Second Annual Ranch Sustainability Forum in Sheridan, Wyoming – May 18-20

Wayne Fahsholtz and the Padlock Ranch were the 2013 Region V Environmental Stewardship Award Program Winners. Read about the ranch's sustainability efforts here.

Wayne Fahsholtz and the Padlock Ranch were the 2013 Region V Environmental Stewardship Award Program Winners. Read about the ranch’s sustainability efforts here.

Mark your calendars for May 18-20 to attend the 2015 Ranch Sustainability Forum in Sheridan Wyoming. Sheridan College and the Padlock Ranch will host the second annual forum, along with support of First Interstate Bank.

According to event coordinator, Wayne Fahsholtz, the event’s main purpose is to provide opportunities for ranchers and other agriculturalists to learn about new practices and gain information that may help improve their businesses.

The event boasts workshops on several topics, including low stress livestock handling, profit tips, range monitoring and employee relations. Keynote speaker, Nina Teicholz, will share information related to her recent book, “Big Fat Surprise: Why meat, cheese and eggs fit in your diet.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about low stress livestock handing in a two-day workshop at the Sheridan College Edward A. Whitney Academic Center presented by Whit Hibbard, publisher/editor of the Stockmanship Journal.

Other speakers and forum topics include:

  • “Welcome to Sheridan College” – Paul Young, President, Sheridan College
  • “Agriculture at Sheridan College” – Keith Klement, Director of Agriculture, Sheridan College
  • “Hiring and Retaining Top Talent” – Kirk Jacobson, Human Resource Director for Beef Northwest Feeders
  • “Agriculture’s 2050 Challenge” – Barry Dunn, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Biological Sciences, South Dakota State University
  • Record Keeping and Mapping Software – AgTerra Technologies of Sheridan, Wyoming
  • “Keys to Healthy Ranch Businesses” – Burke Teichert, Ranch Consultant and Retired – Vice Pres., Ag Reserves, Inc.
  • “Measuring the BCS of Land – for management and markets.” – Greg Simonds, Vice-President of Ag Operations of Ensign Group; Faculty affiliate with Colorado State University Animal Science Department
  • “Marketing Trends and Influences” – Wayne Fahsholtz, Owner AgWin Group, LLC; Past CEO Padlock Ranch

The complete agenda and details can be found online at agwingroup.com. Tickets may be purchased on EventBrite, of by contacting Wayne Fahsholtz at (307) 751-4507. A room block is reserved at the Sheridan Center Best Western.

Be sure to catch up on a highlight from last year’s Ranch Sustainability Forum, as Walker Milhoan shares how Ranching Meets Technology with mobile and web tools to improve your productivity. Click here to read more.

Montana Winter Grazing Seminar to Focus on Sustainability

BILLINGS, Mont. – Perspectives on sustainability in Montana’s agriculture and natural resources will be the central focus of the 2015 Winter Grazing Seminar, to be held Jan. 21-22 in Billings, Mont., at the Billings Hotel & Convention Center.

The first day of the seminar will feature Wayne Fahsholtz, currently with AgWin Group LLC in Dayton, Wyo., and a past president of the Padlock Ranch. Fahsholtz will give a presentation on enabling sustainable ranch success. Jill Herold, from Syngenta, will follow with a talk on sustainability in Montana.

Next will be a rancher panel to discuss a producer’s perspective on sustainability moderated by Dr. John Paterson. The panel will include Dave Mannix of Helmville, Chase Hibbard of Helena and Leo Barthelmess of Malta. The first day presentations will conclude with a discussion on the early buy-out option of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. Heidi Brewer, Chief Program Specialist with the Farm Service Agency, will talk about the program and rancher Tom Hogan of Broadview will detail the economics of the buy-out option.

That evening, a social hour and banquet will be held at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. Northern Ag Network’s Russell Nemetz will be the Master of Ceremonies for the banquet. Range Leader of the Year Awards will be given to the winners of the rancher and agency/consultant categories. The High Country Cowboys will be the evening’s entertainment with a variety of country music.

The second day of the seminar will begin with a panel of consultants to speak on sustainability. The panel will include Butch Whitman, nutritionist with West Feeds; Neal Fehringer, a professional agronomist and consultant; and Bill Ramsey, a livestock information manager for DuPont Pioneer. Following the panel talk, Chase Hibbard will give a presentation on behalf of the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) Steering Committee on the new Grazekeeper Record Keeping Program. The seminar will conclude with Dr. John Paterson and his presentation on sustainability in beef and the food market.

