Extension Service agent journals and newsletters paint a picture of agriculture in Grant County over the decades. While trends and times change, many of the challenges faced by producers are common even today.
Following are excerpts from the Extension logs.
December 1, 1926 to November 30, 1927
Grant County is naturally handicapped for shipping facilities, thus concentrated products are the only ones produced here to advantage. Beef cattle, wool, lambs, and butterfat are the county’s important exports. On account of high railroad transportation, grain, hay fruit, and potatoes cannot be profitably shipped out of here. Our activities are naturally outlined for us centering around two main features: pest control and livestock disease control.
The Grant County Court started County Agent work in this county in 1925 for the express purpose of getting rid of squirrels that were greatly on the increase. The County Agent was wanted by the County Court, but a good many ranchers who had children that were making money under the old bounty system were not very enthusiastic about the County Agent idea.
December 1, 1929 to December 1, 1930
The outlook for County Agent work in Grant County is good, if anything being more firmly entrenched than ever before. The Agent has progressed from a mere ‘squirrel catcher’, as he was first looked upon, to a general advisor on livestock, drops and soil problems.
With sheep and cattle comprising 75% of Grant County’s agricultural income, the livestock group is the group that should receive at least that share of the program. But, on the other hand, very likely 15% of the remaining 25% bears directly on those interests for support. Hay and grain is all consumed locally by sheep, beef and dairy cattle. Therefore, the owners of our 29,000 head of cattle and 99,800 head of sheep must get the major attention. There are 626 ranchers in the county, and their total agricultural wealth, including livestock, building and equipment, according to the census, is something over ten million dollars.
With the large percentage of range land in comparison to tillable land there is a very definite need for some control of rodents and pests that breed so well on waste land. A faint idea of what happens when it is forgotten could be seen in the spring of 1930 in Bear Valley. During the years 1928 and 1929, Bear Valley was not systematically poisoned due to the fact that the heavy infestations of 1926 and 1927 had been dialed down by poisoning. The spring of 1930 showed an enormous infestation, and control was again started.
December 1, 1938 to November 30, 1939
Considering the fact that 57.2% of the area of Grant County is public lands, mostly national forest; that 42.8% is privately owned farm land, and only 5% of this being tilled, it is likely that Grant County will continue to be essentially a livestock producing area. United States agricultural census figures show that numbers of cattle in Grant County have been increasing for the past ten years, with 86.5% of the 1926-1930 average cash farm income derived from animal products and 77.5% directly from livestock and livestock products. A continuation of this situation is probable for an indefinite period.
A definite increase in winter feed supplies still leaves a problem of feed supplies for livestock. There is a definite need for increasing the carrying capacity of both privately owned and publicly owned range land and much remains to be done in increasing the yield, especially of meadow hay. Much of the land devoted to the production of grain hay is adapted to the production of alfalfa. A large acreage of low producing meadows should be plowed and reseeded to mixtures of higher yielding domestic forage plants.
New infestations of noxious weeds appear each year and, unless ranchers are made “noxious weed conscious”, will become a serious problem. Every effort will be made to organize ranchers to control and eradicate existing infestations of perennial noxious weeds, which include morning glory, white-top, Russian knapweed, and Canadian thistle.
December 1, 1940 to November 30, 1941
Winter feeding of livestock in Grant County has been on a very limited scale due largely to the fact that concentrates must necessarily be shipped in with a high freight rate involved. Several ranchers, including the J.S. Guttridge Estate, Prairie City, John Silvers, John Day, W.E. Stockdale, and John Damon, Mt. Vernon, have shown good returns from winter feeding of steers when fed home grown grain and hay. With ranchers in the John Day Valley showing a general interest in improved crop rotation, which included the growing of some grain, the feeding of a larger number of steers will be made possible.
The noxious weed problem is being held at a minimum with landowners cooperating in nearly all cases of noxious weed infestation. Every effort should be made to continue this program of noxious weed control, and an endeavor made to keep ranchers “noxious weed conscious”, and also to encourage the efforts of the State Highway Department and other public agencies in a control program. A step to cut down new infestations on ranches was the purchasing of high quality seed through the county agent office. This will serve a duel purpose by providing a supply of home grown seed and also provide a source of supplemental income for ranchers of the county.
Through demonstrations it has been proven that various crop seeds can be produced in the county, thereby creating a supplemental income for ranchers. This project should be continued and an extra effort made to increase the numbers of those so engaged. This may have a tendency to reduce the present hay surplus, and attention should also be given to encouragement of ranchers in employing good practical farming methods and practices.
