Stockgrowers celebrate year of accomplishments

August 21, 2013 10:56 am

Todd Nash presents Jeff Parker with the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Cattleman of the Year award at the Wallowa County Stockgrowers dinner Saturday evening. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Todd Nash presents Jeff Parker with the Wallowa County Stockgrowers Cattleman of the Year award at the Wallowa County Stockgrowers dinner Saturday evening. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)

Parker given 2013 Cattleman of the Year award 

City dwellers who come to visit rural corners of the world look around and wonder, “What do people do here?”

They may be asking what people do to earn a living, not realizing cultivated fields and cattle don’t raise themselves. Or they may be pondering, “What is there to do for fun?”

For some, the line between work and fun blurs. For Jeff Parker,“2013 Cattleman of the Year,” ranching and extracurricular activities were the same thing as a kid.

Lifelong friend and neighboring rancher Todd Nash presented Parker with the award Saturday night at the Wallowa County Stockgrowers dinner. Nash said when Parker was at Enterprise High School, he turned down joining the football team because he had cattle to

Parker grew up ranching with his parents, David and Shirley, outside of Enterprise. Today, he lives just up the hill from them raising Black Angus beef on the Highview Ranch and is the most accomplished user of artificial insemination in the county.

Parker attended Blue Mountain Community College and California Polytechnic, earning degrees in animal science. Before coming home to ranch, he worked in the cattle industry from selling supplements around the West to working on ranches in Central Oregon, Wyoming and Nevada.

Parker served as the president of the Wallowa County Stockgrowers and continues to be an active member. For several years he has announced the Stockgrowers’ ranch rodeo at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds in Enterprise — a family event pitting neighbors against neighbors in ranch-style events.

Three college students were also recognized at the dinner. Brooke Greenshields is a sophomore at Oregon State University studying pre-veterinarian medicine. The other award winners were Myranda McFetridge and Cody Arbogast, who start college this fall.

The full day of celebration for the Stockgrowers starts each year with a ranch-style breakfast at the fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall, followed by the group’s annual meeting.

The dinner and rodeo are two of the main fundraisers held by the Stockgrowers each year, including an auction of the rock jack built by the world championship team. Last year, the proceeds, nearly $5,000, went to a fund started for the ranchers who suffered loss during the 2012 fires along the eastern border of Oregon.

Each year, the Stockgrowers award three FFA members bred heifers and fund the beef cooking and beef carcass awards, Secretary Cynthia Warnock said.

A continuing tradition are local members’ contributions of hamburger to the Community Connection food bank in Enterprise, and this past year a cow was donated to Enterprise High School, Warnock said.

The Stockgrowers gave money to Western Resources Legal Fund, which helps public resource users. Last year, they supported ranchers who had filed as intervenors when the U.S. Forest Service was sued by Hells Canyon Preservation Council of La Grande.

Throughout the year, they offered educational opportunities for the community, including a workshop on marketing cuts of beef, an informational meeting in Wallowa regarding ranching with wolves and a rangeland-monitoring workshop.

This past June, Wallowa County Stockgrowers introduced their favorite sport, rock jack building, at the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Centennial in Baker City. Fittingly, Wallowa County rancher Tom Birkmaier won the event, as he has in the past and again this year with partner Cory Miller.

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Wolf Committee Chairman Rod Childers told the group gathered at breakfast that a lawsuit brought by environmentalists against the state for attempting to kill problem wolves was settled in May. The Cattlemen filed as intervenors in the case and were at the table when the settlement was made.

“It doesn’t change much,” Childers said, “but without the settlement, ODFW was not allowed to take any wolves.”

Childers said the main change is increased documentation for the state, more information on wolf activity on the Fish and Wildlife website and more evidence of nonlethal deterrents.

“The settlement is only for Phase 1 (of the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan),” Childers said. Phase 2 will start Jan. 1, 2015, if the state maintains four or more breeding pairs. To date, there are seven documented breeding pairs in Northeast Oregon alone.

“In Phase 2, wolves will still be listed, but it changes the rules. If there are wolves in your livestock, you can remove them,” Childers said.

Ranchers continue to clean up cattle bone piles, and state transportation is helping by keeping road-killed deer away from known wolf territory.

Wallowa County is also trying to aid the nonlethal deterrent effort. Commissioner Susan Roberts said she is submitting an application to receive funding that would pay for range riders who help ranchers find dead cattle and track wolf packs.

The county has already spent $3,800 of its own money, Childers said, for a range rider. 

“We hope to get Wayne Bronson (range rider) working again pretty quick,” Childers said.

John Williams, Wallowa County Extension agent, talked about wolf/cattle interaction research that is now in its fifth year.

Williams said 50 head of cattle from an Idaho ranch participating in the study were taken to Burns and intermingled with 50 cows that live at the state’s experiment station. Then they were “stressed” with wolf urine and howls in a feedlot situation and exposed to “big dogs on leashes.”

“When they ran the cows through the chutes, the 50 cows from wolf country balled up and went to the far end of the pen and stood there ready to fight, but the 50 cows from the experiment station didn’t react,” Williams said.

Blood and temperature tests revealed good scientific data, Williams said. The results will be submitted to the Journal of Animal Science.

Rancher Skye Krebs and Jamie McCormack, U.S. Forest Service range conservationist, gave a follow-up to last year’s presentation. Krebs said the Public Lands Council and the Forest Service signed a memorandum of understanding regarding permittee monitoring, and the Oregon Cooperative Monitoring Program is partnering with the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.

Pat Larson of La Grande gave a workshop on field testing three protocols last August, and there will be a formal training next spring, McCormack said.

Krebs said, “Pat’s doing these workshops around the state — one in Burns, one in Baker, one here, in Prairie City and Seneca. A final draft of this delineates different protocols implemented in agencies. Hopefully, federal agencies will sign on to this because most of the litigation is from lack of monitoring. We have to collect the data, get in the files so when we get called up in front of the agency or a judge, we have it.”

The program is strictly volunteer, Krebs said.

“You got to convince the judge you know what’s going on out there. The data can go in the file so when the next lawsuit comes up, we can plop it down and show trends,” Krebs said.