Monday, December 11, 2017

FDA: Antibiotic Sales Drop 10% for Livestock in 2016

Antibiotic sales for use in livestock has dropped according to a report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). On Dec. 7, FDA released a summary report for 2016 on “Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food Producing Animals.” A key finding in the report was antibiotic sales and distribution in the U.S. dropped 10% from 2015 to 2016 for food producing animals. Since FDA began collecting sales data in 2009, this is the first time that year-over-year sales of antimicrobials have declined...more

The inferno that won't die: How the Thomas fire became a monster

So how did the Thomas fire become such a monster? Heavy winds are one factor. But another is the thick brush that has not burned in a century, providing fuel. “The fuels in there are thick and they're dead, so they're very receptive to fire,” said Steve Swindle, spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department. The fuel can spread the fire even when winds die down. “Since it’s so dry out there, it doesn’t take much in the way of winds to create those critical fire weather conditions,” said Robbie Munroe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “We’ll see wind gusts in that ... area between 20 and 35 mph, maybe a few mountain sites might see up to about 40, but that’s the most we’re expecting right now.” When the fire shifted toward the coast Sunday morning, Monroe said winds were not necessarily the driver. “Wind was probably not the biggest factor last night to this morning — it’s probably more the complex terrain, very dry and possibly widespread fuels for the fire and the fact that it’s a pretty large and ongoing fire,” he said. “The light offshore winds are certainly a factor, but not as important as they’ve been, say, earlier in the week when we saw much stronger winds over the fire.” The last time some of the slopes and canyons burned in the mountains east of Santa Barbara was in the 1970s, when four firefighters operating bulldozers died in a rollover accident...more

Thomas Fire, 5th-Largest In Modern California History, Shows Few Signs Of Slowing

As Monday dawned in California's Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, firefighters found themselves still locked in a desperate struggle with what has become the fifth-largest wildfire in modern state history. The Thomas Fire, which for a time Sunday was ratcheted down just 10 percent contained, has ticked back upward to 15 percent containment — but authorities are warning that the dry, gusty winds in the area "will continue to promote significant fire growth." All told, the fire covers a span of more than 230,000 acres — tens of thousands of acres larger than all of New York City combined. Nearly 1,000 homes and other structures have been either damaged or destroyed. The cost of the fire has crested $38 million, according to fire officials, and with roughly 18,000 more structures threatened, that cost is likely to increase. The news surrounding the smaller fires currently raging elsewhere in Southern California offered a significantly more positive outlook. Authorities say the Skirball, Creek, Rye and Lilac fires all are more than 80 percent contained, and some — like the Creek — are inching closer to full containment. The Liberty Fire that has been burning in Riverside County has been fully contained. More than 4,000 firefighters are now engaged in battling the flames...more

DuBois column

A senator’s falsehood, a big win for the Goss family, a BLM move to Denver?

A ‘land grab’, really?

A recent news item appeared concerning the growing rift between New Mexico’s two Senators and the Secretary of the Interior. The primary focus of the column was how Udall and Heinrich disagree with much of what Zinke is doing, in spite of them both having voted for his confirmation.

There were two statements in the column that really grabbed me. The first was by Heinrich:

 “I’m prepared to do anything necessary to protect New Mexico’s national monuments from a Washington, D.C., land grab,” Heinrich said.

That is just hilarious. Sad, but hilarious. Before the monument, most of these lands were managed for multiple use. If necessary, roads could be built. Rights-of ways could be issued. Flood control dams could be constructed, range improvements could be built, geothermal energy could be harvested, sportsmen and recreationists had off-road access to these lands, and so on. Then along came Obama, with the full encouragement of Heinrich, and with the stroke of a pen either prohibited or restricted all of the above. If the monument designation were to be removed, all of those uses would be returned to the people. The review had the possibility of revoking a land grab, not initiating one. Heinrich's attempt to describe it otherwise is laughable.

