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UPDATED DAILY: Wrangler NFR 2021 Round Results and Averages

Results updated December 11, 2021 to reflect Round 10 Results

All-Around: Stetson Dell Wright, $585,850; 2. Caleb Smidt, $313,887; 3. Josh Frost, $287,110; 4. Paden Bray, $243,116; 5. Clay Smith, $237,163; 6. Rhen Richard, $229,625; 7. Tuf Case Cooper, $219,083; 8. Marty Yates, $167,210; 9. Taylor Santos, $132,787; 10. Landon McClaugherty, $68,842.

RAM Top Gun: 1. Kaycee Feild, $231,564; 2. Jess Pope, $230,475; 3. Tyler Waguespack, $213,348; 4. Josh Frost, $206,381; 5. Haven Meged, $197,237; 6. Jordon Briggs, $194,842; 7. Caleb Smidt, $191,576; 8. Brody Cress, $183,521; 9. Will Lummus, $169,152; 10. Hailey Kinsel, $167,627.


Bareback Riding

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Kaycee Feild

ROUND 10 WINNER: Jess Pope

Bareback Riding Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average leaders: Jess Pope, 873 points on ten head, $69,234; 2. Kaycee Feild, 872.5, $56,171; 3. Cole Franks, 860, $44,414; 4. Richmond Champion, 841, $32,658; 5. R.C. Landingham, 840.5, $23,513; 6. Garrett Shadbolt, 827, $16,982; 7. Tanner Aus, 824.5, $11,757; 8. Tilden Hooper, 820.5, $6,532; 9. Cole Reiner, 765.5 points on nine head; 10. Orin Larsen, 762.5; 11. Clayton Biglow, 757; 12. Tim O’Connell, 753; 13. Caleb Bennett, 729.5; 14. Zach Hibler, 537.5 points on seven head; 15. Taylor Broussard, 407 points on five head.
  • World standings: Kaycee Feild, $357,420; 2. Jess Pope, $340,499; 3. Cole Franks, $227,422; 4. Tilden Hooper, $205,916; 5. Garrett Shadbolt, $192,919; 6. Tim O’Connell, $192,908; 7. Cole Reiner, $190,187; 8. Richmond Champion, $188,739; 9. Caleb Bennett, $188,532; 10. Clayton Biglow, $187,637; 11. R.C. Landingham, $180,827; 12. Orin Larsen, $157,483; 13. Tanner Aus, $111,786; 14. Taylor Broussard, $82,381; 15. Zach Hibler, $75,381.

Steer Wrestling

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Tyler Waguespack

ROUND 10 WINNERS: Curtis Cassidy, Dirk Tavenner

Steer Wrestling Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average leaders: 1. Will Lummus, 43.0 seconds on ten head, $69,234; 2. Tyler Waguespack, 48.1, $56,171; 3. (tie) Rowdy Parrott and Tristan Martin, 48.6, $38,536 each; 5. Jesse Brown, 54.8, $23,513; 6. Stetson Jorgensen, 55.8, $16,982; 7. Curtis Cassidy, 71.0, $11,757; 8. Tyler Pearson, 71.9, $6,532; 9. Jacob Talley, 46.8 seconds on nine head; 10. Scott Guenthner, 49.7; 11. Dakota Eldridge, 56.3; 12. Dirk Tavenner, 41.8 seconds on eight head; 13. Riley Duvall, 29.4 seconds on seven head; 14. Stockton Graves, 39.2; 15. Cody Devers, 17.8 seconds on three head.
  • World Standings: 1. Tyler Waguespack, $289,791; 2. Will Lummus, $248,168; 3. Jacob Talley, $217,391; 4. Dirk Tavenner, $202,059; 5. Tristan Martin, $172,827; 6. Jesse Brown, $165,061; 7. Tyler Pearson, $150,175; 8. Riley Duvall, $148,132; 9. Rowdy Parrott, $144,746; 10. Stockton Graves, $139,354; 11. Dakota Eldridge, $131,409; 12. Stetson Jorgensen, $128,913; 13. Curtis Cassidy, $114,826; 14. Scott Guenthner, $98,234; 15. Cody Devers, $77,715.

Team Roping

2021 WORLD CHAMPION HEADER: Kaleb Driggers

2021 WORLD CHAMPION HEELER: Junior Nogueira

ROUND 10 WINNER HEADER: Travis Graves

ROUND 10 WINNER HEELER: Dustin Egusquiza

Team Roping Round Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average leaders: 1. Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins II, 54.7 seconds on ten head, $69,234 each; 2. Erich Rogers/Paden Bray, 98.7, $56,171; 3. Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, 52.6 seconds on nine head, $44,414; 4. Rhen Richard/Jeremy Buhler, 62.6, $32,658; 5. Clay Tryan/Jake Long, 43.2 seconds on eight head, $23,513; 6. Clay Smith/Jade Corkill, 50.3, $16,982; 7. Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 60.7, $11,757; 8. Coy Rahlmann/Douglas Rich, 45.5 seconds on seven head, $6,532; 9. Brenten Hall/Chase Tryan, 65.2; 10. Clint Summers/Ross Ashford, 88.0; 11. Coleman Proctor/Logan Medlin, 28.7 seconds on six head; 12. Derrick Begay/Brady Minor, 30.8; 13. Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves, 40.4; 14. Quinn Kesler/Joseph Harrison, 47.6; 15. Tyler Wade/Trey Yates, 50.2.
  • World standings (headers): 1. Kaleb Driggers, $263,227; 2. Erich Rogers, $229,990; 3. Dustin Egusquiza, $227,403; 4. Clay Smith, $221,374; 5. Rhen Richard, $208,256; 6. Clay Tryan, $198,087; 7. Andrew Ward, $184,652; 8. Coleman Proctor, $168,986; 9. Tyler Wade, $156,515; 10. Cody Snow, $150,637; 11. Coy Rahlmann, $138,153; 12. Derrick Begay, $128,356; 13. Quinn Kesler, $125,526; 14. Clint Summers, $103,859; 15. Brenten Hall, $87,860.
  • World standings (heelers): Junior Nogueira, $277,612; 2. Paden Bray, $224,910; 3. Jade Corkill, $221,373; 4. Jeremy Buhler, $207,223; 5. Travis Graves, $206,756; 6. Jake Long, $199,062; 7. Buddy Hawkins II, $184,652; 8. Logan Medlin, $175,566. 9. Wesley Thorp, $172,998; 10. Trey Yates, $151,659; 11. Douglas Rich, $138,076; 12. Joseph Harrison, $124,812; 13. Brady Minor, $119,341; 14. Ross Ashford, $101,199; 15. Chase Tryan, $89,130.

Saddle Bronc Riding

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Stetson Wright

ROUND 10 WINNER: Stetson Wright

Saddle Bronc Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average Leaders: 1. Brody Cress, 859 points on ten head, $69,234; 2. Chase Brooks, 856, $56,171; 3. Zeke Thurston, 837.5, $44,414; 4. Ryder Wright, 782 seconds on nine head, $32,658; 5. Spencer Wright, 777, $23,513; 6. Layton Green, 749.5, $16,982; 7. Cody DeMoss, 736, $11,757; 8. Stetson Dell Wright, 707.5 seconds on eight head, $6,532; 9. Dawson Hay, 657; 10. Wyatt Casper, 605 points on seven head; 11. Tegan Smith, 593.5; 12. Kolby Wanchuk, 511.5 points on six head; 13. Sage Newman, 423 points on five head; 14. Ben Andersen, 242.5 points on three; 15. Wade Sundell, 89.5 points on one head.
  • World standings: 1. Stetson Dell Wright, $343,524; 2. Ryder Wright, $342,337; 3. Brody Cress, $325,746; 4. Chase Brooks, $259,355; 5. Zeke Thurston, $229,329; 6. Spencer Wright, $184,429; 7. Layton Green, $166,023; 8. Wyatt Casper, $151,990; 9. Dawson Hay, $151,685; 10. Tegan Smith, $136,793; 11. Sage Newman, $125,375; 12. Kolby Wanchuk, $118,195; 13. Wade Sundell, $116,157; 14. Ben Andersen, $108,346; 15. Cody DeMoss, $107,441.

