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TSLN publisher responds to NYT story

Good afternoon (New York Times) —

Thank you for sending this story along.


Thank you and the staff at the New York Times for keeping our ranching heritage in your content lineup. I commend the women in this story for their commitment and passion for agriculture. I have staff members who know several of the sources personally, and we appreciated them being spotlighted.

That said, there are some inaccuracies and underlying connotations that I can't support, and therefore will not be interested in reprinting.

This opening statement is inaccurate, according to your writer's own source.

Your author references the 2012 census data from USDA. https://www.nass.usda.gov/…/2014/Farm_Demographics/index.php

"The total number of farmers declined, with the percentage decline more for women than men," in direct contradiction to "As men leave animal agriculture for less gritty work, more ranches are being led by women — with new ideas about technology, ecology and the land."

The USDA website states, “Of the 2.1 million principal operators in the United States, 288,264 were women (Table 3). This was a 6 percent decrease since 2007, larger than the decrease in male principal operators."

I believe most anyone in this business would agree– ranching is about partnership, not competition.

There are a lot of women who could run the ranch on their own, and plenty who do. I feel like this article makes unsubstantiated claims that are more for the benefit of a feminist agenda than objective reporting. For instance, there is no source for the statement, "Women are leading the trend of sustainable ranching and raising grass-fed breeds of cattle in humane, ecological ways."

Men do leave ranching. Women also leave ranching.
It's often not because of choice, but for a plethora reasons including but not limited to higher wages, health reasons, cost of expansion or entry too high, etc.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases today, a woman's biggest contribution is a paycheck that comes from off the ranch.
That's not because she's incapable of ranch work, but because someone has to have a job that pays for health insurance and groceries.

Women aren't "reclaiming" their connection to the land; we never lost it.
We've always been here.

A refreshing angle to this story could have been a review of the celebrated differences between women and men operators, and how they complement and enrich an operation, instead of making this a competition.

An angle less focused on the feminist agenda may have resulted in a story that investigated why the number of ranchers in general continues to decline.

Questions about property taxes, federal land management, non-ag interests driving up the cost of land and the volatility of commodity markets would have resulted in a more challenging, but more accurate picture of today's ag industry.

As a publisher of three livestock publications, one of them being the "best livestock newspaper in the country" (https://www.tsln.com/…/tsln-best-livestock-paper-in-the-co…/), I expect our writers to be objective. We emphasize that while a writer may start a story with one angle in mind, they have to be open to changing that angle—the story should dictate the angle, not the other way around. The article came across as anti-man, which most women in self-sustaining agriculture recognize as an attitude that is neither helpful nor based on reality.

In addition to working as a publisher, I'm also a rancher. And I'm a rancher's wife. A rancher's daughter. A rancher's granddaughter. A rancher's daughter-in-law.
I'm a mother, a horsewoman, a cowgirl, and a relentless supporter of agriculture and anyone who wants to grow food, fiber and fuel for our country and beyond.

In all my roles, I wholeheartedly support women's abilities and believe they can fully equal, and in many cases exceed, those of men's.

I hire journalists and sales people based on their abilities, not on their gender. We hire ranch hands in the same spirit.

The agriculture industry recognized women's abilities long before the rest of the world caught up. Wyoming—where cows outnumber people two to one—was the first to pass women's suffrage, more than 50 years before the rest of the nation, and elected the country's first woman governor in 1925. As I said at the beginning of my note to you, I tip my hat to the women featured in your article, but feel like the angle undermines the fabric of agriculture, which is equality, recognizing and enhancing individuals' strengths, not elevating one gender above the other.

If you're interested in learning more about the women involved in self-sustaining agriculture, like the Taussig family, check out some of our stories about many of the capable women in agriculture.

https://www.tsln.com/…/a-helping-hand-project-h3lp-focuses…/ (a story about Kelsey Ducheneaux's family)

Mare Power & Casey’s Ladylove


Wyoming Cowgirl – Skye Glick

https://cavvysavvy.tsln.com/b…/wyoming-cowgirl-jessie-allen/ and https://cavvysavvy.tsln.com/…/wyoming-cowgirl-jessie-allen…/

You'll notice that every woman profiled in our stories acknowledges and credits the men in their life, whether a father or husband, with being an important part of their life and learning. Not one tears down a man or elevates women above them. Despite the John Wayne picture of the West portrayed by Hollywood (and apparently believed by your writer), we recognize that ranching is about collaboration, not competition, and that the industry is continually improved by both men and women—most productively when we work together.

This lifestyle requires a commitment to the work, not to a role.

I applaud the women sources used in the story, as well as their efforts and commitment to our industry.

But I disagree with the data and agenda; it is inaccurate.




Sabrina “Bree” Poppe
Tri-State Livestock News // Farmer & Rancher Exchange // The Fence Post // The Stock Show // Cavvy Savvy

TSLN publisher and rancher Bree Poppe


Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Ranching hits the big screen in Ocean of Grass: Life on a Nebraska Sandhills Ranch

Scientists believe the Nebraska Sandhills were formed by an ocean. When polar ice caps melted, the water rose, then receded, forming beaches. The hills that are left are the remains of those beaches and that ocean.

Today it's grass that undulates in the sun—big bluestem, lovegrass, needleandthread, prairie sandreed are among the more poetic. The "ocean of grass" sparkles with the blossoms of penstemon, pricklypoppy, spiderwort, yucca and coneflower. And around the edges, a froth of wild plum blossoms.

It's this "ocean" that photographer Georg Joutras captured in "Ocean of Grass: Life on a Nebraska Sandhills Ranch," an hour-and-a-half documentary about the McGinn ranch in northeast Custer County.

After sharing a gallery in Lincoln with Joutras, rancher and artist Laron McGinn invited Joutras to visit the family ranch near Dunning. "I was going to stay one night, and I stayed a week," Joutras said.

Joutras initially worked with the McGinn family on a photography book called "A Way of Life," published in 2007.

"In the back of my mind I thought there was a bigger story to be told, a long-term view of the land, ranchers dealing with the animals in their care," Joutras said. "I wanted to counteract some of the bad press ranching seems to get."

The friendship that started with the book idea remained after it was published, and Joutras continued to visit the ranch from his home in Lincoln, helping out as he was able and increasing his knowledge of the ranch, the people, the Sandhills and ranching in general.

In 2014 his family gave him a GoPro camera and with that and his DSLR camera he put together a short trailer about the ranch.

"People really gravitated to the trailer and encouraged me to keep going. I kept getting better equipment. I shot for a year with the first generation of equipment, then invested in a professional-grade camera and drone and shot everything over again," Joutras said.

He wanted the capture the people, landscape, mentality, how they look at life.

Joutras grew up on the fringe of the Sandhills, in Ogallala.  "I knew people who were ranchers, but didn't know anything about cattle ranching. I knew they raised cows. That's all I knew," he said.

After spending time on the McGinn ranch, he knew a little more. "When I got into the guts of it, you can see what all is involved. Thousands of details, and they (the ranchers) know what all has to happen. Every day is a different day, you never know what you're going to have to deal with, whether pulling a calf or dealing with water that isn't there. It's a myriad of details that I thought was really interesting."