This year’s Winter Grazing Seminar is proudly sponsored by the Yellowstone Conservation District and in cooperation with the Rangeland Resources Executive Committee (RREC).

Registration is $50 per person until Jan. 20 and $55 at the door.

For the agenda and registration form please call (406) 247-4420 or visit the DNRC website.

Defining Sustainability for Ranching and Beef | 10 Things To Know

Padlock ESAP Sustainable

Sustainability is one of the hottest topics in food and agriculture today. Whether it be used for food products on maintaining a business, many folks disagree on what sustainability looks like. There are as many ways to define sustainability as there are cattle operations in the U.S. Maybe even more.

Essentially, it boils down to managing the three pillars of sustainability – economic, ecological and social – with the long-term in mind. During a panel discussion at this year’s Young Ag Leadership Conference in Bozeman, three individuals from different sectors of agriculture, each defined sustainability in their own terms. While each definition was different, each was based on those three pillars mentioned above. None of them were wrong in their definition. Sustainability truly looks different for each operation.

In an effort to arrive at finding a common definition for sustainability for the beef industry, the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef has met this week in Sao Paulo, Brazil to identify priorities of sustainability in a beef system that is socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable.

  • Planet (relevant principles: Natural Resources, Efficiency and Innovation, People and the Community);
  • People (relevant principles: People and the Community and Food);
  • Animals (relevant principle: Animal Health and Welfare, Efficiency and Innovation);
  • Progress (relevant principles: Natural Resources, People and the Community, Animal Health and Welfare, Food, Efficiency and Innovation)

Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef The GRSB hopes their work to define sustainability can provide clarity on a complex issues that affects beef producers, retailers and consumers around the globe. It isn’t the intention of GRSB to create a standard or mandate for sustainable beef practices, but rather to provide a baseline when working with regional roundtables to identify opportunities for improvements and efficiencies on a local level.

What are the indicators of ranch sustainability in an area where cattle are grazing rangelands? The Sustainable Rangelands Roundtable lists 64 indicators of sustainability, We will cover 10 of them here. Do any of these apply to your operation? Maybe you can identify opportunities for improvement in areas of sustainability?

  1. Change in soil area erosion and ground cover
  2. Quality and flow of ground and surface water
  3. Condition of riparian and wetland areas
  4. Presence and availability of wildlife habitat
  5. Number of livestock on land relative to carrying capacity
  6. Return on investment for forage and livestock enterprises
  7. Suitability of animal and forage species for environment
  8. Social status and employment opportunities for workers
  9. Contributions and involvement with surrounding communities
  10. Longevity and effort to manage and maintain systems

Many farms and ranches across the country exhibit qualities of sustainability. The longevity of multi-generation operations that have been around for a century or more should be evidence of that. As long as it involves the three core principles mentioned above, sustainability looks different on each operation, but that difference shouldn’t mean one is good and the other is bad. They’re different, and that diversity should be celebrated.

The Environmental Stewardship Award Program recognizes ranches each year who are doing good work in the areas of sustainability. Be sure to read more about their stories of sustainability. Also, be sure to visit sustainable.rangelands.org to learn more from the cooperative effort by the Society for Range Management, University of Wyoming, and several other organizations. To read more about indicators of successful ranching, check out the proceedings from the Range Beef Cow Symposium XIX.

What questions do you have about sustainability for beef or ranching? Leave a comment below or email ryan@mtbeef.org. This is part of a month-long series of 10 Things to Know about Cattle. To read other posts in the series, click the image below.

Click this image to view all posts in the 30-day blogging series, 10 Things to Know About Cattle

Click this image to view all posts in the 30-day blogging series, 10 Things to Know About Cattle

EPA changes to Waters of U.S., Beef Sustainability and Checkoff Increases | Podcast

solar filled water tankOn today’s post we follow up with a podcast from the recent summer cattle industry conference held in Denver, Colorado. A broad range of issues were discussed at the meeting, but the subject drawing the most conversation was EPA‘s proposed changes to the Waters of the U.S. rule. We provided a preliminary analysis of the proposed rule changes in an earlier blog post. Click here to read more.