Tie Down Roping

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Caleb Smidt

ROUND 10 WINNER: Marty Yates

Tie Down Roping Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average Leaders: 1. Caleb Smidt, 83.1 seconds on ten head, $69,234; 2. Haven Meged, 91.2, $56,171; 3. Cory Solomon, 91.6, $44,414; 4. Westyn Hughes, 93, $32,658; 5. Tuf Case Cooper, 103.0, $23,513; 6. Marcos Costa, 107.2, $16,982; 7. Marty Yates, 121.4, $11,757; 8. Shane Hanchey, 80.3 seconds on nine head, $6,532; 9. Ryan Jarrett, 94.8; 10. Ty Harris, 80.5 second on eight head; 11. John Douch, 60.7 points on seven head; 12. Taylor Santos, 66.2; 13. Justin Smith, 72.6; 14. Shad Mayfield, 73.3; 15. Hunter Herrin, 81.6 seconds on six head.
  • World Standings: Caleb Smidt, $318,456; 2. Haven Meged, $296,162; 3. Westyn Hughes, $264,170; 4. Shane Hanchey, $248,218; 5. Cory Solomon, $228,025; 6. Tuf Case Cooper, $217,996; 7. Shad Mayfield, $195,910; 8. Marty Yates, $190,218; 9. Marcos Costa, $167,721; 10. John Douch, $166,367; 11. Ty Harris, $164,335; 12. Ryan Jarrett, $138,510; 13. Hunter Herrin, $131,130; 14. Justin Smith, $122,951; 15. Taylor Santos, $108,182.

Barrel Racing

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Jordon Briggs

ROUND 10 WINNERS: Dona Kay Rule

Barrel Racing Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average leaders: 1. Jordon Briggs, 136.83 seconds on ten runs, $69,234; 2. Molly Otto, 145.11, $56,171; 3. Hailey Kinsel, 146.41, $44,414; 4. (tie) Emily Miller-Beisel and Stevi Hillman, 146.83, $28,086 each; 6. Dona Kay Rule, 147.09, $16,982; 7. Shelley Morgan, 147.19, $11,757; 8. Amanda Welsh, 148.01, $6,532; 9. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 148.27; 10. Jessica Routier, 148.76; 11. Nellie Miller, 148.80; 12. Ivy Saebens, 152.69; 13. Lisa Lockhart, 159.00; 14. Cheyenne Wimberley, 162.93; 15. Wenda Johnson, 167.41.
  • World standings: 1. Jordon Briggs, $297,460; 2. Hailey Kinsel, $281,156; 3. Emily Miller-Beisel, $202,565; 4. Shelley Morgan, $202,202; 5. Dona Kay Rule, $195,575; 6. Stevi Hillman, $183,070; 7. Amanda Welsh, $155,065; 8. Ivy Saebens, $139,590; 9. Wenda Johnson, $138,345; 10. Molly Otto, $134,698; 11. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, $128,200; 12. Lisa Lockhart, $116,845; 13. Cheyenne Wimberley, $111,299; 14. Jessica Routier, $100,169; 15. Nellie Miller, $85,519.

Bull Riding

2021 WORLD CHAMPION: Sage Kimzey

ROUND 10 WINNER: Josh Frost

Bull Riding Leaders as of Round 10

  • Average leaders: 1. Josh Frost, 568.5 points on seven head, $69,234; 2. Parker Breding, 518 points on six head, $56,171; 3. Sage Kimzey, 506, $44,414; 4. Stetson Dell Wright, 348.5 points on four head, $32,658; 5. Trey Benton III, 332, $23,513; 6. Clayton Sellars, 307, $16,982; 7. Creek Young, 270.5 points on three head, $11,757; 8. Ky Hamilton, 264, $6,532; 9. Boudreaux Campbell, 261; 10. Ruger Piva, 255.5; 11. Shane Proctor, 169 points on two head; 12. Dustin Donovan Boquet, 163.5; 13. Braden Richardson, 89 points on one head; 14. J.B. Mauney, 87.5; 15. Roscoe Jarboe, 80.5.
  • World standings: 1. Sage Kimzey, $411,465; 2. Josh Frost, $363,353; 3. Stetson Dell Wright, $342,989; 4. Parker Breding, $293,419; 5. Creek Young, $243,647; 6. Clayton Sellars, $186,195; 7. Trey Benton III, $184,993; 8. Ky Hamilton, $177,934; 9. Dustin Donovan Boquet, $165,555; 10. Ruger Piva, $154,859; 11. Boudreaux Campbell, $147,623; 12. J.B. Mauney, $146,466; 13. Braden Richardson, $135,537; 14. Shane Proctor, $126,869; 15. Roscoe Jarboe, $105,778.   

Breakaway Roping

National Finals Breakaway Roping (Breakaway Calf Roping) – Average 1. Sawyer Gilbert   46.300   $11,313.462. Taylor Munsell   125.100   $9,178.843. Shelby Boisjoli   133.600   $7,257.694. Cheyanne Guillory   142.300   $5,336.545. Joey Williams   227.500   $3,842.316. Erin Johnson   230.100   $2,775.007. Lari Dee Guy   239.200   $1,921.158. Kelsie Domer   316.300   $1,067.31

National Finals Breakaway Roping World Standings:

  1. Sawyer Gilbert Buffalo, SD $71,653.83
  2. Shelby Boisjoli Stephenville, TX $69,456.61
  3. Taylor Munsell Alva, OK $57,895.72
  4. Kelsie Domer Dublin, TX $52,159.89
  5. Erin Johnson Fowler, CO $50,442.43
  6. Jackie Crawford Stephenville, TX $49,406.53
  7. Lari Dee Guy Abilene, TX $49,096.14
  8. Cheyanne Guillory Gainesville, TX $48,294.95
  9. Danielle Lowman Gilbert, AZ $44,407.80
  10. Joey Williams Volborg, MT $44,351.81
NFR-2021-FB-Post-Image

Nebraska ag producers pay nearly 50 percent more than the national average in property taxes

Nobody likes taxes, but Nebraska farmers and ranchers have even more to dislike than many others around the country.

According to a study by J. David Aiken, Nebraska agriculture property taxes are among the highest in the United States. Over the last three years, Nebraska farmers and ranchers have paid nearly 31 percent of their net farm income as property taxes (47 percent in 2017). Aiken, an agriculture and Water Law Specialist Department with the agricultural Economics University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that when state and federal taxes are factored in, this represents an effective tax rate of more than 50 percent (over 60 percent in 2017.) Nebraska property taxes on agricultural land as a percentage of net farm income are 146 percent of the United States average (1950-2017 data). The twenty year average is 150 percent, the ten year average is 147 percent, the five year average is 164 percent and the three year average is 188 percent. Property taxes are the single largest tax paid in Nebraska accounting for 38 percent of total state and local tax collections.

The study revealed that sales taxes make up 29 percent of total taxes, and income taxes are 26 percent. Sixty percent of property taxes go to K-12 education funding. All property taxes fund local government—cities, counties, and local school districts. All income taxes and 84 percent of sales taxes are used to fund the state government. Currently with high ag land values across the state, 85 percent of state aid goes to non-agricultural areas and 15 percent is distributed across the board to all school districts. Two-thirds of Nebraska school districts (largely rural) receive little to no state aid.

In Nebraska in 2017, 42,502 farmers paid $686.5 million dollars in property taxes. On a per-farm basis, that breaks down to $16,151 each, second only to California with the average there being $17,229. The national average in 2017 was $4,902, according to data from the 2017 ag Census collected by Chris Clayton, DTN ag Policy Editor.

John O’Dea lives near McCook, Nebraska with his wife and sons. They are feeling the high tax rate, paying 9 dollars a year per acre of grass. More of his tax dollars are given to support Mid-Plains Community College than he can afford to give his own son, who is putting himself through Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. This for him was a cheaper option than Southeast Community College in Nebraska.

“My sons were talking the other day and they agreed “The expense of being a Nebraskan is getting too high,” O’Dea said. “The state has turned into two liberal cities that expect the rest of the state to support them. Folks are having to work off the place to support the ranch. Who will feed and pay the taxes if they force everyone out. It is having a ripple effect on small towns and communities. Every ag producer that has to take a job in town is taking that job away from someone else. I’m 43 years old and I’m paying more for property taxes now than I did for rent when I started. Land in Nebraska is a liability.”

O’Dea feels that there will be some major changes made as producers attempt to refinance land and cattle in the next few years especially with land values going down. The O’Dea family is seriously considering moving their base of operation to a more ag friendly state in the near future.

“The death losses in Nebraska alone will more than offset what USDA estimated what the calf crop was set to increase in 2019. If calf and yearling prices are not considerably higher this fall, our supply and demand market is broken beyond repair. The cow calf expansion phase was at or near its peak, so these losses will pull us back into a shrinking phase in the cow calf sector,” O’Dea said.

Another Nebraska rancher, Karina Jones, said that on top of weather-related disasters, her state’s property taxes are overwhelming.

“Property taxes are like a second mortgage,” said Karina Jones.