Laron McGinn, who is a co-owner in the ranch, with his dad, uncle and cousin, appreciates that the film portrays a real view of cattle ranching, especially in light of skewed and negative publicity that has become mainstream. "This genuinely shows how we in this business take care of our livestock. There's genuine compassion. We do our best in tough times, in storms, we keep them well-fed, doctor them when they're hurt and chop water every day. There's never a moment that we don't try to be on top of the well-being of every creature in our care. Mother Nature throws things at us sometimes, but our heart is in what we do."

Joutras had more than 100 hours of video when he was done with the videography. He cut that down to 84 minutes.

He credits his background as a photographer with giving him the critical eye to find the most powerful imagery for the video. "Every frame is really important. In photography, you're trying to tell a story with a single frame. I looked at video production the same way," Joutras said. "It's definitely a very pretty film, but it's more about the details of a certain ranch."

In video, the story also has a voice. In this case, a lot of voices from the fifth-generation McGinn ranch and the surrounding ranch community.

Laron McGinn spent time studying art and being a professional artist in Arizona and Los Angeles. But he missed home. "Mingling, you discover that, in some places, some people just don't seem to know who they are. In this part of the world, you really have no choice but to be genuine. Your word is everything. If you're not honest, it doesn't take long for people to learn that. Your integrity is probably what defines you. You have to be true to that. It's nice that we come from a place that a handshake is honored, and your word is your bond. The film brings that out."

While the focus is on the McGinn ranch, many neighbors make an appearance in the film, simply because ranching is a community job.

"We need each other," Laron said. "We'd have a hard time making it without relying on our neighbors, and our neighbors are also our friends. They're the people we socialize with in town. It's a great big community and everyone's success is intermingled. I don’t know, this day and age, how often you see that on this scale. I also love the way it depicts how genuine everyone is, how comfortable they are in who they are."

That observation wasn't lost on Joutras.

"They're very interesting, very quirky people," Joutras said. "They're all their own bosses. They don't have to change who they are to get along with people in the corporation."

It's that authenticity that tends to make ranchers a little uncomfortable in front of a lens. "Back when Georg first showed up with his camera, in 2003, he was just taking pictures all the time," Laron said. "It's natural for most people, to be outside of their comfort zone a little, having their picture taken. He was always snapping away, taking pictures of everything, especially the busy stuff that takes place. We were just a part of it."

Laron's dad was most uncomfortable with it, he said. But as they got to know Georg, and when the book came out, and they were able to see how Georg portrayed ranching, it was reassuring.

"Because of that experience, when he picked up a video camera, that's just Georg being Georg. We were pretty at ease with it. The sit-down interviews were harder to get people to participate in, just because of the comfort level. But it was just them talking about whatever they wanted to talk about."

Laron said it's an honor to have been part of the project. "All of us who were anxious to see how he put it together were all very pleased with what he created. It's a legacy piece for our family, and that's something we will have forever. Nothing was exaggerated. It's a very honest portrayal of who we are and what we do."

Joutras said the film gives viewers a look at how ranches work, but doesn't tell how to be a cattle rancher. "It shows how they take a long-term view of dealing with the landscape. These ranches have been out there since the 1870s and '80s. They definitely take a long-term view."

After 22 months in post-processing, doing editing and color grading, and getting a score written by fellow Nebraskan Tom Larson—four years after he first shot video for it—the film was done.

The film has been screened across Nebraska and beyond, including the Kansas City Film Festival, where it debuted to a sold-out crowd. In Broken Bow, after initially selling out, it expanded into all three theatres and sold out over and over again through the week. Though it resonates especially with rural audiences, it also saw sold-out crowds in Lincoln.

Word of the film is spreading and more screenings are scheduled well into 2019.

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: New Belle Fourche Career & Tech Center designed as career launch pad

Last fall as students in the Belle Fourche high school and junior high started classes, they opened the doors of a brand-new $2.9 million facility for the first time. The Career and Technical Education Center is a two-story structure of 100 by 100 feet, enclosing a state-of-the-art welding lab and classroom, a family and consumer science lab and classroom that has a focus on culinary arts, an ag lab and classroom, and a business classroom that has a focus on the hospitality industry and business and accounting practices. The new center complements a previous facility that houses carpentry, woodworking, CAD, architectural drafting and ag mechanics. 

Belle Fourche high faculty oversee six focus areas of technical education, including STEM, construction management and drafting, welding and metal fabrication, family and consumer science, business and computer science, and agricultural education. The district also buses all 125 eighth graders to the center once a day where they can experience each CTE cluster in a six-week rotation. 

Despite shiny, new computer screens and AeroGardens bursting with lettuce and herbs, the building is more than just a new learning center. It also represents a focus shift backward – or should it be forward – to preparing students for skilled trades that are seeing a drastic lack of workers in South Dakota, and the nation. 

Dr. Steven A. Willard is the superintendent of schools for Belle Fourche School District. He points out that what used to be referred to training for "vocational trades" is now called career and technical education, and students are learning skills needed for a rapidly changing work force. Computer driven machines, robotics and drone technology are just a few of the focus areas appearing in what used to be "shop class." 

"Career and technical education is moving our next generation of students farther than ever dreamed in the past," says Willard. "They are operating new equipment and learning new skills needed for a rapidly changing work force." 

Across the nation this changing work force is being felt. Career fields of health care, manufacturing, electricians and plumbers, construction and agriculture, among others, struggle to fill jobs despite relatively high wages and the ability to bypass an expensive, four-year college degree plan. The Association for Career and Technical Education works to promote schooling in these areas and notes the future looks bright for CTE workers, but bleak without them. More than 80 percent of manufacturers say talent shortages will impact their ability to meet customer demand. Approximately 3 million workers will be needed to build and maintain the nation's infrastructure in the next decade. Almost half of the energy workforce may need to be replaced by 2024, and demand for solar and wind energy technicians will double, all according to the ACTE. 

Mike Rowe of noted "Dirty Jobs" fame made his name showcasing America's hard workers. These days he works to champion their fields, formerly referred to as "blue-collar." He recently joined South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to launch a state initiative called Dakota Works. The program will offer limited full-tuition scholarships at South Dakota technical colleges for those completing CTE schooling. Recipients are required to work in their designated field in South Dakota for three years following college. On his blog at MikeRowe.com, Rowe notes the widening skills gap is a symptom of society's insistence on promoting one form of education at the expense of all others. 

"This lopsided, cookie-cutter approach to learning has led to a mountain of myths and misperceptions that discourage millions of people from exploring many viable opportunities that don't require an expensive four-year degree," he says. "To close the skills gap, we need to affirmatively debunk the misinformation surrounding these opportunities and stop treating whole categories of jobs like vocational consolation prizes." 

Rowe's foundation, mikeroweWORKS offers "work ethic scholarships" to learn what he calls "a skill that's actually in demand." 