Ariel Overstreet-Adkins, who has been working on comments for the issue on behalf of MSGA, attended the meeting and shared a few comments. “Some of the major concerns the panelists brought up are some of the same concerns we’ve had while looking at this proposal. These include the broad definition of tributary, the change of definition of adjacent to include all waters and not just wetlands, and a really undefined catch all of other waters. Across the board, this rule seems to increase uncertainty, even though the EPA says they’re trying to make things more certain. We believe this is going to be costly for many industries across the U.S. and not just agriculture.”

The Property Rights and Environmental Management committee members also passed a resolution to lead the development of a beef sustainability program, inclusive of the beef value chain and stakeholders, which addresses the continued advancement in areas such as economic viability, production efficiencies, animal care and handling, environmental conservation, human resources and community support. MSGA believes this is a positive move for the industry to establish and verify sustainable practices most ranchers already utilize.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Committees concerning the Beef Checkoff also held meetings while in Denver. One of the highlights of those meetings comes from a working group looking at the proposed Checkoff increase to $2 per head. Several industry groups are working together on a proposal for changes.

Listen to the podcast below for more on these topics. This is just the second portion of our podcast covering the recent summer industry meetings in Denver. Stay tuned for our next podcast where we’ll talk about important policy issues discussed during the meetings, including cattle health issues including disease concerns surround the import of foreign beef and changes to the FDA’s antibiotic labeling rules. We’ll also find out more about CattleFax’s outlook for the cattle industry.

Ranching, Meet Technology! Technology, Meet Ranching!

The following is a special guest post from Walker Milhoan, a Collegiate Stockgrowers member at the University of Montana in Missoula. Walker attended the recent Ranch Sustainability Forum with the Padlock Ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming. His presentation covered technology to be used on the ranch and we believe it’s very valuable insight for the ranching community.

Walker MIlhoan Montana Collegiate StockgrowersLast week my colleague Jen Livsey and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to present at the First Annual Ranch Sustainability Forum in Sheridan, Wyoming. Jen and I presented on behalf of our newly minted company, RanchHacks.com, and we covered the topic of how technology can help streamline productivity on the ranch. The event was successful and our presentation drew more interest than we had anticipated.

The three day forum focused on ranch sustainability with the overarching goal of defining (in broad terms at this point) just what that means. This topic means lots of things to lots of different folks but the general consensus is that there are three pillars to a sustainable ranching operation: Profit, People, and Planet. Without profitability no business is successful in the long run. Without good people, the business will most likely suffer and eventually fail. And, without a healthy planet, your operation will certainly grind to a halt at some point in the future.

This is where our technology presentation comes into play. First, technology can’t and won’t solve all the problems on your ranch. However, technology can help you manage your finances better, leading to more profitability. Technology can help you improve communications with your people, leading to increased productivity and eventually higher profitability. Technology can also help you manage your resources better (planet), leading to healthier soils, better forages, and happier animals, and you know where this goes — happy cattle grow better, potentially adding more profit to your bottom line.

There are three web-based (meaning you can access them from your computer, your phone, or your iPad) software applications that can help you move towards these three pillars of success: Google Drive, Evernote, and Trello. The breadth of these applications could easily turn this short write-up into something akin to War and Peace, so I will briefly touch on how each one can help your ranching entity. Also, if you readers out there have any questions, please feel free to email me at walker@ranchhacks.com and I will be willing to help you in any way.

So without further adieu, here are the three productivity apps in no particular order:

Google Drive – This is a FREE office management suite that allows users to seamlessly collaborate on spreadsheets, documents, and presentations. It has amazing features like HelloSign that allow you to digitally sign legally binding documents without having to download and fax them. You can build spreadsheets in real-time with up to 50 different people from anywhere in the world, on any device.  You can collaborate on word documents with up to 200 people at the same time! The point that I’m trying to make here is that Google Drive is perfect for organizations who have employees/members who all live in different places that are very far away from each other.

Evernote – This is also a FREE software application that allows you to collect, store, and easily find anything in your life. The best use we have found for the ranching community is Evernote’s ease of collecting and managing receipts. Here is an example: your employee just signed off on a large purchase from the supply store and they have the receipt in hand. The employee needs to get this receipt to the accountant but he still has hours of work ahead and it’s raining. With Evernote, he can take a picture of the receipt and “tag” it with “Fencing Supplies.” The accountant can then easily access the receipt in Evernote by performing a general search for the price, the name, or the tag. What this means in layman’s terms is this: the accountant (in Billings) will have the receipt on their desk in the same amount of time as is takes the employee (in Miles City) to snap a picture of it on his smartphone.