The Jones Ranch in Custer County Nebraska has been hit hard by nature and in a way kicked repeatedly while they were down.

“Our situation is unique. We endured the hailstorm in August of 2017 we had to wean calves immediately and start feeding cows on August 13. We didn’t have a blade of grass left on this ranch,” she remembers. By early December of that year, they were running out of feed, and they were forced to send all of the mother cows to be fed by someone off the ranch. “We fed cows from Aug 13, 2017 to June 1, 2018,” Jones said.

Jones believes the state is taking advantage of ranchers like herself and her husband.

“You would think the government would value people like us. We have a particular skill set that can not be taught in a classroom. You can not learn how to be a rancher from Google. It is generations of DNA intelligence. When they put us out of business, it is all lost. Society won’t be able to get that back. We have a particular skill set to feed the world and I can not think of a more noble profession than that,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if you own the ground or lease it. The cost of these high taxes is carried by the producer, the cow/calf man or the yearling guy. With the poor cattle markets the last few years we cannot support this tax burden. I do not know the last time I bought my girls a special sports drink at the supermarket line or convenience store. I cannot afford extras!”

The Jones are not a multi-generational operation. “We do not have the working capital of the generations before us to lean on. It all falls squarely on our shoulders, just like many other operators around us. It is a big load to carry,” Jones said.

The Jones’ had insurance on their home but hay loss from the hail storm was not covered because hail is a non-covered peril. The same with destroyed grass, trees lost, poor weaning weights on the calves that the cows had at side and poor performing calves that they had in utero. “We just want to raise cattle and kids. That’s all. We don’t want to take from anyone else. We want to give back and better our communities. We want to contribute fairly to our tax commitments. We want to feed our neighbors with a high quality product that we are proud to feed our own families.”

Jones would like to see some producer support meetings where others like her could share ideas. “We all need some good education and a place to be positive and focus on solutions. And yet we need a safe place to be heard. The bankers need us to stay in business,” said Leah Peterson of Custer County, Nebraska. “And none of us want easy; we just want a fair shot. Taxes take that away. As someone says, it’s like paying taxes on a 401K every year.”

Jim Scott, branch president of Bruning State Bank in Broken Bow, Nebraska said, “High property taxes are definitely a major issue due to the current ag economy and high expenses. There has been a depreciation of land values in the last 12 months, due to more land being sold and less profitability, people are looking to reduce debt load.”

“We need to even the tax burden on all citizens, like with a sales tax increase; we are waiting on the legislature to help. Producers need to get involved and pay attention to how money is spent,” Scott said.

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo makes the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo put Burwell on the map, and now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

The rodeo, located in Burwell, Neb., is among eleven inductees for the 2022 class.

The rodeo, known now as simply, “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo,” got its start in 1921, when Homer C. Stokes, a man engaged in real estate in Burwell, visited a rodeo in Kansas. He came back with the idea that Burwell would be a logical spot for that type of western entertainment.

For the first rodeo, with no grandstands, the committee used two wagon loads of timber and a straw pile as a place to sit, and when the rodeo was over, there was $500 for the coffers, not a bad profit for a first-year event.

And they never looked back.

Since then, the rodeo has grown and changed, said Jess Helgoth, the man now at the helm of the committee. It was held in September, then moved to August, then to July, to make it easier for cowboys and cowgirls to come to Burwell from rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyo., Deadwood, S.D., and Wahoo and Gordon, Nebraska, if the dates fall just right.

The original grandstands were wooden with an arch and castle-like turrets over the entryway. The grandstand and archway, still in use today, are on the Nebraska Historical Register.

By 1929, the rodeo was so popular that the Lincoln (Neb.) Chamber of Commerce organized train trips from Lincoln to Burwell, bringing nearly 400 people, including the Nebraska governor at the time, Arthur J. Weaver, to the event.

Through the years, the rodeo has had a variety of entertainment.

In the early days, Native Americans would camp out along the cedar trees on the west side of the grounds and provide entertainment during the day. To celebrate the rodeo’s 100th anniversary last year, Ponca Indians danced on the midway. “They enjoyed it so much, they’re thinking about coming back this year,” Helgoth said.

Horse racing was also popular at the rodeo. Up till the 1970s, the rodeo included Quarter Horse racing, complete with a starting gate, finish line and betting.

The rodeo played host to country music stars like Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams Jr. in the 1960s, and hired legendary rodeo talent, like announcers Cy Taillon, Mel Lambert, Clem McSpadden and Hadley Barret; rodeo clowns and bullfighters like Wilbur Plaugher and Rex Dunn, and contestants of the caliber of Tad Lucas, Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, Larry Mahan, Lane Frost and Trevor Brazile. The Roberts family, father E.C. and son Ken, brought their stock; the Beutler family has provided stock every year since 1956.

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo strives to entertain, not just with the rodeo but with other activities, too. “We put on a show,” Helgoth said, including chuckwagon races, the “famous Burwell wild horse race,” and the dinner bell derby. Canadians have been bringing the chuckwagons since the 1980s, and Neil Salmond and his crew “give up big money races in Canada just to spend a week in Burwell,” Helgoth said.

For the dinner bell derby, mares and foals are separated for several hours prior to the rodeo, then the mares are taken to one end of the race track in front of the grandstand while the colts are taken to the opposite end. “It’s a race to go to mama,” Helgoth said. To win, the colts have to cross the finish line. “People love that race.”

The Garfield County Fair goes on at the same time, with livestock shows, a county roping, vendors, food, dances with live music, beer gardens, and a carnival. “We try to keep people around,” Helgoth said. “There’s something to do all day long.”

It’s a family affair for Helgoth. After he joined the committee in 2008, he found out his and fellow board member Shane Hughes’ great-great-grandfather Donner was on the board. “A lot of dads and grandpas and now sons and grandsons have kept the tradition going.”

And the committee keeps growing, changing, and innovating. This year, they had planned to add an Xtreme Bulls and Broncs event on May 27-28 and a Diamond Rio concert on July 2. Due to wind storm damage, however, the Xtreme Bulls and Broncs event was canceled.

With Burwell’s population of 1,200, it takes everybody to produce a rodeo with upwards of 10,000 people in attendance over four days. The community backs the rodeo, Helgoth said. “If you were born and raised in Burwell, the rodeo means something to you,” he said. “Whether they live here or not, they support the rodeo in one way or another, by donations or buying a ticket or staying the weekend here with friends and family.”

The induction in Colorado Springs is ten days before this year’s rodeo, which is scheduled for July 27-30. It’ll be a busy time. “We’ll get out to Colorado Springs, have a little fun, come back and get to work,” Helgoth said.

He and the other board members are grateful and a bit incredulous about their induction.

“It means the world to us. I get goosebumps, talking about it. It’s unreal that a little town in Nebraska has a rodeo in the hall of fame.”

For “a little bitty old town in the middle of Nebraska, the rodeo means everything to the people. Burwell is a special place, and getting into the hall of fame is just another notch in our pistol,” Helgoth said.

This year’s rodeo is July 27-30.Nebraska’s Big Rodeo makes the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo put Burwell on the map, and now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

The rodeo, located in Burwell, Neb., is among eleven inductees for the 2022 class.

The rodeo, known now as simply, “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo,” got its start in 1921, when Homer C. Stokes, a man engaged in real estate in Burwell, visited a rodeo in Kansas. He came back with the idea that Burwell would be a logical spot for that type of western entertainment.

For the first rodeo, with no grandstands, the committee used two wagon loads of timber and a straw pile as a place to sit, and when the rodeo was over, there was $500 for the coffers, not a bad profit for a first-year event.

And they never looked back.

Since then, the rodeo has grown and changed, said Jess Helgoth, the man now at the helm of the committee. It was held in September, then moved to August, then to July, to make it easier for cowboys and cowgirls to come to Burwell from rodeos in Cheyenne, Wyo., Deadwood, S.D., and Wahoo and Gordon, Nebraska, if the dates fall just right.

The original grandstands were wooden with an arch and castle-like turrets over the entryway. The grandstand and archway are on the Nebraska Historical Register. In a windstorm on May 12, the grandstands were severely damaged, but the arch and turrets were not. The committee is planning to build the grandstands back the way they were, with even more reinforcements to counter the wind.

By 1929, the rodeo was so popular that the Lincoln (Neb.) Chamber of Commerce organized train trips from Lincoln to Burwell, bringing nearly 400 people, including the Nebraska governor at the time, Arthur J. Weaver, to the event.

Through the years, the rodeo has had a variety of entertainment.