One student interested in a field of need is Belle Fourche sophomore Laney Mackaben. A local ranch girl, Mackaben says she has always been involved in ag and was thankful to see the school bring back the ag-ed and FFA program after an eight-year hiatus. Mackaben now has many opportunities to don her blue corduroy jacket. Besides serving as the FFA chapter reporter, she competes on the agricultural communications and range and land judging teams. She's also competed in creed speaking, conduct of meetings, vet science and livestock evaluation.  

Mackaben is eying a career in veterinary engineering, which, although requiring substantial education, will also fill a gap in a demanding field. She notes the skills learned in ag classes and FFA prepare all students for future success. "The leadership and speaking really prepare you for the future, no matter what career path you'll be in," she says. "The new center is beyond wonderful; I'm fortunate I get to spend time here in this facility. It just makes sense to have an ag program in such a strong ranching community." 

Austin Bishop is the ag ed instructor at the new center, where he teaches classes and advises the FFA chapter. He says the six-member team of career tech teachers is excited about the opportunities for their students through the center. "If we can prepare these students who aren't choosing secondary education to hit the workforce coming right out of high school, that's huge for our society." 

Bishop says his faculty team works together with the goal of 100 percent placement for every student that walks through their doors. "This means we either want them to have a job waiting, or be accepted into a 2-year or 4-year institution. I think we can definitely achieve that, but it takes a lot of planning and opportunity." 

The support is currently there from the locals – Bishop says not just for ag and FFA, but he sees it for all six focus programs. 

Willard says the new facility was the end product of school district funds, a grant from the South Dakota Department of Education and a loan from the USDA through Butte Electric. "We are very fortunate to have a school board and community in Belle Fourche that is looking into the future to prepare students for new challenges and growing a skilled workforce for South Dakota." 

Because of that support, on any given day pupils at Belle Fourche can be found testing recipes, sparking a welder, writing a business plan, or building a full-sized house that will be sold in the community. 

For these students, it's just another day on their future job.

Black Hills Stock Show Foundation names winners of 2019 scholarships

Black Hills Stock Show Foundation announces scholarship winners

Each year the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation awards scholarships to graduating seniors across the region. These scholarships are given in five categories.

Category I is a $4,000 scholarship payable in two segments over two years. Recipients are: Sawyer Naasz, Platte-Geddes High School; Marcus Herber, Kadoka Area High School; Molly Ryan, Belle Fourche High School; Whitley Heitsch, Rapid City Central High School; Madison Moody, Sandborn Central High School; and Jaicee Williams, Wall High School.

Category II is a $2,000, one-year scholarship. These scholarships will go to Hunter Haberman, Menno High School and Sage Gabriel, Philip High School.

Category III is a $1,000 scholarship that goes to a student entering an accredited technical institute or a two-year community college. The 2019 winner of this scholarship is Conner Edelman of Menno High School.

There are Category IV and V scholarships that are yet to be awarded. Category IV is a $1,000 scholarship that goes to two high school seniors invited to compete in the 20X Rodeo. The Category V scholarship is for $1,000 and will be awarded to two South Dakota High School Rodeo Association State Finals qualifiers.

Sawyer Naasz

Sawyer Naasz is a senior at Platte-Geddes High School. Her parents are Tim and Sandy Naasz.

Sawyer's extra-curricular activities include 4-H, FFA, National Honor Society, basketball, volleyball, track, softball, drama, band, and choir. She has received several placings in speaking and judging in region, state, and national FFA, Simmental Show, and 4-H competitions. Sawyer is on the A honor roll, is a three-sport letter winner, has several band honors, shows cattle, and was the 2015-16 SD Simmental Queen. She currently holds the offices of FFA chapter secretary and SD Junior Simmental Assoc. president. Some of Sawyer's community service activities include adopt a highway, food drives, school supply drives, blood donor, and more.

Sawyer will attend Butler Community College to begin her education with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. She then plans to get certified to perform animal chiropractic and acupuncture. In her essay, Sawyer wrote, "With my decided path of education, I will directly be able to advance my western heritage through my career. I will be able to be involved with communities of producers to help advance their operations. It will be a very fulfilling career for me because I will be able to give back to the people who are the backbone of our country."

Marcus Herber

Marcus Herber is the son of John and Lynn Herber of Kadoka, SD. He is senior at Kadoka Area High School. College plans include attending Chadron State College to attain a pre-vet degree and then continuing on to veterinary school. Marcus would then like to "move back home" where he can be close to the ranch and start his own veterinary business.

In his essay, Marcus wrote this about what he thinks his Western Heritage is, "It is working hard and earning what a person is given. It is having a love for the land and the animals that roam there. It is treating all your neighbors and friends as family."

Marcus is on the A Honor Roll, in National Honor Society, and is on the student council. Extra-curricular activities include cross country, track, basketball, football, and choir. In the community, Marcus is involved in church activities, blood drives, and helping neighbors with various jobs.

Molly Ryan

Molly Ryan will be attending Northwestern College after graduating from Belle Fourche High School. Molly is the daughter of Tami and Scott Ryan.

Some of Molly's high school honors are National Honor Society, Character All-Star, three-time SD State High School Rodeo qualifier, and many athletic honors. Molly has been active in soccer, cross country, rodeo, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, math and science club, track, band, 4-H, and youth group. She has helped with food drives, reading to kindergarteners, Special Olympics, Western Hills Humane Society, Operation Christmas Child, and several others.

A highlight of Molly's life came last summer when she was able to go on a mission trip to the Ukraine. She wrote in her essay, "Going to the Ukraine allowed me to realize that I am passionate about helping youth." She plans to pursue a degree in a field that will allow her to help children.

Whitley Heitsch

Whitley Heitsch is a senior at Rapid City Central High School. She is the daughter of Tom and Tracy Heitsch of Hermosa. In addition to attending high school, Whitley works at Brandt Performance Horses, doing daily chores and is a nanny in the summer months.

Whitley wrote in her essay, "I love to help people and I find no greater reward than helping people to feel better and improve their health, especially if that means I can provide those services in rural communities which have influenced my life greatly." Whitley plans to attend Casper College and then continue on to become a Doctor of Chiropractic for humans and horses.

At school, Whitley is a student mentor in the Cobbler to Cobbler Mentor Program, a member of National Honor Society, a class officer, student council member, and basketball team member. She is also involved in 4-H and rodeo team as an officer and participant. Whitley has volunteered at several Special Olympics events, Range Days Rodeo, and many 4-H Club community service events

Madison Moody

Madison Moody is a senior at Sanborn Central High School and is employed at Sand Creek Animal Vet Clinic. She is the daughter of Perry and Tracy Moody of Letcher, SD. She plans to attend Black Hills State University to acquire a major in math education and a minor in biology.

Madison's community service activities include VBS and Sunday school teacher, 4-H activities, special needs rodeo volunteer, blood drive organizer, visiting nursing homes, and several others. Volleyball, basketball, rodeo, drama, oral interpretation, chorus, band, student council, National Honor Society, 4-H, and FFA are on Madison's list of extra-curricular activities. Madison has been a student council officer, state and national high school rodeo qualifier, SD High School Rodeo Assoc. officer, and state FFA ag sales qualifier. She has also competed in state basketball and volleyball tournaments.

