Story and Photos Terri Licking | Thedford, Neb.

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July 22, 2014
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Summer 2014 in the Sandhills: What better time and place for the cattle industry to convene?

The Nebraska Sandhills are an ocean of green with the recent rains and cattle prices are at all-time highs — so what better time and place for ranchers and their partners to gather here.

The first get-together was at the mid-year meeting of the Nebraska Cattlemen held in Gothenburg in mid-June.

Then, June 26 saw the Sandhills Affiliate of the Nebraska Cattlemen enjoy a day at the Dismal River Golf course, south of Mullen.

“Our Winter Ball held in February is at the eastern end of our area, so we wanted to have something at the western end, “stated Marc Ericksen of Mullen, vice president of the NCSA.

The NCSA encompasses all or part of Blaine, Thomas, Hooker, Grant and southern Cherry counties. The timing for both precedes some of the busiest times for ranchers, who are calving and haying.

As one drove through the lush green hills, the hay crop should mirror the cattle prices ­— some of the best in recent years.

This is the second year the officers of the NCSA have organized and the Dismal River Golf club has hosted this cattlemen’s get-together.

“This is the first year though that the DRG allowed us to include a day of golf for those that wanted to enjoy this pristine, professional golf course,” stated Brenda Masek, president of the NCSA.

The primary reason this could happen was that the DRG now has two separate 18-hole courses.

“The ‘white course’ — a.k.a., ‘Nicklaus course,’ named after pro golfer and designer, Jack Nicklaus — was the first course. The ‘Red course,’ aka the Doak course, is named after Tom Doak, the premier golf course architect, who designed it and it opened last July,” explained the DRG director of golf, and this writer’s tour guide out to the links, Pat Kilbride.

Sixteen cattlemen and women braved the 25 mph winds to enjoy a day of golf.

“We kept scores, but did not compete against only our team member. Just a day to be away from the ranchwork,” stated Tessa Atkins, secretary of the NCSA.

She golfed with her Dad, Al Atkins.

Their ranch is between Halsey and Purdum.

Atkins Ranch was one of the sponsors of the delicious steak meal served afterwards. Other sponsors included Minert-Simonson Angus Ranch in Dunning, Hoffman Herefords in Thedford, Western Nebraska Bank in Purdum, Peterson Law Office of Valentine and Elanco Animal Health.

“We could not offer this without our sponsors. We thank them immensely,” stated Brenda.

The golfers had a tough day thanks to the wind — a lot of shanks, birdies and bogies and looking for golf balls in the rough of the tall grass prairie extended their playing time and their fun.

“The course is a challenge in itself, but when you put this much wind in the mix, it is that much more difficult,” explained Patrick. “Rain and lightning have kept the golfers in the clubhouse, but never the wind.”

When the fun was over, the food and news important to the industry began for over 55 producers and sponsors.

Pete MyClymont, executive vice president of the Nebraska Cattlemen, with his handouts, discussed the “Ditch the Rule!”

MyClymont explained that the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule expands its jurisdiction in an attempt to regulate more water and land features across Nebraska and other states. It is especially important, he said, that producers all across the U.S find out more information and write the EPA with talking points.

The other topic he brought to the attention of the audience was the new exemptions for agriculture, which will aim to streamline and update exemptions, including the change for producers and their CDL status or individuals driving a “covered farm vehicle.”

Terry Vinton of Mullen, one of three brothers back on the family ranch, discussed the opportunity he recently had when he was invited to visit Germany with a contingent of Nebraska agricultural representatives.

“I was the face of the USA family farm and ranch in the ‘Farm to Fork’ program. Hopefully we changed the viewpoints of the Europeans thinking that farms and ranches are large corporate entities. I discussed social sustainability — my involvement in our family ranch. Environmental sustainability — that of good stewards of the lands under our care. Economic sustainability was how with care, our premiums can increase, such as with NHTC beef (No hormone treated beef). I feel The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe will do us far more good than NAFTA did with Canada and Mexico. Distributors over there cannot get enough of our beef.”

Bill Rishel, past president of the Nebraska Cattlemen from North Platte in his presentation also discussed the state of sustainability in the beef industry.

“Years ago sustainability was when enough money was made to pay the bills. We’ve gone a long ways past that primitive concept. Sustainability includes so much more. The No. 1 issue for the long term is ‘how do we keep the next generation involved in the business?’ The capital required is unbelievable. The increase of technology and knowledge gained by researchers at UNL, and MARC (Meat Animal Research Center) at Clay Center is setting the stage for Nebraska to be the epicenter of the beef industry. It cannot happen, though, as JD Alexander pointed out, ‘If you are not going to be at the table, you are going to be on the menu.’”

Rishel explained that comment farther, “In other words, we have to be at the table to define what and who we are or others will do it for us.”

He applauded the research done on the Life Cycle Assessment of beef production.

“It is the first ever done on any life cycle of any livestock and has corrected misconceptions about environmental issues of our industry. It has helped the NCBA (National Cattlemen Beef Association) and its state affiliates at the global beef roundtable. We must show our corporate end users that our product is environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable.”

The most important aspect gained from the evening ... no beef producer can be a solo player to be sustainable in this industry. It takes a team effort, and unlike sports teams, the “team beef” season is 365 days long. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Jul 17, 2014 02:08PM Published Jul 22, 2014 01:29PM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.