Michael A. Cox

Michael A. Cox

Wolves are worse than you thought

Just when you are about to venture out after the COVID-19 threat (such as it was), there is an even more serious hazard drifting in from the north. The gray wolf disease, coming onboard the Canadian gray wolves is Echinococcus Canadensis, a.k.a. Hydatid disease, a.k.a. gray wolf disease. A pack of the offending species has been in northern Colorado for some time.

Denny Behrens of the Stop the Wolf Coalition has been talking about the possibility of this disease coming into our state via introduced wolves for almost two years. Now he has proof the disease is here.

“In January of this year, a pack of six wolves was identified in Moffat County. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) collected scat samples from the wolves’ elk kill site and had them tested for DNA. They all were confirmed to be non-native Canadian gray wolves. At that time, we requested of CPW that the scat samples be tested for Gray Wolf Disease,” said Behrens in a recent news release.

Behrens said that the coalition got the results of the testing by filing a Colorado Open Records Act request. As was suspected, the Canadian wolves have the disease.

“This is now a deadly serious situation for Colorado. Not only will this potentially fatal disease infect humans, pets, wildlife, and livestock, but it will also be left on crops that diseased wolves roam through.” Behrens said.

The Stop the Wolf Coalition is a group dedicated to stopping the forced reintroduction of the gray wolf into Colorado. The issue is on the ballot in November.

Besides the diseased wolves, there is another issue that has cropped up. That issue is money. Our resident expert on the wolf matter, Glen Hinshaw, sent me a note on Monday.

“The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) is having to make statewide cuts to all departments and programs. They cannot fill vacant positions, let alone make new ones. Even if the wolf initiative passes, it will require normal funding processes and budgeting. With CPW underfunded as it is, the money to fund wolves just isn't there and I don't see the JBC adding a few million dollars onto the taxpayer burden. Maybe the virus will save us. Just wondering.”

Thanks, Glen.

Meat for sale

We were at Kinikin Processing last week for a noontime sandwich on the patio. I stopped by the fresh meat case, where a couple of small filet mignons caught my eye. They were local, grass-fed, and I thought the price was reasonable. Sunday, in honor of our fallen soldiers, we brought the two gems up to 130 degrees in the center and served them with baked potatoes and fresh local produce salad. Whoa, that is a highway with everywhere you have ever been in the rear-view mirror.

Those two little steaks got me to thinking about our meat supply and one of the aspects of it that we don’t talk about very much. Americans have become accustomed to eating only a portion of the steer. We like those steaks, prime ribs, briskets and lean ground beef, 70-90 percent lean. Some of the lesser cuts go into hot dogs and other sausage. The rest of the animal, from the sweetbreads to the tail, get exported to other countries who have a taste for, and have developed prized recipes using, those cuts.

I know that it irritates some that we import any beef at all. But we don’t produce enough domestic beef to keep the situation balanced. That’s not the fault of cowboys in the USA, but that’s another column. And now the balance is tilting badly for American beef people.

When we get into a situation such as we are in now, it is hard for anyone to understand the dynamics at work. The beef growers are still producing what the world wants, but can’t get paid enough for it. Meanwhile, the processors are taking the cheap buy and marking it up to record prices to the consumer. The consumer reads that as a shortage — we’ve all been taught that when something is in short supply, it gets expensive. And, this is where the consumer and the cowboy start looking for their own solutions. Solutions started popping up with a few cattle growers trying to sell off some beef that they couldn’t ship. But, now the consumers are starting to call the ranches, looking for beef to buy.

The calls bring back memories for me. In my youth, we fruit farmers would get four families together and buy a steer. After slaughter, the beef would hang in the local cooler. Then it was quartered and distributed. Dad would cut it and one of my jobs was to develop my arms by doing the hamburger grinding. We had electricity by then and a freezer – but no electric grinder. Those were the days when premium ground beef went for 30-40 cents a pound. Ours was more around a quarter.

In my chat with Bonnie Brown the other day, we talked about home cooks learning to prepare lamb. Home cooks are warming up to the idea of buying a lamb, usually in partnership with another family. Part of Bonnie’s job is spreading the word on how to cook something most Americans have never eaten outside of a restaurant. And we know that there are lamb producers with meat to sell.

A couple of weeks ago a very nice, but, I suspect, troubled, lady came by the house looking to sell hogs. She had a half dozen left. When she sold those, she was done. It was curtain closing time for her swine farm. She’d had it. The uncertainty was killing her and her family. She smiled but it was a cloudy smile. She sold her animals before we got a team together.

The entrepreneurship, hard work, ingenuity, pride, and pure tenaciousness shown by these folks is to be applauded. But without an overhaul to the whole meat marketing system, they face an uncertain and frightening time, even without that virus thing going on.

Don’t flip off the cowboys

Cattle producers are beginning to move their stock to the summer ranges. Motorists need to keep an eye out for walking herds or trucks and trailers full of cows on some of the roadways.

If you come up on a cattle drive moving along a road, be patient. Do not honk your horn. Do not yell or flip off the cowboys (yes it happens). The cattle are nervous enough trying to keep their footing on a hard surface road and a loud noise could spook them, forcing a life-threatening situation. Plenty of cows have lost their footing and were seriously hurt that way.

Usually, the drovers will split the herd and let motorists by. When they do, crank down that window and holler thanks.

A loaded cattle transport rig can enter a highway from virtually any of the small side roads that intersect with our local highways. Be alert. Your little SUV is no match for a trailer loaded with 40 calves or that tractor-trailer rig with a double deck stock hauler behind.

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