Madison concluded her essay by stating, "I will use my future education in math as well as my minor in biology and my background in animal health to advance my own, my family's, and my community's western heritage. And with my small part, maybe I can also make the world a better place.

Jaicee Williams

Jaicee Williams will graduate from Wall High School and will continue her education at Dakota State University where she plans to play volleyball. She is the daughter of Marty and Rhonda Williams.

In high school, Jaicee has been active in rodeo, basketball, track, volleyball, and drama. She has received several local, region, state, and national awards and honors in scholastics, FFA, athletics, and 4-H. She is also a member of National Honor Society, Friends of Rachael Club (focuses on kindness/compassion in the school), and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Jaicee helps with the Backpack Program, blood drives, maintaining buildings and grounds at the arena, food drives, and many other activities.

Jaicee will be pursuing a biology degree, followed by graduate school to earn a degree in optometry. In her essay she states, "I want to become an optometrist because I recognize the shortage of optometrists in western South Dakota." She continues, "Eye care, just like all other health care in western South Dakota, is facing critical shortages. Young people like myself need to be willing to return to our roots to meet the needs of those in western South Dakota."

Hunter Haberman

Hunter Haberman is the son of Brent and Jill Haberman of Olivet, SD. Following graduation from Menno High School he will continue his education at South Dakota State University.

Hunter has been involved in his community by playing percussion in church praise band, serving at The Banquet, helping with gift giving to underprivileged children, participating in various Teens United in God community service projects, working jobs to raise money for Horse Power, helping with veteran's projects, collecting for the food pantry, and several other activities. He was also part of the Day of Service at the National FFA Convention in 2015 and 2018. In high school, Hunter has participated in football, basketball, FFA, student council, FCA, National Honor Society, band, and drama. He has received honors and awards in football, rodeo, 4-H, state one act play, and quiz bowls. President, vice president, sentinel, treasurer, reporter, and secretary are all leadership offices Hunter has held in various organizations.

In his essay, Hunter wrote, "These organizations (4-H and FFA) have a very strong foundation in agriculture and taught me how important agriculture is to our community and the world. I believe 4-H, FFA, and being an officer in both of these organizations have helped me open my eyes to agriculture and how intertwined it is in local communities."

Sage Gabriel

Sage Gabriel is a Philip High School senior. Her parents are Jeff and Heather Gabriel. In her essay titled "Advancing My Western Heritage Through Continuing Education and Career," Sage wrote, "It's a peaceful way of life, this western way, where the horses munch on the fresh dewed grass as morning comes to life."

Sage is active in volleyball, basketball, 4-H, rodeo, FCCLA, FFA officer (current secretary), and Evangelical Free youth group. She is a class officer (secretary) and is on the "A" honor roll. Her community service projects include coat drives, 4-H recognition events, helping in the school lunchroom, doing activities at the nursing home, cleaning up the park, organizing fund raisers and supply drives for a domestic violence shelter, and many more. Sage is also the reigning Miss SD High School Rodeo Queen.

Sage wants to pursue her love of speaking and her roots with a major in speech communications and a minor in agricultural journalism from South Dakota State University. She plans to use her degree to become a spokesman for the western way of life so others can grasp what that kind of living is like. "My future is still unknown, but my background has taught me that one never stops learning and the western heritage never stops developing." said Gabriel.

Connor Edelman

Conner Edelman is a senior at Menno Public School and is the son of Kevin and Lisa Edelman. He plans to continue his education at Lake Area Technical Institute where he will study precision agriculture and agri-business.

Conner states in his essay, "through my schooling at Lake Area Technical Institute, and my job following college, I will be able to advance my western heritage and follow in my grandpas' and father's footsteps and become the farmer and rancher that I have always wanted to be. Even then when I do begin to farm and ranch, I will always be continuing my education through new experiences."

In high school, Conner has participated in band, basketball, chorus, FFA, football, drama, quiz bowls, student council, and parliamentary procedure. Conner's awards and honors include class president, honor roll, FFA awards, letter winner, and other student recognitions. In the community he is involved in youth group, Teens United in God, Harvest South Dakota, FFA National Day of Service, and other local volunteer activities. Conner also fills his time by working on various farms and ranches.

–Black Hills Stock Show Foundation

Going once, going twice

The 26th annual Stockman's Auction, one of the major fundraising activities of the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation Scholarship Fund will be conducted during the BHSS Stockman's Banquet and Ball Saturday, Jan. 27, 2019, at the Ramkota Best Western. Doors open at 6 pm. Amidst the gala, glamour, fine food and camaraderie we offer a very select group of items representing a broad range of artistic disciplines, plus annual commemorative items supporting our western heritage and way of life.

The Commemorative Firearm for the Auction this year is a unique, one of one, 1858 New Army 8" .44 Caliber Black Powder Revolver. The Remington 1858 New Army is fitted with a brass trigger guard and features an 8"octagonal barrel with a dove-tailed front sight and loading lever latch plus walnut grips. The 1858 New Army was among the first of the Civil War percussion revolvers to be converted to fire metallic cartridges. The Revolver has been beautifully engraved by A&A Engraving with nickel and gold scrolls and gold plated appointments. Included in the package is a hand tooled commemorative holster from K-J Leathers and ammo from Black Hills Ammunition. This is truly an exceptional offering.

Additional items on the sale offering this year are another beautifully framed watercolor print by Kathy Sigle, "Awaiting the Ride," a BHSSF Commemorative Bit, an Angus Heifer and a ladies handtooled "conceal and carry" purse. Joining these selective items on the sale listing are an original Chytka Bronze "Tying a Knot in the Devil's Tail," Ed Lawrence Spurs and a Days of '76 Package containing a one-night stay at the LIV Hospitality Tru Hotel, $50 Certificate for Flyt Nightclub, a $100 Certificate for Legends Steak House, two (2) tickets to "Days of "76" Rodeo and $100 cash.

Also, on the sale listing are a handcrafted necklace from Bitterroot Designs and a portable tack and saddle stand from Clay Cross. Brady Carmichael is again bringing us an exceptional hand-tooled Leather Picture Frame and a headstall with reins. Cross5 Cattle Coolers is providing a Vaccine Cooler Case and Freightliner Racing and Eddie's Truck Center donated a "Richard Petty Driving Experience for Two."

Two pieces of very specialized art are included this year: A beautifully carved buffalo skull and an historic (1880s) photograph of "The Pleasant Valley Stock Farm" laser etched onto rawhide. This is just for starters! Many additional distinctive and classic items will complete the sale listing.

ALL proceeds from the Auction benefit the BHSSF Scholarship Fund. Tickets for the BHSS Banquet & Ball are available for $70 each on the BHSS Website (www://blackhillsstockshow.com/events/2019/stockman's-banquet-and-ball-#buy).