In the early days, Native Americans would camp out along the cedar trees on the west side of the grounds and provide entertainment during the day. To celebrate the rodeo’s 100th anniversary last year, Ponca Indians danced on the midway. “They enjoyed it so much, they’re thinking about coming back this year,” Helgoth said.

Horse racing was also popular at the rodeo. Up till the 1970s, the rodeo included Quarter Horse racing, complete with a starting gate, finish line and betting.

The rodeo played host to country music stars like Tanya Tucker and Hank Williams Jr. in the 1960s, and hired legendary rodeo talent, like announcers Cy Taillon, Mel Lambert, Clem McSpadden and Hadley Barret; rodeo clowns and bullfighters like Wilbur Plaugher and Rex Dunn, and contestants of the caliber of Tad Lucas, Casey Tibbs, Jim Shoulders, Larry Mahan, Lane Frost and Trevor Brazile. The Roberts family, father E.C. and son Ken, brought their stock; the Beutler family has provided stock every year since 1956.

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo strives to entertain, not just with the rodeo but with other activities, too. “We put on a show,” Helgoth said, including chuckwagon races, the “famous Burwell wild horse race,” and the dinner bell derby. Canadians have been bringing the chuckwagons since the 1980s, and Neil Salmond and his crew “give up big money races in Canada just to spend a week in Burwell,” Helgoth said.

For the dinner bell derby, mares and foals are separated for several hours prior to the rodeo, then the mares are taken to one end of the race track in front of the grandstand while the colts are taken to the opposite end. “It’s a race to go to mama,” Helgoth said. To win, the colts have to cross the finish line. “People love that race.”

The Garfield County Fair goes on at the same time, with livestock shows, a county roping, vendors, food, dances with live music, beer gardens, and a carnival. “We try to keep people around,” Helgoth said. “There’s something to do all day long.”

It’s a family affair for Helgoth. After he joined the committee in 2008, he found out his and fellow board member Shane Hughes’ great-great-grandfather Donner was on the board. “A lot of dads and grandpas and now sons and grandsons have kept the tradition going.”

And the committee keeps growing, changing, and innovating. This year, they had planned to add an Xtreme Bulls and Broncs event on May 27-28 and a Diamond Rio concert on July 2. Due to wind storm damage, however, the Xtreme Bulls and Broncs event was canceled.

With Burwell’s population of 1,200, it takes everybody to produce a rodeo with upwards of 10,000 people in attendance over four days. The community backs the rodeo, Helgoth said. “If you were born and raised in Burwell, the rodeo means something to you,” he said. “Whether they live here or not, they support the rodeo in one way or another, by donations or buying a ticket or staying the weekend here with friends and family.”

The induction in Colorado Springs is ten days before this year’s rodeo, which is scheduled for July 27-30. It’ll be a busy time. “We’ll get out to Colorado Springs, have a little fun, come back and get to work,” Helgoth said.

He and the other board members are grateful and a bit incredulous about their induction.

“It means the world to us. I get goosebumps, talking about it. It’s unreal that a little town in Nebraska has a rodeo in the hall of fame.”

For “a little bitty old town in the middle of Nebraska, the rodeo means everything to the people. Burwell is a special place, and getting into the hall of fame is just another notch in our pistol,” Helgoth said.

This year’s rodeo is July 27-30. Tickets are available online at NebraskasBigRodeo.com.

Earl Cartoon


Miles City Bucking Horse Sale: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

A Bucking Horse Sale Tribute to Bill Harding & Lavetta Weeding

It had been a beautiful weekend. Temperatures in the mid 70s for the third weekend in May had a way of putting smiles on faces. The smell of dust, liquor and sweaty horses filled the air that hung upon the eastern Montana fairgrounds. The 2021 World Famous Miles City Bucking Horse sale shattered the previous ticket sales record. After a cancellation in 2020 due to COVID-19, spirits were high at the “Cowboy Mardi Gras.” Old friends were reunited, and stories were told as attendees seemed eager to push past the doom and gloom of 2020. As the final checks were handed out and the last horses loaded onto the trailers, Bill Harding jokingly told his longtime friend Lavetta Weeding, “I think it’s time that we both retire, we’re getting too old for this.”

Only God would know that when they left the fairgrounds on that Sunday evening that it would be their last Bucking Horse Sale.

As the result of a horse-related accident at the family ranch northwest of Miles City, Bill passed away the weekend following the 2021 Bucking Horse Sale. Lavetta passed away unexpectedly on October 29, 2021. The two longtime friends, who some would describe as “two peas in a pod,” spent countless hours devoting their time and skills to the Bucking Horse Sale. Former executive secretary Nyoka Twitchell said, “I truthfully don’t know how this show can go on without them. They were both so instrumental.”

A native of Miles City, Montana, Bill Harding devoted 41 years to working the Bucking Horse Sale as an employee of the Miles City Livestock Commission, a position that his father, grandfather and two sons, Matt and Jimmy, have all held with admiration. Bill got his feet wet working at the sale barn, following closely behind his father, D.L. He legally started earning a paycheck from MCLC in 1978. As the unofficial “yard foreman” (a title that he refused to take), Bill took great pride in working alongside mentors and friends such as Doug Wall, Walt Secrest, and Scorio Dolatta. Every Tuesday, rain or shine, Bill was at the sale barn.

His appreciation for his co-workers and the volunteers that he worked with at the sale barn and Bucking Horse Sale was paramount, and they were like family. He took a “very select crew” to assist with the Bucking Horse Sale duties. Lorin Larsen, Randy Pluhar, Kyle Shaw, Derek Pierce and son, Jimmy Harding were considered his “right hand men.” Everything that took place behind the bucking chutes was Bill’s responsibility, a duty that he loved. For ten days a year in May, Bill worked tirelessly at the fairgrounds. “You have to give back to your community,” was what he would tell his wife of 38 years, Roxanne.

Roxanne handled the beer sales during the events and would also cook lunches for the crew and serve supper in the evenings at the sale barn. No matter how late he had to work into the night, Bill loved every minute of it. Bill developed friendships with and was highly respected among the visiting stock contractors. Having worked behind the chutes for 40+ years, he was known to keep the show running smoothly and horses flowing in and out of chutes with ease. He was honored to have worked the sale with three generations of Lingers: Sonny, Pat and Ty. He found great joy in watching Cal Davison pull gates. “He just loved the people he worked with,” Roxanne remembers.

One of Bill’s favorite tasks at the sale was picking the eliminator pen for the popular Wild Horse Races. You better have your hat cranked down if you were up in the first or second session on Saturday, because that was where Bill put the eliminator horses.

Not only did Bill work behind the scenes, he also picked up the wild horse race in 2021. Picking up was one of Bill’s most loved hobbies, as he would pick up at area rodeos and ranch rodeos, in addition to judging many ranch rodeos across Montana. A true cowboy, with a heart made for helping others, Bill was always quick to help a kid out and root for the underdog. Roxanne recalled numerous times that Bill would step up and cover entry fees for kids that couldn’t afford to enter.  His greatest treasures were his family and the friends that he made along the way. One of his closest friends was a lady from Jordan, Montana named Lavetta Weeding.

Spending most of her life in eastern Montana, Lavetta Weeding was better known as “Rodeo Mom” to numerous kids across Montana and the Dakotas. As a ranch wife and mother first, with a deep appreciation for rodeo, she started her secretary duties at the Bucking Horse Sale in 2007 and continued every year with a smile on her face. Whether it was tending to secretary duties at High School, YRA, Ranch Rodeos or the Bucking Horse Sale, Lavetta had an encouraging presence. “You would never meet a kinder woman,” Roxanne Harding said about her dear friend. “She took her job seriously and she was top notch. Very professional.” Lavetta and Bill worked side by side for many years at the Bucking Horse Sale. “When I needed to find Bill, I would just look for Lavetta,” Roxanne laughed.

With humor and cheerfulness Lavetta would start her Bucking Horse Sale duties on May 1 of every year, when phone entries opened. She would anxiously sit by her phone taking entries for bucking horses, bulls, mutton busting and her favorite event, the wild horse races. “She lived for that,” said her husband of 47 years, Doug. “It was something she looked forward to every single year.”

Lavetta did not know the cowboys as “entries,” she knew them as family. Lavetta knew every individual that walked through the door of the rodeo secretary’s office by name and developed such friendships with the riders that one wild horse racer graciously awarded Lavetta the championship buckle he won. Lavetta completed all her secretary work with a pencil. She never used a computer and figured all the payouts longhand. “She could work calmly under pressure and never get mad at anyone when there would be complete chaos going on,” said Nyoka Twitchell. Nyoka recalls Lavetta insisting on having a clean rodeo office. “She would clean that office for hours before one person stepped in the door.”

