Cattlemen’s Update crisscrosses Nevada

The area’s recent issues with wildfire and smoke has affected cattle in western Nevada.

The area’s recent issues with wildfire and smoke has affected cattle in western Nevada.

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The annual Cattlemen’s Update, presented annually in January by the University of Nevada and sponsored by a number of businesses and agencies, crisscrossed Northern Nevada to present information to ranchers and other stakeholders that may affect their businesses and the Nevada cattle industry.

The first day was presented virtually and then presenters headed east to Fallon, Ely, Elko and Winnemucca to offer a wide variety of topics. The Cattlemen’s Update is a partnership led by the university’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources (CABNR) and its Extension and Experiment Station units.

Attendees received information not only to help them with their operations but also make them aware of critical problems or issues facing those who work the land. As he has done for years, Dr. Barry Perryman, a researcher, professor and chair of the College’s Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, moderated the three-hour program.

Dr. Lesly Morris, associate professor in Rangeland Ecology and Management, sounded a warning shot involving an invasive species of weed that has spread across the Pacific Northwest and has the ability to be a problem in the Great Basin. She said cheatgrass and Medusa head, a nonnative, noxious winter weed that has been identified to be harmful to Nevada’s agriculture, the general public or the environment.

Morris said ventenata could be the next problem grass, which is a wispy, little plant that grows from 4 to 18 inches tall and has very smooth, slender leaves. The first recorded collection occurred in1952 in Washington state and then began to spread to eight other states.

Morris pointed out ventenata has a limited distribution and has been placed in category A on the noxious weed list. She said the worst case scenario is for the weed could grow anywhere in the Great Basin.

Like cheatgrass, Morris said ventenata can increase fire hazards and decrease wildlife habitat and the diversity and productivity of the range lands. She said the grass could impact hay production and cause a big loss of its export value. The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers ventenata to outcompete perennial grasses and is of little value to foraging animals.

“We don’t know enough of ventenata and how it will affect grazing,” Morris said.

Morris revealed studies that indicate ventenata has doubled in the Pacific Northwest in seven years and expands by 3 million acres annually. Another studies shows the grass can invade rangelands quicker than cheatgrass. Ventenata can also invade with or without fire.

Shannon Neibergs, an extension economist for Washington State University and director of the Western Center for Risk Management Education, emphasized several factors affecting the industry, specifically the war in Ukraine and its effects on the global markets, its volatility in the energy markets and drought.

According to the U.S Drought Outlook, persistent drought has plagued the West for several years as of Nov. 1.

“The market is taking into account the drought outlook and how it’s affecting the market,” he said.

Neibergs said many cows were lost because of the drought, which, he said, could extend into the spring.

“From the drought, we had a record high of female slaughter,” he said, noting heifer beef cows were above the historic average.

Neibergs said cows and heifers made up more than 46% of all beef slaughters last year and the number exceeds the 2012 era drought’s culling rates.

 “Drought, high corn and hay prices and high cattle values have kept fewer cows in production and kept heifers moving into feed yards and slaughter,” he said.

In Region 9 which consists of Nevada, California, Arizona and Hawaii. Neibergs said reports showed higher culling in 2022.
Neibergs, however, said local risk depends on drought recovery and outlook. He said 2022 was an economic roller coaster with the war in Ukraine, drought, inflation, the coronavirus pandemic and other economic risks.

On an optimistic note, he said the consumer demand and export for beef has shifted back to the feeders from the packers because of decreased cattle on feed.

“Beef consumer demand and the export outlook remain strong by supporting record high price outlook for fall 2023,” he said.

Gardnerville veterinarian Randy Wallstrum, known as the “Damn Vet,” said Tritrichomonas foetus or trich causes venerable disease in cattle, and that could result in problems for area cattle producers. He said trich causes infertility and could result in abortions in cows and heifers.

Wallstrum said several times during his presentation trich could be financially devastating and costly to remove the affected cows from a herd. He said possible causes infecting a cow — which occurs during breeding —  could come from a stray bull, another cattle on public lands coming from somewhere else, bad fences, increased cattle movement or from the neighbor’s cattle.

Wallstrum said testing would confirm the presence of trich.

“Multiple tests may be required,” Wallstrum said.

The Douglas county vet said vaccinations help 85% of the cattle, but the vaccination does not prevent trich.

Brad Schultz, the extension education in Humboldt County, presented a photography study of the Santa Rosa Range during the 2022 Cattlemen’s Update. This year, he showed participants how to make photo monitoring an important tool in their studies.

“Pictures can clearly a story when combined with other data,” he said.

Schultz pointed to a number of reasons for photo monitoring: describing current conditions and using the information to proceed with the study and going forward with the information that may show abnormal or catastrophic events  changes across time. He said the monitoring could document management practices.

During his presentation, Schultz described different methods in gathering information, but he stressed consistency in monitoring the subject.

“Be consistent,” he said. “Same time of year, time of day, weather. Ideally, they’re the same.”

In addition to monitoring techniques, Schultz said individuals documenting their project should keep their information safe by placing the data and photographs in a fireproof safe and securing their data.

Schultz said good, clear pictures are worth “a lot of words.”

From his presentation, Schultz said pictures “can be enhanced with other publicly available imagery …and multiple types of imagery at different scales can provide excellent data about vegetation and rangeland change.”

Dr. Mozart Fonseca, researcher and associate professor of Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences,  discussed the problems of heavy smoke from the area’s summer wildfires and how it not only affect humans but also livestock.

“The smoke affects the livestock more in western Nevada than in northeastern Nevada,” he said.

Both northern California and Nevada have experienced consecutive summers where numerous forest fires burned thousands of acres and generated thick smoke that socked into the valleys. He said the smoke caused respiratory problems with cattle that left are out in the elements for days.

Fonseca’s timeline of events ranged from the first 24 hours to months, even years after exposure. Within the first 24 hours, he said cattle could experience swelling of the lungs, labored breathing, blocked airways and wheezing. From four to 10 days after wildfire exposure, cattle could contract pneumonia and have damage to the respiratory defense mechanism. The longer terms effects, according to Fonseca, could result in longer term damage to the small airways and intolerance to exercise.

Dr. Jacob DeDecker, the College’s associate dean for engagement and director of Extension, presented updates on programs he oversees. A native of Illinois, he spent 16 years at Michigan State University and moved west to Reno in July.

“I love Extension, love 4-H, love agriculture. I’m excited to continue that in Nevada,” he said during his introductory remarks.

DeDecker promoted the role of the state’s Extension office and programs which assist ranchers with the various programs available to them.

“Extension serves as a connector to bring people and ideas together,” he said.

DeDecker said Extension has the ability to involve local, state and federal government agencies whose experts can assist the individuals who work the land.

“Extension is a partner to bring people to the table,” he added.

During his presentation, DeDecker said the state’s second 4-H camp will be located in southern Nevada and will give students a hands-on experience. The first 4-H camp has been located at Lake Tahoe for decades.

Additionally, he said there’s emphasis on urban agriculture, and two new positions focusing on urban agriculture have been created. He said urban agriculture will work with participants to grow and produce food in urban areas.

DeDecker is bullish on Extension and what it offers to Nevadans whether they live in rural areas or the cities. He said Extension is valuable to Nevada.

“We have a great story to tell to all different areas of Nevada,” he said, pointing out Extension is an information hub.


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