–BHSS Foundation

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Customer appreciation gifts cattle customers actually want

Bull sale season is right around the corner, and seedstock producers will spend the next couple of months collecting data — everything from genomics to carcass information — to compile into sale catalogs that will make their way to mailboxes across the country. 

Sale dates will be set; auctioneers booked; videos and photographs taken; footnotes written; catalogs printed; mailing addresses double-checked; rolls of stamps purchased; and phone calls answered in the days and weeks leading up to the sale. 

On sale day, food will be prepared; coffee served; jeans starched; bulls cleaned and bedded in viewing pens; and trucks and trailers lined up with buyers filling the stands ready to bid-off against their peers to purchase their favorite new herd sires.  

As checks are written and bulls make their way to their new homes, the final step for the seedstock producer is to provide the bill of sale and a certificate of a passed breeding soundness examination before commercial cattlemen hit the road back home.  

Traditionally, a bull or heifer sold not only comes with a receipt and vet papers, but branded merchandise, too. Customers make great advertising for seedstock producers, and each year, ranchers stamp their brands on everything from can koozies to sweatshirts. 

Great customer swag can create a lot of hype for a ranching enterprise. As a seedstock producer myself based out of Mitchell, S.D., our family's brands — Nolz Limousin and Radke Cattle Company — typically stick to traditional fare such as ball caps, stocking caps, calving books and sorting sticks, but we've also gifted jewelry from my sister Courtney Coughlin's boutique, CCXO, as well as copies of my children's book, "Levi's Lost Calf."  

This year, we wanted to up our game in the customer swag department, so I sought ideas on Facebook, asking my friends to share their favorite items they've given to customers or received as buyers. As you read through some of the responses, you'll notice a common theme — cattlemen love to gift items with their brands on them, be it after a sale or during the holiday season.  

"One family we bought a bull from from buys wreaths that the 4-H program sells as a fundraiser, which are then delivered to the customers a couple weeks before Christmas," said Maria Tibbetts, Tri-State Livestock News digital & sections editor. "The wreaths arrive with a nice thank-you note and a brief reminder of their upcoming bull sale." 

Kim Matthews, owner of Riverstone Cattle Company of Olds, Alberta, believes branding is an important part of being in the seedstock business. Riverstone merchandises Limousin, Simmental and Angus cattle, and with each purchase, customers receive everything from wild rags to barbecue scrapers to magnets. 

"I will admit I have a branding addiction," said Matthews. "Each bull buyer receives a custom folder with contact information and our business card, a photo of the bull, copy of registration papers, semen evaluations and custom breeding sheets. Insurance information on the bull purchase is also kept in this folder." 

Matthews also offers her customers hand-made barbecue scrapers, boot jacks, calving books, beer koozies, cookies, post-it notes, magnet calendars, hats and gloves.  

"Our assorted pure silk wild rags feature a custom logo and our name in the scarf design," said Matthews. "These are a hot item with our customers. We also have custom-made summer and winter thermal-lined face shields that are a big hit." 

"Riverstone Cattle Company has the best scarves and silks and chocolates, too," said Kaye Woolam Kaufman, a customer from Harrodsburg, Ky., who recommends Old Kentucky Chocolates, LLC of Lexington, Ky. for personalized candy treats. To order, check out oldkycandy.com 

"Our chocolates are wrapped in a custom-printed card stock casing with our logo imprinted on the chocolates," said Matthews.  

Cold weather gear is a popular gift for many seedstock producers. Items range from branded cotton gloves to stocking caps to sweatshirts and other layering items.  

"We have done sweatshirts or jackets the past couple of years," said VeaBea Thomas, of Thomas Ranch in Harrold, S.D. "They are great advertising as we see these jackets all over the U.S." 

"Our stocking caps are really loved by moms with little kids because they fit so well," said Cam Fagerhaug, owner of Fagerhaug Cattle in Wessington Springs, S.D. "Our calving books are a big hit, too. As a buyer, I love getting flag whips, and we got a hitch pin one time, which I thought was really unique!" 

Food items are a fan favorite with gift boxes being a popular item that serves as a meal or snack for buyers as they travel home from a sale.  

Jason Boyer, of Boyer Family Farms in Weldon Iowa, has a second business, called the Harvest Barn Marketplace, where he sells gift boxes in the shape of barns that include beef sticks, cheese, honey, jams, coffee, salsa and fudge. Boxes can be purchased at http://www.harvestbarnmarketplace.com 

"Harvest barn gift boxes make a great gift," said Boyer, whose family raises Limousin cattle. "They include our own beef stiks and other goodies. Customers call and tell us how much they like them." 

"We have received meat and cheese boxes and gourmet cookie boxes as appreciation gifts in years past," said Michelle Weber, of Weber Land & Cattle in Lake Benton, Minn. "We have given breed specific art prints from MichelleWeberStudio.com the last couple of years, and they have been very well received."  

Other swag items mentioned in my unofficial Facebook survey included visors, sunglasses, phone wallets, calendars printed with the producers' sale date and customized caps with leather patches from Branded Bills Hats. 

Brand recognition is an important part of marketing, and customized swag that is useful to buyers is a fun and easy way to promote a cattle program. 

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Creative Ag Entrepreneurs Diversify To Increase Ranch Income

Joe and Stephanie Nussbaum know a thing or two about hard work. The millennial ranchers live near Plevna, Mont. and are determined to make their way in the cattle business.  

While diversification has always been a way to have multiple revenue streams in production agriculture, the next generation of producers are going beyond raising multiple species of livestock and a variety of crops. Today's young producers are entrepreneurs who aren't afraid to market their skills to bring additional income to the ranch. 

The Nussbaums have embraced this idea. By day, the couple work as feed sales and feed managers for the local Beach Co-Op Grain Company. Nights and weekends are spent running the ranch, S Bar 7 Livestock, LLC. 

"We get our health insurance through the co-op," said Stephanie Nussbaum. "On the ranch, we've taken in share cattle to run alongside our herd, so we are getting as much out of our acres as possible. It was the best way to quickly get a lot of cow-calf numbers together without going broke or lending further past our ears." 

Nussbaum says the calf check each year goes back into the ranch, and the town jobs pay off student loans and living expenses, with any surplus applied to loan principle and savings.  

This young ranching couple isn't alone in seeking supplemental income off the ranch to cash flow expenditures, pay off debts and take advantage of health insurance coverage offered by employers.  

Stephanie Nussbaum graduated with an animal science degree from South Dakota State University (SDSU) in 2012 while Joe studied agricultural business. The two have put their educations to use in countless other ways, all of which have supported their ultimate goal of running cattle in Montana. 

"We lease out part of our farm ground for extra income, and we help our folks on their ranch in return for the use of haying and farming equipment to help keep our input costs down," Stephanie said. "We also are looking at turning part of our herd into recip cows to raise embryo calves for a premium bull producer in our area. And we clip and torch bulls for sales in our area, as well. All of these extra things have allowed us to continue to grow and weather through the recent tough years in agriculture."
According to journalist Craig Myrhe in a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal, "Most U.S. farm households can't solely rely on farm income, turning what was once a way of life into a part-time job. On average, 82 percent of U.S. farm household income is expected to come from off-farm work this year, up from 53 percent in 1960, according to the USDA." 