Lavetta’s love for rodeo and ranch rodeos was evident. She and her husband, Doug followed the rodeo trail for many years with their kids, Clint, Jennifer and Chantz, and more recently enjoyed watching their grandkids compete. Doug and Lavetta’s home arena at the ranch in Jordan was always open to any young up and comers that wanted to practice. The couple always had cattle and were eager to help kids that were hungry to learn or perfect their event. They were known for welcoming kids to jump in with them to haul to rodeos across the state as they always had a trailer going. Lavetta and Doug never turned down helping or hauling kids that wanted to rodeo.

Over the combined 55 years of service that Bill and Lavetta gave to the Bucking Horse Sale, they often joked that they were never able to sit down and actually watch the event. Though greatly missed, as the 2022 Bucking Horse Sale kicks off, Bill and Lavetta will finally be able to enjoy watching the production–from the best grandstand in the sky.

USFS defends aerial gunning of New Mexico cattle

New Mexico Congresswoman Yvette Herrell asked the USDA pointed questions after the U.S. Forest Service and USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service gunned down cattle on the Gila Forest and Wilderness from a helicopter. Herrell received a response from Michiko J. Martin, Regional Forester for the Southwestern Region Forest Service Regional Office in Albuquerque.

According to the letter, the Acting Gila National Forest Supervisor signed a Categorical Exclusion to approve the operation on Sept. 11, 2020. In February of 2021, the deputy regional forester signed a Minimum Requirements Decision Guide to approve the $65,896.19 helicopter operation in the Gila Wilderness, which was also authorized by the APHIS Wildlife Service’s regional director via a Categorical Exclusion.

Martin claims the Forest Service ensured coordination and communication with the New Mexico Livestock Board throughout the project, as well as during a recent gather contract, during which the state inspected cattle removed from the Gila National Forest. According to the letter, communication between the New Mexico Livestock Board and New Mexico Game and Fish began in late 2019, continuing throughout the planning and operation.

The operation resulted in the shooting of 65 head of “unauthorized/unbranded” cattle, all of which Martin said were shot only after APHIS made “intentional observation of each animal prior to engagement” and were found to carry no ear tags or brands. When the New Mexico Livestock Board visited the area following the operation and alerted the Forest Service to two carcasses left in the river, the Forest Service prioritized removal of the deceased cattle.

Martin said the Gila National Forest continues stakeholder outreach with regard to this operation as well as plans for removing the remaining livestock, which is estimated to be about 100 head. To date, 51 head have been removed; 32 died or had to be euthanized for safety; and 19 head were inspected by the Livestock Board and sold at auction. The current contract for removal expires in December 2022 and Martin said the USFS will continue to remove remaining cattle until 100 head are removed or the contract expires. At that point, the USFS will evaluate the number removed, whether additional cattle are present, and which steps will be taken.

Herrell called the shooting a short term fix with many potential severe consequences.

“Local stakeholders agree that removing cattle from the wilderness is the right thing to do, but taking lethal action was a step too far,” she said. “Shooting these cattle and leaving their carcasses behind, as the Forest Service did, attracts wolves to the area and put surrounding ranchers at risk of losing their livelihoods to wolf attacks. In addition, the Forest Service could not guarantee that these cows were indeed wild, raising the possibility of wrongly killing one of my constituents’ livestock. I was disappointed that Gov. Lujan Grisham decided to give her blessing to these proposals, which were opposed by the ranching community and many other concerned families in my district. I will continue to put pressure on the Forest Service to reverse course and take more prudent actions to humanely remove cattle from the wilderness area.”

As for Herrell’s concern about wolf depredation occurring as a result of carcasses left in the area, Martin responded that there are no wolf packs currently documented within the Gila Wilderness and no known packs are in the vicinity of the closure area established for the unauthorized/unbranded livestock operations.

 

Snooks, Deveraux buy Buffalo Livestock Auction

Buffalo Livestock Auction in Buffalo, Wyo. will soon be under new ownership. Beginning on June 1, the trio of Austin Snook, Taylor Snook, and Craig Deveraux will be at the helm of the livestock market. With I-90 and I-25 funneling into the city of Buffalo and scores of cattle in the surrounding region, Snooks and Deveraux are eager to capitalize on the opportunity.

“It looked like something we could build on and grow and turn into something really good for the area. The closest competitors are either over the mountain or 140 miles away,” said Austin Snook. “It just looked like a good opportunity.”

Craig Deveraux and his family have successfully hosted the Full House Elite Performance Horse Sale for 13 years. Buffalo Livestock seeks to expand its horse market. Courtesy photo.

Craig Deveraux and his family are known for their successful Full House Elite Performance Horse Sale, held in Newcastle every spring. He worked as a field rep in the Black Hills region for over 10 years and is himself a lifelong cattle producer.

The Snook brothers of Hulett will be actively operating the auctions on a weekly basis. Despite their both being under 30 years old, Snooks bring a solid expertise from years in cattle marketing. Prior to this purchase, Austin served as a field man for Belle Fourche Livestock for three years. “I’ve done business with some people in this area and had a lot of experience sorting cattle and buying and selling cattle […] I’ve gotten a little bit of experience but you could always learn more,” he says.

His younger brother, Taylor, represented St. Onge Livestock as a field man for just under five years. Both men are producers and have taken part in their family’s ranches near Hulett since childhood. Taylor says, “We were lucky to be able to work there as long as we did and learn the whole game. Now we know what we’re going into. Justin Tupper (St. Onge Livestock) said when I left, ‘I’ll stand behind you all the way […] If you need any help, I’ll be there.’”

Taylor actually asked the current owner of Buffalo Livestock Auction several years ago about the possibility of purchasing the sale barn. While nothing came of the initial conversation, he persisted and asked once more last fall. From there, the momentum grew into making that question into a reality. Their father, Clint, is a realtor and has been helping his sons through the process. He will continue to work with Buffalo Livestock Auction as a field man. Curt Westland of Belle Fourche will serve as their auctioneer.

It is no small move for the Snooks and their young families. Austin and Hannah Snook’s firstborn son, Creek, was born in early May. Three months ago, Taylor and Susy had their firstborn, Woodrow. Yet, buying the sale barn is a step taken with the future in mind. “Family owned and operated is about the best way to run any business, and in the end we always will. Family–that’s what we’re doing it for,” Austin says. “ It’ll be a big change, but in the future, we’ll be able to own our own business and have something to hand down to our kids,” Taylor says.

Taylor “Bug” Snook and Susy are eager to start their new endeavor with their son, Woodrow, starting June 1st. Courtesy photo.

Snooks and Deverauxs have been close family friends for years. Deveraux’s experience with selling horses will be invaluable as they hope to offer monthly horse sales at Buffalo Livestock. Eventually, there are plans to build an arena adjacent to the barn, in aid of performance horse sales year round.

Austin Snook has a lifetime of practical experience marketing cattle on all sides, from production to the auction. Courtesy photo.

Snooks are eager to expand on the well-established business in order to provide the best services possible for cattle producers in northeast Wyoming and beyond. “I hope to bring them a fair and competitive market there with the best care they could ask for, for the consignors and buyers,” Austin says.

They are passionate about the area and know that it boasts “lots of cattle and lots of good people.” Their goal is to do good, honest business and to take care of each client individually, ensuring their cattle are sold well and at a decent time. Austin says, “We want to do business with everyone–any avenue we can–from the ring to the video to the country.” Taylor says, “Even the small guys that have 25 head, we’re going to make them feel like they have 1,000. They mean just as much to us as anyone.”

 

Derecho delivers tough blow to farming operations

For people across eastern South Dakota and Minnesota, the May 12 storm that lasted 20 to 30 minutes with a wall of wind and debris turned their worlds upside down.

Near Colton, South Dakota, 61-year-old Wendy Lape of Wentworth was driving with her husband when the storm hit. A chunk of wood came through a window of their vehicle and struck Lape. She was taken to a hospital, where she later died from her injuries.

In Sioux Falls, Annie Lanning, a 43-year-old teacher, was killed when a tree fell on her car during the storm.

Near Blomkest, Minnesota, a grain bin fell onto a car during the storm and killed 63-year-old Ryan Erickson from Lake Lillian, Minnesota, who was a passenger in the car.

With the straight-line winds hurling debris at nearly 100 mph, Drew Peterson is amazed there weren’t more injuries and fatalities. “We are so sorry for the deaths that occurred. There were many people caught in tractors, in trucks, on 4-wheelers and in Rangers that could have been hurt badly.”

Near Salem, South Dakota, Peterson thought he still had time to move his planter and sprayer home. Seeing the roiling dust cloud coming at him changed his focus as he found the closest shelter in one of the farm sheds.