The other statement in the article, which is not new, is the Senators' concern over accuracy:

Staffers for both senators told me last week that Udall and Heinrich also want Zinke to address errors of fact in the New Mexico sections of the monuments report.

This must be a newfound desire for accuracy, for we didn't hear a peep out of the Senators concerning the many inaccuracies in Obama's proclamation creating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Dr. Jerry Schickedanz, Dean Emeritus at NMSU and currently with the Linebery Policy Center, has identified many errors in the proclamation, including objects that aren't even within the boundaries of the monument, and other objects that are either wholly or partially on private or state land, and therefore not in the monument. These and other errors could have been addressed during the review process, but by opposing the review, the good Senators apparently do not want those inaccuracies corrected.

Because of the importance of these documents to the local community and to the health of the natural resource, both should corrected. This selective, narrow focus on errors falls short of good public policy and reeks of pure politics.

Of thistles, poppies & water rights

A pioneer New Mexico ranch family has won an important case for property rights.
The Goss family has been raising livestock in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico since 1885. Respect to that family for persevering through all these years with a successful ranching operation.

A hundred years later along comes the Forest Service to erect “enclosures” to keep livestock out of certain riparian areas, ostensibly to protect the Sacramento Mountains Thistle. Additional “enclosures” were later constructed on behalf of the Southwestern Prickly Poppy. In addition to having their livestock fenced off water, in 2000 their allotment was cut from 553 head to 428, with additional cuts in 2004. The Goss family had sought to pipe water into the allotment, but those requests were denied by the Forest Service.

In 2004 the Goss family filed a claim in the United States Court of Federal Claims alleging a Taking under the fifth amendment of their water rights, their grazing permit and their preference rights.  Over time, their claims on the grazing permit and preference rights were dismissed. Further, the New Mexico Supreme Court had ruled that a vested stock watering right did not lead to a right to forage, nor did a right-of-way create a compensable right to forage.

Through many twists and turns this all led up to a favorable 2017 decision on vested (pre-1907) stock watering rights, and rest assured the feds fought it each step of the way.

Among other things, the feds argued that even if there was a compensable property interest in the water rights, the statute of limitations applied in this instance. Wrong said the court, ruling the statute of limitations did not bar the court from adjudicating the Goss’ Taking claims.

The feds argued the Goss documents claiming the right to put the water to beneficial use were inadequate. Wrong said the court, ruling the Goss family had established a prima facie right to beneficial use of the water as required by New Mexico law.

The feds argued the acquisition of a water right under New Mexico law requires a diversion of the water and the consumption of water by livestock is not a diversion.  Wrong said the court, finding that “neither state statutes nor case law require a physical diversion to establish the right of beneficial use of stock water.”

Finally, the feds argued that even if the ranchers had a property right in the use of the water, they were only entitled to beneficial use, not a right of access to a particular location. The court ruled it was a well-established principle that a physical taking occurs if the government denies an owner all access to a property interest. The court further ruled the Forest Service had incrementally, and then finally, denied the Goss family beneficial use of stock water.

In conclusion, the court said before it determines the amount of compensation to be awarded, both parties should make a renewed effort to see if alternative sources of water could be made available.

This is good news for the Goss family and for ranchers with vested water rights, and once again should educate everyone on the importance of water in the West.

The wrong focus

There continue to be reports that Secretary Zinke plans a major reorganization of the Dept. of Interior, including moving the headquarters of BLM and other entities to a western city.

Some want to keep the current centralized system of resource management. Others propose transferring the majority of these lands to the states, or some other form of decentralized management. Zinke appears to be proposing a sort of halfway house, transferring the managers instead of the resource. My thought is that as long as the federal laws (ESA, FLPMA, NEPA, etc.) remain as currently written and interpreted, the same poor results will occur no matter where the federal managers are located. Further, much precious time will be taken up debating where the federal landlords are stationed, rather than focusing on the real problem and potential solutions. 