"My husband uses his carpentry skills each day on the ranch, but also on the side flipping houses," said Justine Kougl, a rancher from Lodge Grass, Mont.  

Jarrod Montford, who owns Montford Cattle Service in Bridgeport, Texas, said, "I have used my AI skills, which I learned from my dad, to create a full-time off-farm job, which includes serving as a semen rep for Genex, teaching AI schools and transferring embryos for clients. Now the ranch supplements my reproductive business." 

Boyd Dvorak, owner of Dvorak Herefords in Pickstown, S.D. said, "I started selling cattle handling equipment for Daniels Manufacturing in 1997; at that time, I had graduated with an ag business degree from Mitchell Technical Institute, had 30 cows and needed another source of income to help get through the lean years and make ends meet."  

As the next generation looks into careers in production agriculture, they are also looking for ways to obtain the necessary skills and training needed to be marketable on and off the farm or ranch.  

Heather Gessner, SDSU Extension livestock business management field specialist, says there are many ways she's seen local producers and their spouses cash flow their ranch enterprises in creative ways including custom harvesting, custom feeding, contract heifer development, selling feed or seed, working for the local co-op, putting up a hog finishing unit, starting a daycare, providing in-home health assistance to elderly neighbors, cleaning houses in the community, learning how to AI cattle or set up recip cows, as well as getting training for welding, mechanics, electricians, accounting, photography, marketing, or precision agriculture, just to name a few. 

"We are seeing more young people pursue careers in agricultural business," said Gessner. "This adds value to the ranch because the individual can then do things like handle the bookwork or market grain and livestock more efficiently. This is a good way to add value to the farm without adding more cows or land to grow the business up instead of out." 

Gessner says an entrepreneurial spirit can assist producers in not only bringing in additional income, but lowering input costs, as well. 

"We are seeing more partnerships between neighbors to share the costs of equipment and labor," she said. "Everybody needs decent equipment to cover their ground, but it requires so much capital outlay. The technology is at a point where we can cover a lot of acres, so why not spread the cost out over shared acres with the neighbor to do things right but to share the expense?" 

Of course, these creative partnerships needed to be in writing to keep everybody on the same track. 

"Whether it's with family or the neighbors, handshakes are good, but they don't remember much," she said. "If you're going to pursue any types of partnerships, write everything down and make sure everybody is on the same page. Communication is becoming increasingly important, and that applies to talking to Dad or Grandpa about their retirement and transition plans or visiting with the neighbor about potentially working together. These conversations can be tough, but a young person needs to factor out the details before jumping into production agriculture with both feet." 

Earlier this year, SDSU developed a compensation calculator to provide families with a way to value wages, salaries and benefits to employees and family members in the business. Benefits may include health insurance, retirement allocations, monthly value of housing and utilities, transportation, equipment, and boarding or feed of livestock. 

Gessner said, "We often think of the obvious things, but what about Mom serving everybody dinner everyday at noon? How about when Dad covers the rent when the kid runs short at college? I had one producer call me upset because his son had presented him with a bill for labor, yet the kid had never paid for any feed for his cattle on the ranch. I advised the dad to put together a feed bill to cover the same period of time, and perhaps that would start a conversation about the perceived and real values of both labor services and ranching expenses.  

The calculator allows producers to plug in the obvious, and not so obvious, value-added benefits and expenses to determine the full value of labor not necessarily seen on the paycheck. View the calculator here:  


Punching the numbers on a farming enterprise may help the young producer make more concrete plans about whether off-farm income is needed when they come home to the operation.
According to the South Dakota Center for Farm/Ranch Management's 2017 South Dakota Annual Report, published by Mitchell Technical Institute, the average net farm income for farms in South Dakota was $53,708, with the bottom 20 percent losing $97,455 and the top 20 percent earning $255,010. Meanwhile, the average farm family living expense was $63,161 ($56,718 for the bottom 20 percent and $90,068 for the top 20 percent of farming families).  

Gessner says understanding the performance of the ranch business and keeping the family's standard of living expenses in check are critical, and it all goes back to communicating — with spouses, parents and grandparents. 

"I know producers get tired of hearing it, but it really is all about communication," said Gessner. 

For young people to have a shot in production agriculture, she advises seeking a skill set that adds value, creates new revenue streams or improves an area of weakness in the existing business. 

"If your dad and siblings all went for agronomy, it might benefit you to look at another field of study," said Gessner. "There's a lot more to farming than just driving a tractor, so bring home additional skills that will benefit you and the operation down the road." 

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: RFID technology is more than just tags

Like in any industry or business, ranchers are constantly searching for ways to automate and increase productivity to reduce costs and increase profit margins. There's one technology that has been around for years now that American ranchers are just now adopting, even though its use has been commonplace elsewhere around the globe for years.  

Radio-frequency identification, more commonly known by its acronym RFID, has been used in other industries since the early 1970s. It is the same technology that Amazon.com is using in its new grocery stores that have no checkout lanes. Pluck an item from the shelf, walk out the door, and the RFID tag on your milk or steak is automatically detected and your account charged. 

Whether you know it or not, you have probably used RFID technology. RFID tags can be attached to any object and used to track and manage inventory, assets, or people. For example, the retail industry has been using RFID tags for years to prevent theft. RFID tags have also been implanted into pets to locate owners if a stray pet is found.  They are also used on keyless door entry systems. There are literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of different uses for RFID technology in the world today. 

Jeremy Blampied is the Marketing and Business Development Manager for Te Pari Products, a company that has been leading the way to integrate RFID technology on cattle ranches. "RFID technology has been a game changer in the cattle industry in recent years. It makes identification of animals easy, and that's information ranchers can use to save money and protect their bottom line." 

Te Pari manufactures RFID-enabled load bars that can be placed under a cattle chute to weigh livestock automatically. When a steer enters the chute during vaccination season, for example, the animal's weight is then automatically recorded. That information is entered into an easy-to-use database and then that information can be used to analyze, make decisions, and perform other tasks automatically.  

A rancher, for example, can compare an animal's growth over time and determine whether a sire or dam is performing up to expectations. That kind of information allows a rancher to shape his or her herd and create a lot of additional revenue over time. 

When used with a Te Pari dosing gun or vaccination gun, a vaccine's quantity can be automatically measured and loaded into the gun to suit the weight of each animal. For the average medium to large rancher in Montana than can mean a savings of many thousands of dollars each year even after the RFID equipment is paid for. At up to $2,000 per liter for some vaccines, the savings is evident. But there are other benefits to measuring vaccine doses correctly. 

"One of the biggest challenges in the industry is administering the correct dose of medicine, and verifying the entire herd has been treated," Blampied said. "If you under-dose an animal you are essentially pouring that medicine down the drain. And you can also build up resistant parasites as a result. Product resistance is a nationwide problem. And perhaps the greatest cause for resistance is under dosing." 