December 1, 1946 to November 20, 1947
The Grant County Extension Office has continued throughout the past year to occupy a position of responsibility in the agricultural economy of the county. The diversity of war time controls affecting the production and marketing of agricultural commodities has brought a steadily increasing number of farmers to the County Extension Office for assistance with their problems.
As time goes on it is apparent adjustments must soon be made on cropping practices and in the utilization in the privately and Federal owned rangelands, if the county is to prosper. In the years immediately previous to the war it was apparent to agricultural leaders as evidenced by the County Planning Committee that the numbers of livestock were getting out of balance. This condition is the result of several factors, the largest percentage of which has been a reduction in the numbers of sheep. Livestock units in the county may continue to decline for some time, at least until education teaching with respect to range management has made itself felt.
December 1, 1947 to November 30, 1948
There has been a great deal of erosion control done on range land. Most of the ranchers are beginning to realize that the best way to protect their range lands from eroding is to make sure that a good stand of grass is maintained. The County Agent was re-elected Secretary of the Monument Soil Conservation District and has worked very closely with the supervisors and soil conservation employees. Monument Soil Conservation District consists of the original District and three additions, namely, Dayville, Round Basin and Izee. The District now takes in a strip about one-third the width of the County across the west end.
The winter feeding of beef cattle has improved materially on a good many ranches in the County this past year. These ranchers that fed protein this past year have proved to their neighbors that feeding of protein is a very economical practice.
The County Extension office has continued to assist ranchers in locating ranch laborers. The USDA Labor Office in Baker has been contacted several times for help in securing farm labor. Approximately 30 ranch hands were placed through the County Extension Agent’s office during the year. This service has been continued on a small scale due to the fact that there is not an employment office any closer than Baker.
November 1, 1954 to October 31, 1955
General problems or objectives in Grant County: A) Maintain and improve our basic crop, which is grass, and other forage species in order to have a larger income for the County, as well as conserve our soil and water (work for more production on every acre by building or maintaining grass stands and vigor); B) The improvement of livestock in order to have a more efficient machine to harvest our basic crop, as well as develop quality animals (improve the efficiency of all beef animals through breeding and management); C) Improvement of our county livestock marketing program in order that all operators will get the maximum worth of their animals over a period of years bring about a realization of the needs of a sound marketing program); D) Increase the general income of the county and improve the use of this income for better living (make more efficient use of land resources and acquire better homemaking skills); E) Develop rural leadership (get the people of Grant County to understand the principles of 4-H Club work and use these principles in developing their boys and girls); F) Develop desire on the part of Grant County people to improve (develop in youth, through 4-H, an understanding of the major characteristics needed to become good citizens and encourage closer family relationship among the people of Grant County).
October 1, 1960 to September 30, 1961
Agriculture is extremely important in the economy of Grant County. With the decline of the timber industry the past five years it is becoming even more important. Sawmills and other timber tax revenues have been greatly reduced. Directly or indirectly it affects the lives of more than approximately 7,726 people who live here. This population figure is compared a figure of 8,329 for 1956. This reduction in population is due to the decline in logging operations. Sawmills and other timber tax revenues are going out of the picture.
Since the county is a range forage producing county, livestock is the main agricultural income. The majority of the farming is carried on to raise enough feed to supplement the cattle during the winter months. More and more attention is being focused on the economics of forage production rather than just balancing ranch forage with hay lands. The primary concern has been, and will be, how to increase the total gross income for better living. The ranchers, through the Grant County Stockgrowers Association, have been doing a great deal of planning in their field form year to year, but the overall income and use picture needs to be tied together.
Annual 4-H Camp-Out is a major summer activity. The four day event provides much needed motivation for younger 4-H members. In 1961 65 club members attended the camp-out from July 27 through 30, at the Lake Creek Guard Station. The theme of the camp-out was Camp Shalom, a word from Israel meaning place. They came early on the opening day to clean up the grounds and receive instruction on their duties as counselors. The second day’s program was a hike to High Lake with a member of the Forestry Service going along to point out things in nature to look for. The third day a member of the Game Commission gave the campers wildlife tips. They were interested in his wild animal pelts.
October 1, 1962 to September 30, 1963
More and more attention is being focused on the economics of forage production rather that just balancing range forage with hay land. The improvement of rangeland can play a very important part in improving these areas as a watershed in order to improve late water flows, which are so critical for maximum hay production. The County is over 60% federally owned, so the management of these lands for forage and timber is also very important to the economy of the county. Since our main resource is forage (range) and our harvesting machine the cattle and wildlife that use the area, the only way to increase the agricultural income is to find the most economical ways of improving the forage and developing the most efficient livestock to convert this forage to meat, and to keep big game numbers in line with available feed.
