BILLINGS — Lane Nordlund has the Montana Ag Network report for Tuesday, March 10, 2020:
#1 Earlier this week we reported on important changes to management of grizzly bears in Montana. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhart has committed to enter into a contract with USDA Wildlife Services to better manage problem bears and provide Wildlife Services with funding to hire additional bear conflict specialists in Montana. Valier rancher Trina Jo Bradley sits on the Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council and USDA APHIS Wildlife Advisory Committee. She explained how this additional funding will help with grizzly bear management.
“When Secretary Bernhardt announced that he was going to be providing more funding to Wildlife Services to hire additional bear conflict specialists, I was overjoyed,” Bradley explained. “Because, that is exactly what we need. And, that's exactly what we have asked for. I'm hoping that that means that we can make our individual in Glacier County a permanent employee and then also get a couple more individuals hired up in this area so they don't have such a huge area to cover.” The Department of Interior funds will help USADA’s Wildlife Service’s better manage problem bears. While at the same time helping ranchers keep bears away from their livestock utilizing tools like electric fences.
“As far as Wildlife Services, they do a lot of electric fencing to keep those bears out of the livestock,” Bradley said. “The electric fence helps keep bears out of the sheep, calves or whatever you're trying to fence the bears out of. And that makes a huge difference. Then the other part of Wildlife Services is if we do have a depredation, they show up right away. They're very good at what they do, and they do their research. They figure out what killed that animal and then they set traps. They're very good at that too. They're awesome to work with. So having them up here is really helpful and having more of them will be more helpful.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also announced updated hazing guidelines individuals can use to haze grizzly bears away from livestock or homes. Bradley also invites the public to attend the next Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council meeting in Chouteau next Thursday and Friday March 19th and 20th at the Stage Stop Inn. People can also provide input to council members online at fwp.mt.gov/gbac.
#2 Prior to coronavirus spread, the outlook for fed cattle prices was bullish. The Livestock Marketing Information Center had predicted annual fed cattle prices to average more than 3% higher. That picture has drastically changed. The erosion on fed cattle prices in the first quarter now implies the quarter will dip well below a year ago and struggle to reach an average of $120 per cwt. This will be the lowest first quarter fed cattle price since 2011.
#3 Staying in the cattle markets, large protein production and constant coronavirus news continues to add a pessimistic tone to the cattle markets. Cattlefax reports the calf market highs are likely near and the market is expected to continue in the trading range of $165 to $175 for 550-pound steer calves in the near term. Cattlefax reports better news for the slaughter cow market that continues to trade in a seasonal pattern, with prices trending higher to average $61.28/cwt in February versus $57.61 in January. Slaughter cow sellers have gained leverage over packers in recent weeks due to higher cull cow values and softer 90s lean trim prices
Video of grizzly bears between Choteau and Augusta in September 2018: