We have cattle trapped in a smaller pasture due to the crazy drifts. Thankfully we are not calving yet."

Scot and Jodie O'Bryan live in Belvidere, South Dakota and raise registered Longhorn cattle and Quarter horses. "They say 18 inches of snow. Our corrals are 8 to 10 foot deep all across and our barn is buried. We had to dig down to the barn door and then shovel a 8 foot path to open the door. I am exhausted." Jodie said. "We had to dig some calves out but all are alive. Our yearling colts were all ice and couldn't see, we had to knock the ice off their eyes so they could see." The O'Bryans see live animals and are thankful. "We are so blessed."

Many of the older calves were in a calf shelter which was buried under about 10 feet of snow. "That moment when your calf shelter is buried deep. You shovel and shovel and can hear some calves bawling, their mothers are going crazy. You finally get down to the opening and everything in there looks back at you and they are all alive. Made this ol' girl bawl like a baby, thank you Jesus." O'Bryan posted on Facebook.

"I was so emotionally exhausted and had prepared myself to see a bunch of dead calves. I literally collapsed and bawled. I can't explain the relief. We busted our butts through all the 30 below zero weather and saved them all and I just for sure thought they were dead." O'Bryan said.

Judd and Jamie Schomp are ranchers from Martin, South Dakota. "We were just starting to get hot and heavy calving, eight to ten calves a day. We had a good inch of rain first and I'm guessing 24 inches of snow, with 70mph winds." Judd said. "It was really something, the winds, it was just like standing next to a freight train, just roaring and screaming. This storm was way worse than the blizzard we had last April. The drifts are unbelievable, the alleys are five and a half foot panels packed solid with snow clear across. It is heavy wet stuff. We worked all day Thursday trying to move snow to water and feed cows. I'm worried if now we will be fighting pneumonia and sickness in the calves we saved."

In the Kurli (near Milesville), South Dakota, area, Deep Creek Angus owner T.J. Gabriel had just gotten to the first bunch of pairs when Tri-State Livestok News talked to him Thursday afternoon.

"I don't think any got snowed under," he said, adding that he fed and bedded the evening before to encourage the cows to stay next to the windbreak. When he checked them during the night, he found one calf shelter blown half full of snow. "I don't think I've ever seen in that bad," he said, of the blowing snow and wind. Another windbreak was buried with snow.

Gabriel is nearly done calving so he was able to put the heavies in a shed.

"You can't cuss the moisture. We've been so dry here," he said. And he's heard the stories of the flooding east and south of him. "We're thankful we aren't dealing with that." Gabriel said if the weather doesn't get much colder, he'll have a lot of bare ground in a day or two.

Kathy Fortune and her family figure their Interior, South Dakota ranch got about 17-20 inches of snow and the National Weather Service had told her the wind had gotten as high as 70 mph.

The Fortunes had newborn calves in a horse trailer, a camper and in a running pickup to keep them warm. The marked the calves with duct tape and a sharpie so they'd know which cow to return them to.

Paul and Tamara Kearns ranch between Rushville and Lakeside, Nebraska. "We got a little over an inch of rain before the wintry mix and we are figuring about 20 inches of snow. It's making it very difficult to get around. The drifts have covered some gates that we had to dig out to feed, we have lost some calves due to drifting and the water. It's really a sloppy mess." Tamara said. "My husband was checking every two hours. It has been very emotional wondering if we did everything we could have or what we could have done differently to save the ones that didn't make it."

Zach and Erin Cox ranch 27 miles northwest of Mullen, Nebraska. They are guessing they had two and a half inches of rain. Immediately following, they were hit with eight to ten inches of snow and lots of wind. Zach checked the cows with a snowmobile and was happy to report that their livestock fared very well through the storm.

Cody and Stephanie Wolf from Cozad, Nebraska are flooding. "We didn't even get an inch of rain, it's all snow melt. There is water everywhere. Highway is closed. We had to get a port-a-potty at our house because the toilet won't flush.' Cody said. "I feel bad that we don't have a dry place to get them to. (His livestock) I have never seen it this bad before."

Rod and Laura Gray of Harrison, Nebraska, said rain turning to snow was on the menu on their ranch, too. "That made it really muddy underneath, then the wind came and it started snowing really heavy." Even with zero visibility, they checked cows constantly through the storm, and brought in new calves, after working all day prior to the storm to bed calf shelteres and windbreak and move cattle out of muddy lots to dryer ground.

Not too far away, on the Wyoming side of the state line, the Kottwitz family was getting creative. The family decided to try canoeing calves across Mule Creek as they feared the creek and the Cheyenne River would close the cattle in. The mother cows followed the calves in a canoe similar to how they would follow a calf sled.

The Niobrara River was out of its banks and over their road, but Laura Gray thinks the road may still be intact when the water recedes. She worries more flooding could be in their future when the snow from "Ulmer" melts.

Paul Allen, a Bristow, Nebraska, rancher answered an early morning, March 14 phone call to learn that the Spencer dam had given way seven miles up the Niobrara River. Paul and Lana, and Paul’s son’s family escaped safely while the water came within a few feet of the main home.

Paul was able to open panels that would allow some of his cattle to escape the impending floodwaters.

“His horsetrailer and 3/4 ton pickup floated around for awhile but his buildings are still standing and his machinery is still there, some moved,” said his daughter.

All structures on Allen’s brother-in-law’s place were washed away upstream and Ken Angel remains missing.