RFID technology operates wirelessly and has three essential components:  a tag (which consists of a microchip and hidden radio antenna), a reader, and a computer. Wireless readers quickly identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags contain an electronically-stored ID number and can store other information, too. 

Low frequency passive tags, which are the most common RFID tags in use on ranches, will collect energy from a nearby RFID reader or wand. Because of this, their cost is relatively low; usually only $1.50 to $3 each. 

High frequency active tags use a local power source (such as a small battery) and may operate dozens of yards away from the RFID reader. 

Currently high frequency tags are not used as much in the cattle industry, but some are experimenting with them. In Canada, for example, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is finding exciting new uses for high frequency RFID tags. Take, for example, the not-so-uncommon occurrence of a cow and calf separating themselves from a herd. That pair could be hidden in any canyon on a 2,000-acre pasture and it might take a long time to find them on horseback. High frequency RFID tags would allow a rancher to launch a drone equipped with a RFID reader and quickly find the cow. 

That same drone technology could also be used during calving season. Imagine programming your drone to find cow number 4793, which is due to give birth that night. A drone with a RFID reader and infrared camera could easily find that cow, monitor its status, and beam infrared video back to your computer, tablet, or smart phone while you watch from the comfort and warmth of your home. 

The USDA proposed requiring electronic tags for all call cattle by 2006, but many ranchers resisted. Arguments included the expense and intrusiveness of the regulation. As a result, the proposal died. The electronic tracking of beef cattle had been required in places like Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil for many years. Similarly, electronic tracking for sheep is required in Europe and Canada.  However, attitudes are changing, according to those working with the technology behind the scenes. 

Louis Dubs, a rancher near Bridger, Montana said that weighing animals, recording that information, and then analyzing it has allowed him to save a great deal of money. 

"I can easily tell which animals are performing and which animals are not," Dubs said. "And information is valuable, even in ranching. With that data I can change breeding programs and remove certain animals who are underperforming." 

Another reason ranchers are adopting RFID technology is because of changes in the marketplace. Recent studies have shown that millennials, for example, are willing to pay much more for food that is marketed as "sustainable," with the source identified. RFID technology in New Zealand is allowing consumers to know the backstory of every piece of meat on their plate. Millennials crave that knowledge and it is likely to become increasingly important in years to come. Millennials are the first generation willing to consciously spend more money for sustainability and traceability. And restaurants and grocery stores are willing to pay ranchers extra for that information. RFID technology makes that possible. 

Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, ranchers are beginning to realize that RFID technology can also help isolate the outbreak of certain diseases that could potentially cripple an industry for years, if not decades. In 2003 a case of BSE, also known as mad cow disease, was discovered in a dairy cow in Washington state. It took 13 days to trace the cow back to the farm where it was born in Canada. RFID technology today could trace the origin of that animal in hours, not days. And as a result, electronic tagging could prevent the spread of a disease that has the capability of destroying an entire industry. 

Blampied said he didn't know if the United States government would ever try to make RFID technology mandatory again but said the benefits of RFID technology may appeal to ranchers even if the government doesn't require it. 

"The management of data on a ranch will become much more important in the future and RFID technology makes that possible," he said. "Having more information can make ranchers more profitable. And saving money is what makes RFID technology so attractive."

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Genetic prediction playing larger role in beef cattle selection

In today's world, it is more common for cattlemen to be seen struggling with the cord of a computer mouse rather than an actual lasso. With the help of modern technology, both seedstock and commercial cattlemen in the beef industry have been able to improve their herds through the use of genetic prediction.  

Mark Johnson, associate professor and faculty supervisor of the Purebred Beef Cattle Center at Oklahoma State University, says genetic prediction is the use of collected data and statistical analysis in beef cattle to predict how future offspring will perform for a specific trait.  

Through the accumulation of data of quantitative traits (yearling weights, weaning weights, marbling scores, etc.), Johnson says cattlemen are able to predict the traits of future calf crops based on the sire chosen. He claims genetic prediction is one of the reasons the cattle industry has been able to become more efficient over the years.  

Dr. Robert Weaber, professor and cow-calf extension specialist at Kansas State University, says studying animals on a genotypical level through the use of indexes was far from normal before the early 2000s. EPDs became popular in the early 1980s, and before then, ranchers used to make breeding decisions on phenotypical traits alone.  

Nowadays, ranchers utilize a "sophisticated approach for optimization," Weaber says. With this approach, he says producers aim to breed for progeny with the ability to hit peak levels of performance in their environment.  

As the technology of today is constantly improving, Johnson says so is genetic prediction. He says ranchers are now able to incorporate practices like DNA-typing and DNA markers to find specific genes in animals to create calves with desirable traits.  

"DNA markers have recently changed the game and taught us to think more broadly about genetic improvement," Weaber says.  

Weaber says tools like genetic prediction are becoming more and more valuable on an industry-wide level every day. Selection indexes are becoming generalized across the breed spectrum, a move Weaber believes is helping cattle producers see improved rates of progress in identifying desirable genes in livestock. 

But this movement to join as an industry for the betterment of an overall product is not just happening at the breed level. With genetic prediction, all types of cattle operations are striving to breed for more efficient livestock.  

Johnson says seedstock producers have to "think bigger picture" when it comes to genetic prediction. He believes these breeders have a responsibility to the entire industry compared to commercial operations, as genetics from seedstock producers reach a broader audience.  

On the other hand, Weaber says commercial producers are learning to look at their selection decisions based on how their choices will impact the rest of the production chain.  

In an industry formerly focused on the end product, Weaber says beef producers are learning to find the happy medium between both end products and cow performance. This new-found strategy is resulting in an overall more efficient industry made up of higher performing cattle.  

Even as the industry is seeing high-quality livestock today, Johnson says time will only help improve cattle producers' abilities to predict the genotype of future generations of cattle.  

"I believe as we look ahead to the future, we will identify more and more genes that influence quantitative traits and DNA-typing will become even more significant to our generated EPDs," Johnson says. "Continue to learn more and more about the beef genome and identify more polygenic genetic traits, and that will be a part of the genetic picture as we look ahead." 

Johnson says utilizing information provided through EPDs and the technology available in today's world is allowing cattle producers to "build a cow herd as productive as possible." 

With this heavy emphasis on genetic data, Weaber warns producers the information itself is useless without a solid repository of phenotypical data. He says good genetic evaluation is a delicate balance of studying animals from the ground up and on paper.  

When looking to statistical evidence on performance through the use of EPDs, Weaber says each cattle operation will approach genetic prediction with their own strategy, depending on their own personal goals.  

Certain EPDs are more economically significant to some operations than others, and Johnson says genetic prediction allows ranchers to breed for cattle fitting to the goals of their individual operations. 

"I believe if we take a look at our program and take a look at things like when we're going to market our calves, it helps us to identify traits that are of primary importance to us and our herd," he says.  

Weaber says ranchers should strive to breed for calves capable of showing genetic improvement from the previous generation. By studying genetic information and using that knowledge, Weaber says ranchers are able to select for specific genetic traits in cattle to help reach a specific endpoint.  