TrelloWow, FREE again! Trello is the best “to-do” list on the face of the earth! Trello is very robust, but to simplify, we have found that using it as a “to-do” list is the most practical application for ranchers, and the best feature is there are already three columns created for you: To-do, Doing, Done. Users can add “cards” to these columns, and within the cards you can add checklists, photos, documents and spreadsheets. You can then assign someone (via their email address) to a chore or task and they can access it on their phone, iPad or computer. This is perfect when you send an employee to town with a list of items to pick up from the hardware store and then realize that you forgot to add an item to the list. You simply add the item on the go and it’s automatically added to their list too!

Ok, if you are still reading this, thank you! If what you are reading comes across as Japanese (in other words totally foreign and confusing) then like I mentioned before, please email me at walker@ranchhacks.com and I will be glad to help you navigate the digital spiderweb.

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Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef Releases Draft Principles and Criteria

Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) released its draft Principles and Criteria document in March. Those principles and criteria provide a basic framework for defining beef sustainability without setting standards or creating a “one-size-fits-all” approach to how beef should be produced. The sustainability principles and criteria contained within the document represent a yearlong, multi-stakeholder process which included participants from around the world, including representatives from NCBA.

“GRSB defines global sustainable beef as a socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable product that prioritizes planet, people, animals, and progress,” said Cameron Bruett, President, GRSB and Head, Corporate Affairs, JBS USA. “Our membership has worked in a collaborative fashion to boldly confront the challenges in every segment of the beef value chain. The core principles for global beef sustainability seek to balance a broad range of issues including natural resources, community and individual development, animal well-being, food, and efficiency and innovation.”

Although NCBA had a role in helping to draft the principles and criteria, there are a number of areas where NCBA continues to have concerns with the document. As a member of GRSB, NCBA will continue to engage in the process and seek changes to the principles and criteria.

“The conditions and practices under which beef is produced vary greatly around the world. As a result, there are principles and criteria contained in the document that apply to practices and conditions in the United States, while some do not,” said Forrest Roberts, NCBA Chief Executive Officer. “In most instances the practices, laws and regulations in the U.S. are more stringent.”

Although the draft principles and criteria do not represent NCBA policy and the organization has no current official position on the document, the organization will continue to engage in the effort.

“Because of the global nature of this document and the diverse views of GRSB members, there are some areas of concern,” said Roberts. “We believe that the farmers and ranchers in the U.S. are among the most responsible and progressive in the world and they take pride in the fact that they have been producing beef responsibly for generations.”

He pointed out that each member of the beef value chain plays an important role in the sustainability of our industry and we each have improvements we can make.

“It’s that spirit of continuous improvement that makes our industry great and we are hopeful that this document will provide the framework to benchmark those improvements in the U.S. and around the globe,” said Roberts.

GRSB’s sustainability principles and criteria are available online for public review and comment at www.grsbeef.org and NCBA will be submitting extensive comments on the document. NCBA members and beef industry stakeholders are also encouraged to provide input directly to GRSB, through the comment form on the website, in an effort to provide input on sustainable beef production from the U.S. perspective. The public comment period is open until May 16, 2014. After that time the comments will be reviewed and incorporated into the draft document. The revised final draft will be reviewed and voted upon at GRSB’s annual meeting later this year.

–via Beltway Beef, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, 05/08/2014

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Importance of Environmental Stewardship with Padlock Ranch’s Wayne Fahsholtz | Montana Rancher Q&A

Wayne Fahsholtz Padlock Ranch

Wayne Fahsholtz

Each year, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Beef Council and the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation, honors a Montana ranch that exemplifies environmental stewardship and demonstrates a commitment toward improved sustainability within their communities. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers.

The Padlock Ranch, located in both Montana and Wyoming, has won both the respective state awards, and received the Regional ESAP recognition. Ranch manager Wayne Fahsholtz has worked with the ranch crew and family owners to implement outstanding stewardship practices and continues to strive daily to create an environmentally sustainable beef cattle operation. Wayne answered a few questions for us about winning the award and some advice for other ranchers:

Why do you think the Environmental Stewardship Program is important for Montana (and Wyoming)? 

The award is a way to communicate with others about good practices that are occurring on the land.  With rancher to rancher communication, we learn from each other and can improve or avoid costly mistakes.  With rancher to customer, it allows us to visit about what is happening and help dispel some of the myths about land management.  