The county is made up of different groups of people now largely economic groupings. In the ranching areas of the county, small ranches have consolidated into larger ones owned by a few. Thus, the number of people living in ranching communities has decreased. Within the ranching communities, there are two noticeable groups: ranchers and other groups, which consist of people operating the community business, or those working out for a living. In other areas of the county, lumber mill workers and loggers for a close group. There is little mixing of ranchers and this group.
Community spirit has declined rapidly because of the rapid technological change that has taken place all over the nation. Although several communities are quite isolated, the advent of the car takes the people out of the community for entertainment. Television, telephones and other advances have caused communities to become useless in the purposes they used to serve as far as a social outlet. Some community activities continue, but more and more people find themselves too busy to take part. Communities can, however, serve a new purpose to meet the sociological changes of today’s world. Social-moral standards in Grant County seem low. The people within the communities will need to realize they must break economic barriers and work together to raise and maintain standards if a strong society for the future is to be built.
October 1, 1963 to September 30, 1964
A great deal of emphasis has been placed on livestock improvement over the past years, particularly this year just past. The purpose has been to improve the efficiency of cattle in the area to improve the demand for cattle from this area, thereby improving the marketing situation. Considerable time was spent in grading bulls throughout the county and assisting ranchers in purchasing of bulls for grade herds and herd sires. The Darrell Johnson herd, which is a commercial herd, is doing a very thorough job. They are also using performance tested bulls on this herd now, which should further improve the herd. He is the type of operator that would make an excellent purebred breeder.
Grant County Water Resources Committee, plus the Grant County Stockgrowers Water Committee, the John Day Valley Water Users and others have been showing a great deal of interest in the possibility of water storage in the John Day Valley. The Corps of Engineers, the State Water Resources Board, The Fish Commission and the Oregon State Game Commission cooperated in a study along these lines during the summer months of 1964. This was followed with a countywide water meeting headed up by the Water Resources Committee and chairmanned by Buck Smith. Purpose of the meeting was to determine the actual interest in stored water. This session was well organized and a very good attendance was obtained.
For the coming year the Home Extension Units will be asked to help promote the 4-H program by helping with finding 4-H leaders, encourage participation, helping parents understand 4-H and in leader training. Both 4-H agents plan to attend all of the schools in the county where possible, to talk about 4-H and to pass out a letter to parents explaining the importance of finding good club leaders. It is hoped that some interested parents will lead clubs as a result.
October 1, 1966 to September 30, 1967
The County Extension Advisory Group has been revised and met with the Extension staff in the fall of 1967 to review the Extension program and give their suggestions on where emphasis should be placed. The Human Resource Development Committee is a sub committee of the Grant County Planning Commission. Their responsibilities are to: 1. Take a look at the opportunities in the county for better living, 2. Take a look at problems in the county, 3. Study data already available, 4. Supply information from own work or background, 5. Bring in people who are informed or work in certain areas, 6. Get a complete picture of what we have to work with in the county, 7. Make recommendations to the Grant County Planning Commission, and 8. Make recommendations to Home Economics Extension Program and 4-H.
The present economic situation of livestock operators is not good. Many ranchers have been living on their capital and going behind for the last 4 or 5 years. An increase in price of livestock and more efficient operations would help many of these operators. A good record keeping system is needed so the ranchers could actually analyze their operations to show where changes could be made to make them more efficient.
The entire County of Grant is a Weed Control District. Since the program was organized, it has kept weeds in hand but not necessarily completely controlled. This year a number of items were being worked on to improve the organization and running of the program to make it more effective.
July 1, 1973 to June 30, 1974
The county’s economic situation has been on the decline for several years. You will also note a decline in population from 8,329 in 1950 to 7,726 in 1960 and 6,996 in 1970. Most of the decline has been in the timber industry. Less available timber on the National Forest or public lands has resulted in a reduction in operating mills. It is also quite obvious that this decline could have been prevented with better management over the years of our forested lands, both private and public. Grant County’s analysis and economic studies clearly show how better use of these resources here in the county can materially improve our economic situation.
Livestock marketing still remains to be a major problem in Grant County. We are quite isolated from good livestock market. Where a number of ranchers were pushing their cattle on through the feedlots, it looks like there will be a change in that this year. This is, again, due to the high price of feed grains. Much more needs to be done to keep ranchers informed on the current prices and values of cattle. An all out attempt was made to correct this situation with a bi-weekly report on the livestock marketing situation throughout the summer months of 1974.