Each operation is different, from their management styles to breeding decisions. All these varying opinions and strategies have helped created the vast and incredibly diverse beef industry of today.  

But with this diversity comes some challenges. According to Johnson, the sheer amount of genetic data collected in the cattle industry can be overwhelming, especially when comparing the total amount of data to the actual percentage useful to the individual producer.  

And collecting the wealth of data quite the process. Johnson says the gathering and analyzation of genetic data takes both time and money, inputs not always available in large quantities to ranchers.  

With this large amount of data, Weaber says the sad reality is only a small subset of the information is needed for each specific trait. He believes if the industry can expand the number of meaningful genetic markers available, producers will gain a better understanding of how to actually apply genetic prediction to their management decisions.  

Weaber admits learning to interpret genetic information to predict the traits of future progeny is a challenge all in its own. He likens the process of genetic prediction to starting a vehicle.  

"You know when you turn the key, the engine starts, but not necessarily how it starts," he says. He says cattle producers know EPDs work and can be used to genetically improve cattle, but don't always know how to use this knowledge to better their operations.  

Despite these obstacles, Johnson describes genetic prediction as a tool capable of helping make the beef industry more efficient and assisting producers in putting better products on the table. As cattle producers across begin to use genetic prediction on a more frequent basis, Johnson says the industry will be better able to satisfy the wants and needs of both customers and consumers.

Winter Cattle Journal 2019: Managing Minerals

Minerals play an important part in livestock health and immunity, but when it comes to establishing a mineral program there is no "one size fits all" solution.   

Beef cattle require seventeen minerals to maintain good health. These minerals are divided into two groups: macrominerals and microminerals. Macrominerals include elements such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chlorine, and sulfur. The remaining minerals are called microminerals or trace minerals because animals require them in much smaller quantities. Trace minerals, which are stored in the animal's liver, include chromium, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, selenium, and zinc. 

Determining which minerals need to be supplemented always depends on the region and its forage and water sources that are available. In general, the Midwest is sufficient in phosphorus, iron, and sulfur. However, trace minerals zinc and copper are typically deficient across the Unites States.  

Producers who want to create a mineral program that will serve their herd most effectively should begin by taking samples of their forage, other feed sources, and water and connecting with their local extension office for guidance.  

Adele Harty, South Dakota State University extension cow/calf field specialist, recently developed and began working with ranchers through a cattle mineral nutrition program. Her yearlong program begins with face-to-face sessions with producers to educate them about basic nutrition and the roles that minerals play in animals' health. After that, she works with ranchers to collect forage and feed samples in the spring, summer, and fall to "get a profile of what minerals are available to the animals." In the fall, she hosts a session to discuss how the samples are interpreted in the lab, and she works with the producers to find a commercial mineral that meets their needs or makes plans for a personalized mineral to use.    

Mary Drewnoski, assistant professor and beef system specialist at University of Nebraska-Lincoln recommends that for the best data, producers should take samples of what their cattle are eating once a season. Taking samples during different seasons tracks which minerals are present in the early, mid, and mature stages of the forage. Ideally, producers should also take samples over three years to get a clear picture of the changes in mineral content in relation to rainfall.  

As a rule of thumb, 50 percent of the mineral content found in forage is actually available for absorption into the animal. For example, if the forage contains 10 parts per million (ppm) of a trace mineral, you could assume that 5 ppm of that mineral will actually be absorbed by the animal.  

"Not all that is consumed is being absorbed," Drewnoski said.  

Mineral content within forage can change from region to region, which is why it is important to know the needs for your specific location and resources.  

Harty described that selenium toxicities are a common issue in western South Dakota, but on the eastern side of the state, producers often are deficient in selenium. Selenium toxicities are a huge issue for horses, which will start losing their mane and tail and begin sluffing off their hooves. Cattle are more resilient to toxic levels of the element, but are still affected.   

The problem with mineral deficiencies isn't always that there is a lack of minerals in forage, but often different elements negatively react together, forming compounds that cattle are unable to absorb and therefore use.  

For example, iron, molybdenum, and sulfur act as antagonists against copper absorption. Drewnoski explained that these antagonists "bind to copper and create an insoluble complex that never enters [or is absorbed by] the animal."  

Water in the Midwest tends to be high in sulfur and distiller grains are typically high in molybdenum which both negate copper supplementation.  

Producers can also adversely affect their herd by supplementing iron when the forage supplies an adequate ration to begin with, especially since iron can have negative absorption effects on copper.  

"Redder is not better," Drewnoski advises producers when purchasing a mineral supplement.  

"One of the challenges we talk a lot about in mineral consumption is free choice," Harty said. Free choice is the most common method used to distribute minerals, but it is not an exact science.  

Harty explained that ranchers might assume that because their cattle are not eating the provided minerals that they don't need them, but she went on to say, "That is probably not the case, it's probably a palatability issue or an imbalance with it." 

Stephanie Hansen, associate professor and beef feedlot nutrition chair at Iowa State University, also cautions against assuming that cattle will consume the mineral that they need.  

"Remember cattle have no nutritional wisdom, just like humans reach for the salty potato chips instead of nutrient rich broccoli, cattle are driven to consume mineral based on palatability (largely driven by salt content), not by some knowledge that they are deficient in a certain mineral," she said.  

Typically, free choice minerals are salt driven; however, some minerals that have a bitter taste—like those containing high levels of magnesium—may need a sweetener added to mask the taste.  

Adding salt to mineral solves a macromineral deficiency and boosts consumption.  

"In forage-based diets, cattle are pretty much always deficient in salt," Drewnoski said.  

Another way for producers to supplement is through injectable minerals. Drewnoski said injectable minerals can be a good way to improve mineral status quickly during a period of high need or in a case where the animal has no trace mineral stores built up.  

This form of supplementation should always be used in combination with a free choice mineral. In addition, ranchers must use caution when using injectable minerals because they are typically high in selenium which could lead to toxic levels.  

Recognizing trace mineral deficiencies is difficult because the symptoms that cattle may show could be caused by issues not related to mineral status.  

"Unfortunately, trace mineral deficiencies are often difficult to spot, as until they are severe there often are not obvious signs. The most practical way is for ranchers to assess their feed and water sources for trace minerals and for antagonists to trace minerals," Hanson said.  

"It is really hard to use production performance data or health records to say that I've got a mineral problem," Drewnoski said. "Most people don't see frank deficiencies except for milk fever and grass tetany." 

Along with testing forage, producers can also have their animals tested by their vet through a liver biopsy if they have that need.   

At different periods throughout the year (gestation, lactation, reproduction, weaning, etc.), the animals' mineral needs may fluctuate; however, establishing and maintaining a consistent mineral program should be sufficient to supply the animals' needs.  

"If you have a good mineral program year-round, you don't need to change anything," said Drewnoski.  

Establishing a mineral plan specific to a producer's herd is key to maintaining general health.  

"Everybody's situation is going to be different and it takes time to evaluate what their needs are and what is going to boost that," Harty said.