He and a couple of his neighbors huddled in the bathroom where they could hear the shed being torn apart in the storm. “We could hear the wind ripping the walls and rafters apart. The feed truck was in the corner close to us. I believe that solid-built truck saved us as it was holding up the roof section. After the winds stopped, my thought was, ‘I am lucky to be alive.’”

“When we walked out of the shed, the first thing we saw was cattle everywhere,” Drew said. “The calving barn and our houses are all that are left intact.”

When you have 950 cows with lots of pairs, what do you do? You take care of them.

“We had three groups with 400 pairs total that got out and mixed that we rounded up. We pushed them into a summer pasture. Since it was close to sunset, we let them graze overnight. At 10 the next morning, we had 15 to 18 people out there to help. Anyone who has ever moved that many young calves knows it takes a lot of work to keep the calves from bolting and getting separated.”

The others were in five other pastures with fences that needed some fixing, but they were able to stay there.

It was fortunate that the calving structure didn’t collapse as there were still about 100 cows housed there. “Probably five animals were killed by the flying debris. We think we were pretty lucky. We’ve treated some calves with some injuries and are watching closely to see if any health problems develop.”

Priorities have adjusted as the family figures out what needs to get done. “Our normal date for moving pairs to pasture is right around May 15. That’s when we brand. With the events of last week, we are concentrating on getting seed in the ground and will work with the cattle as we have time.”

A sturdy pipe fence surrounds the feedlot, so those animals didn’t get out, but they had to be fed. Drew said it took two days to figure out how to get the feed truck unburied. They used a telehandler and two payloaders to ease the truck from the debris. It has some cosmetic damage, but it runs. “We are so very lucky that a rafter wasn’t driven through the radiator.”

Drew said the speed of the storm was unreal. ”We thought we’d have 30 to 40 minutes before the storm hit. We’d planned to drive 10 miles to bring the planter and sprayer home but ran out of time. It was a blessing, as the equipment left in the field was undamaged.”

While warnings of the storm popped up on his phone, “We were busy farming and getting stuff done. We were in the field planting and spraying. Maybe if I knew the storm had the potential to be a derecho, with 70 to 100 mph winds, I would have gone to my dad’s basement earlier.”

With 4,000 acres to cover, it was important the Drew get back spraying fields Sunday and planting corn Monday. They are about half done with getting the crop planted.

“If this had been a tornado with some places getting hit, we’d all join to help our neighbors. But the whole community, the town got hit, everyone’s farm got hit. We each had huge messes to take care of. We are so thankful that people from outside came to help.”

Drew is waiting for insurance adjusters to visit the farm. “We don’t know what our financial position will be until we hear from them.”

Drew guesses that hundreds to thousands of grain bins have been destroyed. Maybe 20 percent of the bins remain, which will be a big problem in the fall when grain comes off the fields.

When asked how he manages the losses mentally, Drew said he prioritized what needs to get done and does it. “South Dakotans are good at getting things done, at making things work. That’s what we do. We can’t do it without the support of people who care enough to drop everything in their lives to help us through this. We had hundreds of acres covered by debris. People spent two days picking that up so we could get back to planting. We couldn’t do that on our own. We can never repay them for their generosity with their time and the care they have given us.”

He emphasized that farmers and their families need to realize they can only do so much, and they must take care of themselves. Ask for help and talk it out. There are going to be bad moments when people are sad or angry about the situation. Some will rebuild and others can’t. People need to know that they don’t have be alone. Reach out to people they trust to talk it out. They can also get help by calling 2-2-1 or the Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336.

“Farmers support each other. On that front, it is mental health awareness month. It’s easy to get frustrated with all the things that need to get done. I encourage people to reach out to those resources to help in coping.”

Roof falls in on milking parlor

Milking stopped abruptly at the Hammink Dairy near Bruce, South Dakota, when the massive storm roared through May 12. Wim and Nicolien Hammink and their son Tom are the owners of the 4,000-cow dairy.

The fast-moving derecho storm brought the roof down on the 72- by 240-foot rotary parlor building and holding area in the middle of milking. As the storm swept through, employees huddled in a pit in the floor in the building. After the storm ended, they and the Hammink family did all they could to move the 60 cows from the carousel and put the system in order.

On a normal day, they milk cows two and a half times. With milking disrupted around 5:30 p.m., the parlor was up and running again about 4 a.m. through the efforts of many. With their full udders, the cows were hesitant to enter and initially had to be pushed into the stalls. It was an enormous relief to get the system working again.

“Big cranes lifted out the debris,” Nicolien said. “The first few days we milked, we ran the milk down the drain. We ordered rafters and steel Saturday and that arrived this week. It’s kind of a miracle to get the supplies so quickly.”

“So many people came out to help and our workers stayed extra to clean up. I get really emotional as I think about all they did. The blown-in insulation was all over and hard to clean. But within those few hours, they had everything working. A generator provided electricity to keep the milk cold so that wasn’t lost.”

Besides the milking parlor, all but 20 of the 300 calf hutches blew away. The wind tossed the baby calves about, and some hutches ended up seven miles northeast of the dairy. By 9 p.m. the next day, Nicolien said they found all but six calves. Of the ones rescued, about eight had to be euthanized by the veterinarian because of their injuries. About 130 of the calves were trucked to Kansas to be raised down there.

Nicolien’s husband Wim was injecting manure into a field and their son Tom planned to pick him up to get to the house ahead of the storm. Instead, Wim sat through the storm in his tractor, fearing that the storm would rip the doors off and smash the glass. He was scared, but he was okay.

When the storm hit, “I stood in the kitchen with the dogs,” Nicolien said. “I saw the hutches fly by our windows and I worried about my two guys in the field.”

With construction going on and as a reaction to the changes, milk production is down for now. Cows are now only milked twice a day. The cows know something is different and they are not producing as much.

Other dairies were affected as well. Global Dairy, at Estelline, didn’t have electricity. They took their 1,700 cows to Milbank, where there was a vacant dairy parlor where the cows could be milked.

It will be a long road to recovery but luckily no one was hurt, and the cows all survived with minimal injuries.

“When you think of all those people who came to help, it is hard to express our gratitude,” Nicolien said. “I wanted to offer food to the 50 people who were helping, but with electricity out in Estelline and Brookings, I couldn’t even offer that as a thank you. But I think in the future, I will be quicker to reach out to my neighbors to offer help when they need it.”

Madison farmer sees importance of staying positive

In Lake County, maybe 80 percent of the farms suffered damage in some way from the derecho. People lost barns, shops, machine sheds, and lots of trees. It didn’t seem to matter which way the buildings faced when the storm took them down.

John Morse of Madison knew the storm was coming and scurried to get everything tucked away. “When the storm hit, I was frantically trying to get equipment into the shop and to get the door closed. It went from a bright day to pitch dark. It was quite scary, and I was shocked at how fast it came. Within 20 to 30 minutes, it blew out.”

“This was more frightening than in 1993 when I faced down a tornado,” Morse said. “I knew weather was rolling in then. At that time, I took cover in a calving barn, which wasn’t my brightest move. I had little choice. I looked out and saw a tornado about 200 yards from where I stood. The intensity of this storm was greater — it was unreal.”

As far as the storm dampening spirits, Morse said, “Those of us who are in farming are pretty bummed out, but it’s hard to be totally depressed. We know there are risks. We had the potential to get the crop in. There is moisture in the ground after an extremely dry winter in this part of the state. Commodity prices are excellent and most of us were pretty optimistic that we’d have a decent year even with high inputs and inflation.”

In his 29th year of farming, Morse reflected. “I’ve had setbacks, battled water, drought and other adversities. I’ve found the best thing is to keep a level head. Some things are out of our control. It’s important to keep moving forward. If you are still farming these days, you must accept adversity and come up with plans to make it work in the future. We have to be supportive of others. We have crops to plant, cows to get to grass. There isn’t time for self-pity.”

“Cattle that were contained with electric fences learned quickly that the electricity was off.” He has a herd of about 250 cow-calf pairs. “They always want to get to the greener grass on the other side of the fence.”

Because electricity was out for an extended period, some installed battery or solar powered fence chargers. Morse was without power from Thursday night until Saturday night. For others, it was a longer wait as power poles and lines were snapped by the fierce storm. Tarps cover roofs where winds ripped shingles from houses, waiting for future repairs.

“I’ve not heard of anyone who lost cattle. Most of the herds were up and on the move. They sensed the storm coming,” he said. “Once we got them rounded up and back in fences, they settled down. They are resilient and creatures of habit. Once they got feed in them, they were calm.”