From “Over The Wire”, a Livestock Newsletter for Grant County - September 19, 1995
You wouldn’t think of throwing away 1/3 of your hay, especially not after all the work you went throughout to harvest it. However, when livestock are allowed unlimited access to hay that’s how much you lose. Livestock tramp, over-consume, contaminate and use as bedding 25% to 45% of the hay when it is fed with no restrictions. A 100 cow herd may over consume 35 tons of hay if the cows have free access to hay. Hay loss and waster can be reduced by feeding hay daily according to dietary needs, compared to feeding a several day supply each time hay is provided.
From “Over The Wire”, Grant County’s Livestock Newsletter, November/December 1998
Each year alfalfa growers are encouraged to walk their fields and the crucial decision: is the stand worth leaving or should I pull it out? Alfalfa is an expensive crop to grow and the establishment process is a major part of the expense. For years you’ve been told to make a one foot square hoop, randomly toss it onto your field and count the plants in that square foot. If the square contains less than 5 or 6 plants, you’d better consider plowing it out. Now a more accurate method has been discovered. Researchers have found that counting stems, not plants, gives a more accurate method of estimating potential yields. This makes more sense. Again, fling the square onto your field in at least 10 different locations, but this time count stems.
The Grant County Weed Control District is announcing that a herbicide cost-share program will commence for 1999. The purpose of the program is to financially assist the agricultural community in controlling noxious weeds on private lands. The annual cost-share will be for chemicals at a rate of 50% to a limit of $750. The amount of funds available for 1999 is $7,500. However, the amount may be changed annually depending on the funds available and the demands placed on the program.
From “Over The Wire”, Grant County’s Livestock Newsletter, September 2001
Here is a simple method you can use to measure standing grass volume before and after grazing to determined the amount of nutrient removed. First you need to clip a small subsample of the field before grazing. Use a hoop to calculate how many square feet you are clipping. A one square foot hoop can easily be constructed from PVC tubing. Throw the hoop at random, then clip the standing forage inside the ring down to the ground. Cut at least 10 to 15 sample plots periled. The larger the field, or the greater the variation in forage height, the more samples you need. By calculating the total square feet clipped and weighing the forage, you can determined how many pounds of total feed were standing per acre before grazing. An acre is 43, 560 square feet. Divide your total clipped area into 43, 560, then multiply the answer times the weight of forage clipped to determined your estimated pounds of standing wet grass per acre. Measuring again after grazing tells you how much forage was removed.
From “Over The Wire”, Grant County’s Livestock Newsletter, October 2005
Like to know what a new calf weighs but don’t have a scale? Here are a couple of formulas that you can use in the field to give you a pretty good estimate of a calf’s weight. The first formula comes from Dr. Ensminger. His formula is heart girth X heart girth X body length divided by 300. Body length is from the point of the shoulder to the pin bone. Another formula out of Nebraska instructs you to pass a tape around a standing calf’s body behind the forelegs. Pull the tape snug but not too tight and measure. Take another reading to make sure the tape was not twisted or the calf was not in an unusual position. Convert the measurement by multiplying the heart girth (inches) by 4.54 and subtract 58. The result is birth weight in pounds. This should give you a weight within 5 pounds of the actual weight.
From “Over The Wire”, Grant County’s Livestock Newsletter, January 2008
Factors Affecting Marbling in Cattle: It was once thought that intramuscular fat (marbling) is largely deposited towards the end of the finishing period. However, research in recent years has revealed that this is not the case. South Dakota State researchers have demonstrated that marbling development is an intrinsic component of growth (which external fat is not) and that marbling starts early and progresses steadily up to harvest time.
If you as a producer suffered feed losses of incurred additional feed costs directly from the drought then you may be able to receive some compensation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Grant County as a primary disaster area because of the drought that occurred during the period from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2007.
From “Over The Wire”, Grant County’s Livestock Newsletter, January 2012
Are you perplexed at how to tell your story to people that have no idea how well you take care of your cattle? The beef checkoff recently launched Cow Chow, an online game and video series designed to answer common questions about cattle diets. The 10-question game and corresponding videos encourage consumers to explore what cattle eat from birth to the feed yard. The first of their kind Cow Chow videos were filmed by cattle wearing specially rigged GoPro cameras to share this important animal care story from the cows’ eye view. Curious consumers can now see exactly what cattle really eat every day as they compete in an interactive quiz game. Upon completion of the game, users can post results and badges to their Facebook page, and challenge their friends. The Cow Chow game and videos emphasize the attention cattle farmers and ranchers pay to their animals, their land and their communities.
– Compiled by Lindsay Bullock, Eagle staffer