If your grazing permit is cancelled or your private lands are taken as a result of a critical habitat designation, will you really care whether the decision-maker is in Denver or DC?

I’m afraid this is more about the plain old politics of moving federal jobs and dollars, rather than being a sincere attempt to correct the many problems associated with federal ownership of our resources.

 Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

 This column first appeared in the Decemberr editions of the NM Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Its Swingin' Monday and time to kick off our Christmas Season tunes with the Original Texas Playboys and Let It Snow.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy (revisited)

Gift shopping for the rancher’s wife

By Julie Carter

The season started in the retail world right after the garden supplies were moved to the back room and school had not yet started. But that was just a warm up to what explodes cash register drawers the day after Thanksgiving---the Christmas shopping frenzy.

As is for most things, gift shopping at the ranch is a pretty laid back procedure. I’m not saying a lot of thought is not put into choosing the perfect gift, but “perfect” is subject to interpretation and you can almost always factor in functional and fundamental.

The gift that wins the tally of given most often from him to her is an axe. I know that will shock many of you that don’t live down dirt roads, but an axe is essential to the time of year the gift is given—Christmas and the middle of winter.

The axes have come single bit, double bit and often tied with a red bow the size of a pick up truck in an attempt to make it festively palatable. Some have come with a flashlight as an extra gift so wood or ice could be chopped in the dark. Often a note is attached saying, “I promise to keep this sharp for you.”

Another common feature for the ranch “him to her” gifts is the “who really wants or needs this?” Gloves that are too big for her and fit him perfectly are regular offerings under the Christmas tree as are new saddles when she rarely rides, horses she never will ride, and that absolutely stunning truck tool box that unfortunately won’t fit her SUV. A complete assortment of hand and powers tools also fit into this category.

Never to say the gifts aren’t truly appreciated one wife I know got a new cattle guard. It was to be placed where she had to open and close a gate 15 times a day coming and going. She would not have been happier if she had gotten big blue diamonds.

Always thinking of the little woman’s health and safety as well as her viability as the best if only help he has, he will gift her with things to keep her warm and useful. That list will include insulated coveralls, down filled everything including lingerie, and even a new rifle to carry on her 4-wheeler to shoot coyotes while she is checking heifers and new baby calves.

Buckets of all sorts rate right up at the top in frequency of gift types--feed buckets, milk buckets and buckets to bail drinking water from a well or cistern. One gal was so proud of her new international mop bucket with the “Caution” warning in both English and Spanish. It had wheels and every feature you could imagine except a back up alarm.

Other gifts have come with the possibility he is going to get shot if her sense of humor isn’t at its peak. An oversized personalized “fire flapper” was indeed given to a wife I know with the justification that “she’s a big girl so she may as well do some good when she is beating out a grass fire.”

Feed stores, hardware outlets, saddle and cowboy tack dealers as well as livestock sale barns across rural America are standing by to serve the rancher in this season of giving.

Julie can be reached for comment (when she isn’t out using her most treasured gift of a wood splitting maul).