The damage is hard to fathom. For one neighbor, damage in the yard was extensive but a few hundred yards away, grain bins stood untouched. “At the Farmers Ag Center in Madison, many windows were smashed in sprayers, spreaders, semis and delivery trucks. One of the fertilizer spreaders was okay, but the globe for GPS was smashed, so that machine is unusable until that is replaced. There just is a lot of damage,” Morse said.

Farmers are under the gun to get crops planted. Broken limbs from shelterbelt trees litter most fields. Those areas have to be patrolled for debris before planters can roll.

It will be hard to get grain bins replaced or repaired before harvest. Morse guesses that eight or nine people had major damage to their 200,000-plus bushel grain setups. Many are making contingency plans. But the emphasis now is to get the corn in the ground and get the work done. By harvest, “We’ll have it figured out,” he said.

After the storm, it was difficult to know where to start. “We have a cow-calf operation, so we had to get the chores done. It’s too early for the animals to go to grass so we must feed them every day. We make the best choices about what to tackle and move forward.”

In a situation like this, damage is so widespread that many are concentrating on cleanup with help from family, because the neighbors have their own cleanup to do. “In 1993 with the destruction from the tornado, neighbors who weren’t affected would divide up the work and help those in need,” Morse said. “With this storm affecting about 80 percent of the county, it makes it hard to leave your operation to help others. We offer support when we can.”

“The disruption caused by this storm was frustrating,” he said. “But my folks taught me to stay positive and move forward. I hope the rains keep coming, the sun keeps shining. Harvest may offer some challenges. But as farmers and ranchers, we have great opportunities.”

Definition of a derecho


Matthew Dux, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said they labeled the May 12 storms that moved through the area as a “derecho.” By definition, a derecho is a long-lasting storm system capable of producing extreme winds and damage over an extended area of space and time.

The storm, with winds 70 to 80 mph, moved through a wide swath of southeast/eastern South Dakota. Winds were intense for 20 to 30 minutes, resulting in a great deal of damage in cities, on farms, and in rural areas. The highest wind gusts were 107-mph recorded at Tripp, South Dakota; a 97-mph wind gust in Madison, South Dakota, and a 90-mph wind gust in Huron, South Dakota.

Dux said, “It’s very rare to have such straight-line winds. This is about the same as a category 1 hurricane (74 to 95 mph) and an EF0 to EF1 tornado (65 to 110 mph) over a large area.”

The storm started near the Kansas border, expanded while crossing Nebraska and stretched about 130 miles wide from Chamberlain to east of Sioux Falls. It angled to the northeast, exiting the state around Browns Valley. Total track was 400 to 500 miles.

Preceding the derecho in the southern part of the state was an enormous wall of dirt and debris called a haboob. A haboob pushes out along the ground from a thunderstorm downdraft at high speeds, according to NOAA. Haboobs can occur anywhere in the United States, Dux said, but they are most common in the Southwest.

Dux said this resulted from little vegetation on the agricultural ground at this time of year. Delays in planting left a lot of dirt that could be swept into the cloud. If the same storm came through in a few months, there would not be the cloud of dust.

Later that evening, another line of thunderstorms developed in eastern Nebraska and entered extreme eastern South Dakota. While weaker, these storms continued to produce wind gusts between 50 and 87 mph.

“It was a rare event. Atmospheric conditions needed to be in alignment for this to happen. Last summer, a similar storm devastated Iowa. We’ve not seen ones with this high of intensity for quite a while. We don’t know if it will happen again.”

Several tornadoes were confirmed. Some of the worst damage occurred in Hamlin and Deuel counties. An EF2 tornado, with wind speeds up to 120 mph, passed through the town of Castlewood, South Dakota. A tornado also devastated another farmstead south of Gary, South Dakota. At this location, they estimated wind speeds at 135 mph, which ranks it as a high-end EF2 tornado.

Power outages

Power was out for thousands of people as power lines were damaged and poles snapped. Sioux Valley Energy serves over 23,000 homes, farms and businesses with electric service in east-central South Dakota.

On the website of Sioux Valley Energy, they posted: “We’ve never fought storm conditions like this before. We’re basically dealing with a damage path 50 miles wide and 100 miles long,” said Sioux Valley Electric vice president of engineering and operations, Ted Smith. Swath of damage caused by the derecho is more widespread than ice storms or tornadoes, which have a more focused area of damage.

SVE engineers continue to patrol the co-op’s 6,100 miles of line—the equivalent of driving from Los Angeles to Boston, and back again. Besides SVE’s workforce of 100-plus employees, over 60 personnel from other co-ops and contractors are working to get power back to everyone as soon as possible.

Beneath the Panels: Sharing American Lamb’s Solar Grazing Story

American Lamb’s story goes beyond the care provided by the people who raise it. The next chapter includes how American Lamb contributes to regenerative land management through grazing practices, especially around solar farms. The American Lamb Board (ALB) is sharing this solar grazing story with consumers and supply chain partners to provide insight to the environmental stewardship of raising sheep.

“We’re dedicated to telling all components of the American Lamb story,” says Peter Camino, ALB chair from Buffalo, WY. “Sheep provide environmental benefits and support solar energy by improving solar farmland through the practice of grazing.”

Today, solar power is more affordable, accessible and prevalent in the Unites States than ever before. It is projected to account for 20% of electricity generation in the U.S. by 2050. At the same time, farmland in America is shrinking and solar panels pepper the landscape, leaving that land largely unusable for other purposes. However, the livestock industry, specifically the sheep industry, has come to the rescue and the practice of solar grazing is gaining traction across the U.S., offering an environmentally friendly way to manage grass and weeds on solar farms.

Grazing sheep alongside solar operations offers benefits to both the land and animals. American Lamb Board
Courtesy photo

Grazing sheep alongside solar operations offers benefits to both the land and animals. The sheep graze on grass and weeds, preventing vegetation from shading the solar panels or inhibiting their movement and reducing the need for manual landscaping such as mowing and pesticide use. In turn, the land is a food source for the sheep and the solar panels offer shelter from rain, wind and direct sun.

Using sheep to graze solar sites is gaining popularity as a successful and cost-effective strategy for vegetation control. It is less labor intensive than traditional landscaping and improves the quality of the land by cycling nutrients back into the soil, minimizing erosion and encouraging native plant growth. Sheep can easily maneuver around and beneath the solar panels, grazing all parts of the land, eating grass, legumes, brush and weeds.

Here is a brief look at three operations across the country showcasing the diverse and impactful solar grazing efforts nationwide.

Richard “Rusty” Cocke of Southwest Lambscaping (Arizona)

Arizona, known for its desert landscape and abundant sunlight, has become home to many solar farms. As a sixth-generation rancher in Arizona and the great-great-great-grandson of famed rancher Henry Hooker, Richard “Rusty” Cocke recognized the opportunity for his sheep operation to improve land used by solar farms.

Weed control can be a major challenge for solar operations because weeds can obstruct the panels, reducing energy production, and weed overgrowth can even damage panels. Some solar operations use mowers and herbicides to control vegetation growth. When Arizona solar farms needed a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution to weed control, Cocke approached them with a solar grazing solution that would reduce costs of solar energy production and provide a natural approach for weed control. He now has approximately 250 sheep grazing on solar farms in Arizona.

“If you think about it, this symbiotic relationship brings together one of the oldest agricultural practices with one of the newest energy technologies,” said Cocke. “We’re reducing the cost of solar energy, improving the quality of the land and raising lamb as a delicious and nourishing food source for American families. As a rancher, this just makes sense for us.”

Cocke notes the sheep eat a varied diet, which makes them well-suited to manage vegetation beneath solar panels. For example, desert tumbleweeds can be a major issue for solar farms, but that they are a high protein food for sheep.

Trent Hendricks of Cabriejo Ranch (Missouri)

At the age of 10, Trent Hendrick’s father bought him his first ram and 50 ewes, and he’s been raising lamb ever since. But his passion didn’t start there, raising lamb was something he was born into, with his family raising sheep well before Hendricks took his first steps.

Today, Hendricks and his wife, Rachel, along with their six children, run Cabriejo Ranch in the Missouri Ozarks where they produce grass-fed beef and lamb and run a large solar grazing operation across the Midwest and Southeast states as part of their regenerative land and vegetation management services.

Hendricks didn’t initially set out to start a solar grazing business, but opportunity came knocking when a large solar company approached him to manage their land with environmental benefits beyond just keeping the grass short. They wanted to implement regenerative agriculture practices to restore ecosystems, sequester carbon, restore soil health and improve water quality. Today, his solar grazing operation focuses on large-scale solar sites where he “follows the grass,” with sheep grazing mainly from April or May through Thanksgiving, before they come home to lamb during the winter months.