In your opinion, what makes a Montana/Wyoming rancher a good steward of the land?

Good stewards know what condition their resource is in and have plans that will maintain or improve those resources.  

Can you give us a few examples of innovations and projects you are most proud of at the Padlock Ranch? 

The biggest impact was the implementation of a planned time rotational grazing system. This keeps livestock from being in pastures season long and it rotates the time of use for a pasture. It is fairly simple but has great results.  

Cattle on the Padlock RanchThe Padlock Ranch is a great example of how a beef cattle business and the western landscape can co-exist…how can other ranches follow this lead?  

One of the things that I have tried to do is to be transparent about how we operate.  Over 95% of our population is far removed from production agriculture.   We need to be creative in the ways we communicate and educate this population.  So, I would urge ranchers to share their stories and ranches with others around them that may not understand about agriculture.  

How did you feel when you learned that the Padlock Ranch was selected as both state and regional winner? 

It was a great honor and great to be able to share that with everyone involved with the ranch.  At the same time, it was humbling because I know what a good job my fellow ranchers do and to be singled out was an honor and hopefully I represented everyone well.  

Do you have any advice for ranches considering to apply for the award? 

Just do it! The application process can be intimidating but once you get started it flows fairly well. You can get help from stockgrowers staff and past winners.

Ranches wishing to apply for the award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available at mtbeef.org/mesap); due to the MSGA office by June 30. Nominations can be submitted by contacting the MSGA office. Ranches must be a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association to qualify for the award. A committee, which will include representatives from Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Beef Council, past Environmental Stewardship Award winners, and others invested in Montana stewardship and conservation will evaluate the applications after all applications are completed.

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Montana Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Stockgrowers Seeking Applications for 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award

Montana Environmental Stewardship AwardHelena, MT – Do you know a Montana rancher who is a leader in stewardship, implementing conservation practices to ensure the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of their operation? Encourage them to apply for the Montana Environmental Stewardship Award, presented by the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA).  Applications for the 2014 award are due June 30.

Each year, MSGA honors Montana ranches that exemplify environmental stewardship and demonstrate commitment toward improved sustainability within their communities. This award recognizes Montana ranchers who are at the forefront in conservation and stewardship and are willing to serve as examples for other ranchers.

“Montana ranchers are leaders in this country when it comes to being stewards of our environment and conserving the natural resources that help make Montana such a great state to live in,” said Ryan Goodman, MSGA manager of communications. “We are asking the community to get involved in helping us identify ranches that really go above and beyond when it comes to environmental stewardship and conservation in their local areas.”

2013 Montana ESAP Award Winner – LaSalle Ranch, Havre, MT. Read more in a previous post.

Ranches wishing to apply for the award and recognition are asked to complete an application packet (available at mtbeef.org/mesap); due to the MSGA office by June 30. Nominations can be submitted by contacting the MSGA office. Ranches must be a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association to qualify for the award. A committee, which will include representatives from Montana Stockgrowers, Montana Beef Council, past Environmental Stewardship Award winners, and others invested in Montana stewardship and conservation will evaluate the applications after all applications are completed.

The ranch chosen for the award will be announced at MSGA’s Annual Convention and Trade Show in Billings, Dec. 11-13 at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana. The Montana ESAP winner will then work with MSGA staff to prepare their application for the Regional and National Award competition, which is typically due in early March of the following year.

Since 1992, Montana Stockgrowers has honored 21 state winners, ten of whom went on to win the regional award and two named national award winners. To learn more, visit www.mtbeef.org/mesap, or contact Ryan Goodman at ryan@mtbeef.org or (406) 442-3420. The Montana Environmental Stewardship Award is sponsored by MSGA’s Research and Education Endowment Foundation and funded by Montana Beef Producers with Checkoff Dollars.

Listen to this post on the SoundCloud Podcast!

Rancher Stewardship: Protecting Montana’s Prairie

In South Phillips County, near the hub of Malta, Montana, ranchers have called the prairie home for over 100 years. Here, ranchers have created a ranch and wildlife haven by working and living in harmony with nature. In this video, ranchers discuss the importance of raising their families here, developing innovative ranch management practices, working in cooperation with each other and building a lasting community to protect these prairielands. Biologists and conservationists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service also discuss the importance of ranchers in sustaining this diverse ecosystem and the wildlife species it supports. This video is brought to you by the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Research, Education and Endowment Foundation.