Copyright Julie Carter 2005


It’s cold out there this morning!
Morning … Coffee
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            In fact, it is 4:55 on this Saturday morning and I’m wide awake. I’ve been up long enough to make coffee and read the early morning headline chatter. I suspect The Westerner has been up most of the night. A light is also on by the corner chair in the great room at the headquarters on Mogollon Creek. Another has been burning since 3:30 at the J4 near Anton Chico. A few telephone calls have already been made. One of them was not to a 542 number at the end of Anderson Road or a 649 prefix south of the Union Pacific tracks because those lights won’t flicker to a steady glow for another half hour at least, but one thing is for sure.
            “It’s cold out there this morning!”
            We dodged a bullet the past several days.
            This fall was increasing similar to the one of 1978 when temperatures in the Playas Valley plunged to record lows on the third night of a freak back door cold front that hit the extreme southwest corner of our state. It snowed heavier in that storm and, of course, it was much slower moving than the one we just experienced.
            The common theme was the warm temperatures in the runup to each. Night before last was the first general frost we have had. The same took place near or about December 12 of the 1978 phenomenon. Nothing was hardened off and when the bitter cold arrived it was absolutely devastating. Mesquites were killed to the ground, Arizona cypress were killed, and the apple orchards at Paradise were ultimately made into firewood.
            This one could have been the same, but the main thrust of moisture was south of the border and it was moving much faster.
            I called my dad the first morning of the ’78 storm and asked him how cold it was up in Silver City. It was always colder in Silver City. As I recollect, he reported it was 5°. When I told him it was -17° at Playas, his response was one of incredulity. “Oh, son, it can’t be that cold down there. Something must be wrong with your thermometer,” he deducted.
            I did not even bother to tell him the temperature the next morning when that accused thermometer plunged to -29°. Nobody believed it except those of us who lived through it and eventually cut those Arizona cypress out of our yards when they were match stick brittle the following spring.
            My worry this year was the fact we had a corral full of weaner calves. We had just finished working cattle on Tuesday and our headquarter corrals were full of bawling calves. If those corrals had been hit with ten inches of snow and extreme freezing temperatures, a full recipe of disaster would have been in play.
            As it was, numbers of those calves were stretched out sleeping by midmorning in bright sunlight on a day that was cold, but with no wind and warming temperatures.
            Thank you, Lord!
            Morning … Coffee
            On another morning of chaos across the front pages of diminishing credible newspapers across our nation, we have involuntarily worked our way into the matter of morning itself. Actually, this is one of the greatest contributions to civilized society that ranch life continues to exemplify. I am reminded of the fact that Tom Jackson picked his staff officers from characters that were early risers. In fact, he and General Lee often met at the witching hour of 3:00 AM to discuss final battle plans. Ranch kitchens and mornings are no different.
            When my paternal grandparents still lived out on the Mangus, my grandmother was the real alarm clock in the house. She would be up and the back, right burner on the butane stove would be lit promptly at 5:12 each morning. On it would go the old white porcelain baked percolator and coffee was started. When it had perked, two cups of coffee were poured and she and my Grandpa would sit down for a short discussion and one of the only quiet times they would share all day. If one of us was there, we would always be offered a cup, but, at that age,  most of the time we passed. I wish now we could share a cup of that strong coffee with them.
            On Bell Canyon at Cliff at my maternal grandparents’, the routine was not much different. In that case, my grandfather, Boppy, was always the first up. He was often up as early as 3:00 and he would sit there at the head of that old gray metal kitchen table and play solitaire until somebody else got up. Coffee was always brewed by the time I joined him, but I would normally pass. In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult did I like the taste of coffee. Nana told me she was no different. She didn’t care for coffee until much later, but she liked it then. She drank it black and strong.
            I will always cherish the memories of the last times I was with them around that early morning table. They were always so important in my life, and I know for a fact they enjoyed those visits as much as I did.
            There were other morning ranch tables that always come to mind, too.
            Uncle Hap and Aunt Mary’s at the mouth of the Mangus bubbles into thought as does the table of Blue and Minnie Rice in the depths of Sacaton Creek. Invariably, the mix of those cheerful settings, coffee being brewed and shared in warm, cozy surroundings, was consistent. Outside with its biting cold could be waiting, but, for the moment, that remained isolated from our protected joy.
            My goodness, those are special and important times!

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Early mornings, warm kitchens, hot coffee, and wonderful people … indeed!”

Wilmeth stopped by my place yesterday.

It was in the late afternoon, not early morning. And there was no coffee.

But what a grand conversation we had. Just two people listening to - and enjoying - what the other had to say.

I don't get out much, so most of my communication with folks is by digital device. Wilmeth's visit is a reminder that computers and smart phones are a poor substitute for a real, live, in person conversation.