At the heart of his solar grazing operation, there’s a strong focus on stewardship.

“We’ve been given an opportunity to live on the land and work with livestock. And so, our goal is to be the best stewards of that gift,” says Hendricks.

Like many American Lamb farmers and ranchers, Hendricks’ passion for what he does drives how he does it,

“Grazing our sheep on the solar fields helps the land and the animals; the way we run our operation is done with a lot of heart and humility,” said Hendricks. “We are constantly learning and working to improve what we do, and so are most farmers and ranchers. We are stewards of these animals, and we take that seriously.”

Dr. Judy St. Leger of Dutch Barn Farm

After purchasing a historic farmstead in the Mohawk River Valley of New York, Judy St. Leger and her husband set out to improve the quality of the land. She brought in sheep and goats to graze, starting with just six and growing to her current flock of 250.

Knowing that agricultural land was shrinking and looking for opportunities to benefit her community, she got into the targeted grazing business, grazing first on nonherbicide cemeteries before a friend introduced her to solar grazing. She typically grazes her sheep in upstate New York from the beginning of May to the end of October.

As a veterinarian, St. Leger understands the unique symbiotic relationship between sheep and solar fields. The fields offer a protected area for sheep to graze, shade during the hottest part of the day, and plenty of vegetation to munch on. Sheep keep the vegetation low, protecting the solar panels from shade and cycle nutrients back into the soil.

For St. Leger, it’s all about the sheep having a high quality of life every day and supporting farms who are doing the best they can for the animals.

“With agricultural lands shrinking, anywhere we can bring agriculture alongside other industries to benefit the land and keep agriculture sustainable is good,” says St. Leger. “If we can use solar grazing as a way to expand the sheep industry in the U.S. and change profitability for farmers in a way that improves the land, then I think it’s a win-win situation.”

The Way Ahead

Across the country solar grazing operations look slightly different, from the time of year to the type of vegetation that needs management. What is clear is the mutually beneficial relationship between sheep and solar energy may hold the power to support food, fiber and energy production in an environmentally responsible way. American Lamb producers through collaboration and a focus on the entire ecosystem are shepherding a new way of thinking about the future of sheep and energy production.

ALB is an industry-funded national research, promotion and information checkoff program that works on behalf of all American producers, feeders, seedstock producers, direct marketers and processors to build awareness and demand for American Lamb. ALB conducts promotion and research programs with the goal of creating greater demand and profitability for the entire industry. One of its long-term goals is to collaborate and communicate with industry partners and stakeholders to expand efforts to grow, promote, improve and support American Lamb.

Grazing sheep alongside solar operations offers benefits to both the land and animals. American Lamb Board
Courtesy photo

–American Lamb Board

Lee Pitts: The P.U. Test

Anyone around agriculture is constantly bombarded by a plethora of fragrant odors which disgust some folks more than others. I have developed what I call The P.U. test to determine your SOS (sense of smell) index. Rank the following ten smells and then compare them to my correct answers to determine your P.U. index. (I have limited the entrants to smells of biological nature because I didn’t want to make this column any more gross than it already is.)

10. A horse stable- In high school my friend Rob had to clean his family’s horse stables on a daily basis and occasionally I’d help him. I loved the smell of sweaty horses, freshly cut alfalfa and leather tack. In fact, if I could bottle that smell and use it as a room deodorizer I think I’d have a “stable” business. It’s got to be better than the Dollar Tree deodorizer I currently use which smells far worse than the smell it was meant to overpower.

9. Sheep shearing shed- I raised a lot of sheep and the smell never bothered me except in the shearing shed but I don’t know if it was the sheep or the several sweaty men working in close quarters.

8. Pig barn at the county fair- This smell is worse than the cafeteria on a bad bean day.

7. Buzzard Bill the Tallow Man- I could always tell when Buzzard was coming three miles away. At first I thought it was his truck that smelled until I encountered Buzzard at a social occasion. (Eating lunch at the Frosty Freeze.) When the clientele got one whiff of Buzzard Bill I understood why it’s called fast food because they left faster than green grass goes through a goose.

6. Feedlots- Some people are offended by the smell of cattle feedlots and complain especially around the cowtowns of Amarillo and Dodge City due to their proximity to numerous feedlots. I’ve spent time in both locations and think the smell is worse in Amarillo, not because of the cattle but because it’s home to the Big Texan, the world famous restaurant that offers a free 72 ounce steak if a customer can eat it in 20 minutes. The restroom there is especially pungent when it’s full of retching unsuccessful challengers.

5. Popping the top of the septic tank- Need I say more?

4. The blue lagoon- During spring break and Easter vacation I always volunteered to work at the swine unit in college because I enjoyed the highly intelligent hogs. After two weeks of living by the blue lagoon I had to burn my clothes and still no one would sit within ten yards of me when classes resumed.

3. Tulare County California on a rainy day- Tulare county is the largest dairy county in the country with half a million dairy cows which produce 5% of all the milk in America. After a rainstorm the place smells worse than a wet chicken coop.

2. Freddie the fistulated steer- While in college I helped the vet put a cannula into the rumen of a celebrity steer named Fred. A cannula is like a window that allows a researcher access to the rumen when opened. Believe me, you don’t want to be around when the vet first pokes the rumen with a device called a trocar and cannula. This is an ice-pick-like device inside a tube. When you pull the ice pick out of the cannula enough gas explodes through the hole to light up Phoenix for a week. Take it from one who knows, you don’t want to be standing within two miles of the eruption.

1. Fresh roadkill skunk- One night after a charity auction I was driving home when I heard a thump followed immediately by the most unmistakable odor on earth. To make matters worse the skunk somehow got wrapped around the fan blade and I had to remove it before continuing. If this ever happens again I’m going to pull over, abandon the car beside the road, hitchhike a ride home and try to find a wrecker who will haul the car to the nearest wrecking yard. If I can’t get a tow truck I’m sure Buzzard Bill will tow it with his tallow truck. Now that would be a combination that would “knock the buzzards off a gut wagon!”

 

 

Bulls of the Badlands: McDonnell Angus, The Efficiency Breeders

TSLN Rep: Dan Piroutek

Date: May 4, 2022

Location: Bowman Auction Market, Bowman, North Dakota

Auctioneer: Greg Goggins

Averages: 60 yearling Angus Bulls avg. $ 3538

The McDonnell and Goni families brought their “Bulls of the Badlands” in front of many cattlemen for their annual sale of registered Angus bulls. This herd has bred cattle for strong maternal traits and pedigrees, stacked generations deep in efficiency genetics. They have put heavy emphasis on feed efficiency, including many tests to prove their efficiency. Many long-time customers were on hand for the sale.

Top Selling Bulls:

Lot 162: $ 11,000 to Bar JV Angus, Fairview, Montana – SAV Rainfall 6846 x C CA Uno 049

Lot 144: $ 10,000 to Webo Angus, Lusk, Wyoming, and MJB Ranch, Lodgegrass, Montana – Bar Cash 707 x CC A Uno 049

Lot 104: $ 8,000 to Ryan Schultz, St. Francis, Kansas – AB-LVS Capitalist 4507 xC CA Uno 049

Lot 102: $ 7,000 to Jerard Paulsen, Will Miller, Basin, Wyoming – AB-LVS Capitalist 4507 x MCD AAR Juneau 944

Lot 157: $ 6,000 to Lyle Neal, Lodgegrass, Montana – Sterling Advantage809 xCC A Uno 049


Sam and Leo McDonnell, with Mike Maher, Isabel, South Dakota.

Governor Urges Wyoming Residents to Take Advantage of Property Tax Refund Opportunity

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Governor Mark Gordon is reminding Wyoming homeowners that they may qualify for a partial property tax refund through funding made available by legislation he signed into law in March.

The Property Tax Refund Program has a deadline of June 6, 2022, and is open to homeowners who have been Wyoming residents for the past five years that have paid their 2021 property tax in full. Homeowners must also meet income requirements specific to the county of residence and personal asset limits.

“Wyoming has not raised tax rates, and yet Wyoming citizens are feeling the pinch as their home values have risen,” Governor Gordon said. “They are seeing it in their assessed valuations on their property. Homeowners need some relief, and this program offers some.”

The legislation states that refunds shall not exceed half of your 2021 property tax bill, and includes limits based on the median residential property tax liability of the applicant’s county of residence.

Application forms and additional information are available from your local county treasurer and from the Wyoming Department of Revenue. Applications may be submitted online at https://wptrs.wyo.gov/ or mailed to the Department of Revenue.

–Governor Gordon