The effects of this storm will be widespread and felt for a long while to come, especially with the warmer temperatures forecasted melting more snow. Here in central Nebraska we are thankful not to have much new snow and feel for those who have been the hardest hit.

Those needing help with flooding are encouraged to check out the Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa Flooding Alert Facebook page or connect with their local extension representative or find suggestions at: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood

Or https://flood.unl.edu/

Warner Beef Genetics: Building on a legacy

The Warner family roots run deep in Furnas County Nebraska. 135 years and six generations raising crops and cattle. Otto Warner emigrated from Germany when he was 16 in 1884. He homesteaded in Furnas County, eventually marrying a local girl Leonie Kammerer. They farmed and raised a large family. Their son Robert carried on the family farming tradition, he also married a local girl Rose Hilker. Their son Robert Jr continued farming with his wife Marjorie Litz whom he married in 1945.

"My Dad, Robert Jr worked off the farm during the winter time. The biggest project he worked on was the Beaver City Municipal Pool. It was all built by hand and since it was winter they had to keep the cement covered and heated." Monte Warner said. "The blizzards of 1948 & '49 were tough. Dad walked across country to town to get groceries, it was a good 5-6 miles and he purchased only what he could carry back. Dealing with all the snow was hard. We didn't have any equipment that could move the snow out of the roads, Dad's only option was a shovel. The military had a depot in Hastings, Nebraska, 100 miles away. They brought Caterpillars out to plow out the roads. Those guys worked around the clock and the Cats didn't have cabs. They used old house windows and wood to cobble up protection for the operators and to contain the engine heat for warmth."

Monte married a Cozad, Nebraska girl Kristie Lammers in 1972 after graduating college in Hastings, Nebraska. "Dad said he couldn't support four boys farming." Monte said. "So in 1976 we purchased 320 acres of farm and pasture land and together with the starter herd of 20 Hereford cows I had accumulated while in 4-H, we started on our own. The land my great grandfather homesteaded is still in the Warner family but I don't live on any of it."

The couple had two sons Darren and Dan. While in high school Dan injured his back and was unable to play sports, his good friend Brian Helms got hurt too. So Dick Helms, Brian's dad took the boys to the Gelbvieh Junior National Show in Oklahoma, that trip became a turning point in Dan's life igniting a lifelong affair with the breed. "What started as a hobby has become an addiction." Dan said.

By this time the family herd of cows had grown to 300, Monte went to an ABS AI school in 1975 and started improving his herd, introducing Gelbvieh genetics in the mid-1980s. "We bred up what we had." Monte said.

Darren graduated from college and returned in 1996 to Furnas County to take over and expand the farming side of the operation. The family rented more farm ground and he married Amy Keir, the couple has three children Aubree, Bryson and Addelyn who are involved in the farm.

Dan attended college in Colorado, graduating in 2000, and he married Kate Kessinger. They moved back to Furnas County and focused on the cow herd. Dan and Kate have four children Gentry, Berkley, Kallan, & Creyton. The older ones are already showing cattle at the Junior National Shows, the National Western and at State Fairs. "We work as a family and have fun as a family." Dan said.

Over time they grew the herd, now running around 400 registered Balancer cows and over 500 Gelbvieh influenced commercial cows. They have an extensive AI and embryo transfer program, using their own commercial cows as the recipient herd. The Warner's began selling bulls' private treaty in 1995 and held their first live sale in 2005. Now Warner Beef Genetics sells 120 to 130 young bulls at their annual sale the first Tuesday in March. They also have a fall female sale and have joined with two other producers; Andrea Murray from Oklahoma and Cedar Top Ranch of Nebraska, to hold the Red River Bull Sale in Texas during November, with the goal to increase demand for Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics in the southern part of the country.

Monte and his sons each have their own place, but help each other when needed. Dan handles the cattle side along with long time employee Cory Helms. Darren is the farmer of the family, growing the feed needed for the large herd along with row crops. They wean and background all the calves and sold for many years on the Superior video sale. This past fall they did sell private treaty with the goal to be able to follow the cattle all the way through the feeding and harvesting process to collect data.

"Balancer cattle work well across the United States; they adapt to and thrive in all environments, from the desert southwest to the mountains." Dan said. "We guarantee our cattle and most of our cows are 5th, 6th, and even 7th generation Balancers so they are consistent and uniform."

"My dad always said in agriculture if you aren't growing, you're dying." Dan said. "We need to stay steady and grow at the rate our customers demand. We reach out to market the number of cattle we sell and are now seeing breeders and ranchers coming to buy replacement females. I hope to be able to be a source for our bull customers' replacement female needs."

Dan has been very active in the American Gelbvieh Association, having served on the board and also as vice president of the executive committee. Currently he acts as the breed improvement committee chair.

Dan and Kate were honored as the AGA Breeder of the year for 2018 during the awards banquet held at the 48th annual AGA National Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. They were honored because of the contribution Warner Beef Genetics has made to the breed, both in Genomics and in DNA technology to improve data collections. "We were honored to be selected by our peers." Dan said.

Always looking to grow and improve Balancer genetics, Dan and Kate have created TransPacific Genetics. They partnered with Australian breeders to offer quality Balancer Genetics to producers in that country.

Sale cattle and contact information can be found on Facebook at Warner Beef Genetics and also on their website http://www.warnerbeef.com. They welcome calls and visits, always eager to share their cattle with producers.