They thought he was reaching for something …

A law enforcement officer shooting a man reaching for something will get you charged with murder in Albuquerque. That may not hold true for the FBI. At least that’s how things stand after the FBI shot and killed an Arizona man in Oregon who got out of his vehicle hands up, shouting just shoot me.

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, rancher, father of 11, and husband from Cane Beds, Arizona, traveled to Harney County, Oregon to join a protest of the imprisonment of fellow ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond — and of the federal government’s ownership and oppressive management of almost half of the landmass in the western states. He became the spokesman for the group. Finicum died beside an Oregon highway on January 26, 2016.

Media reports from the agricultural press as well as the national networks are voluminous. Perhaps the most comprehensive report on the protest and the shooting came from Western Livestock Journal correspondent Theodora Johnson in the January 29 issue of that publication entitled “Rancher killed by federal agents in eastern Oregon.”  You can read the full article at

The way the Oregon situation shaped up, something horrible was inevitable. Our thoughts and prayers are with families and friends who are suffering … not just from the shooting but the imprisonment of the Hammonds and from the overreach if not downright oppression that is crushing many Westerners.

The path of occupation of a vacant federal facility was not one that most ranchers might have chosen. However, the feeling that there is nothing left to do is not an unfamiliar one.

There were some who insisted on not calling ranchers as the occupiers. That is where real shame lies. It is not unexpected that those who are against ranchers and ranching would call the folks in Oregon and their brethren in every one of the 11 Western states “domestic terrorists.” It was a little surprising that the New Mexico Wildlife Federation would send their staff to Oregon in a counter protest. But for ranching organizations to try and distance themselves from ranchers is inconceivable.

Even more infuriating are the likes of television talk show hack Montel Williams saying that these ranchers gave up their constitutional rights by opposing the federal government. With all we have seen in this country in just the past year, just imagine if all protesters were stripped of their constitutional rights.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) has been mum on the Oregon issue. Occupation may not be a course of action in many New Mexico minds, but most would likely sympathize with the sentiment. We have had our share of adverse dealings with federal agents and our membership. That feeling in the pit of your stomach, as you watch a member sentenced and led away by federal marshals, sometimes in shackles, is like none other.

With that said, helping your neighbors when they are under regulatory attack remains the best way to protect yourself in the future.

About those black helicopters…

The Sisk family at the Bonita Canyon Ranch near Corona was host to one during the Blizzard Goliath storm in late December 2015, a Black Hawk helicopter that is. The medical helicopter landed at the ranch, socked in by the poor visibility and dangerous flying conditions. The Army National Guard flight crew of three was on its way to help with clean up efforts in Carlsbad in the aftermath of the blizzard when it landed at the ranch.

When the fog did not lift in time for the crew to continue to their destination, they were invited to stay at the family’s nearby bunkhouse for the night. After hearty dinner and breakfast courtesy the ranch family, with sunny skies, the three were able to take flight Saturday. However, instead of heading straight to Carlsbad, a change of plans set their flight plan on a detour to Ski Apache to assist in the search for two lost skiers who were later found.

Devin Sisk said the family was honored to host the airmen, adding the experience was a small way for them to express their gratitude to our country’s servicemen.

“The U.S. military needs all the support they can get,” Sisk said. “We need to let them know they are appreciated.”

New Mexico CowBelle
Honored Nationally

Fita Witte, Las Cruces, was named the American National Cattlewoman (ANCW) of the Year during the group’s annual meeting in late January in San Diego. Witte, a past president of the ANCW as well as the New Mexico CowBelles, is one of the hardest working women ever in the cattle community.

A large group of New Mexicans were on hand to honor Fita.

Flying the Friendly Skies

I spend more time than I want in airplanes, generally averaging nine or ten trips a year. Except for the trips that get diverted to El Paso for refueling after a few attempts to land in Albuquerque in wind shear (and that has happened more than once), air travel is mostly routine and there is plenty of time for people watching.

I was shocked to learn some time back that there are “men’s” magazines that rival women’s magazines. I grew up thinking that a men’s magazine was something like the New Mexico Stockman. Educational publications that keep men (and women) informed on issues of the day as well as management tips. There are other such publications, like Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest that seem appropriate for men. There is of course Playboy and such. My dad thought he was clever hiding his Playboys in his underwear drawer … forgetting that I was the one that put his clean underwear away. Generally I picked up the mail and it was simple to slip the cover off, read the jokes, put the cover back on and leave it with the pile of mail.

But magazines that sell men clothes, shoes, hair products, fragrances … really?

There are more amusing things going on in planes. In a trip to Las Vegas, I saw the best one ever. I fly enough that I have A-List boarding which means I am generally among the first 30 people on the aircraft.            My favorite seat on the company plane (Southwest Airlines) is the left side isle immediately behind the emergency exit row. I figure that in the event of an emergency, I can claw my way to the exit fairly easily … if I haven’t had a heart attack yet.

On this flight, I was in my usual perch when a woman came and sat in the isle on the emergency row catty corner from me. She promptly put items in the other two seats next to her to save them. Generally Southwest doesn’t allow seat saving in exit rows. It wasn’t long before a flight attendant came along and asked who the seats were being saved for. Her response was that they were for her friends.

As the flight attendant continued to question the lady, she finally said that one of her friends had a bad knee and needed the extra space. That didn’t sit particularly well with the flight attendant, but she kept an eye on the row. Eventually a cowboy and another lady arrived to claim the seats. The cowboy was asked if he was the person with the bad knee. He was pretty surprised and asked what she was talking about.

The first lady sheepishly admitted that she had told the flight attendant about his knee. Less than pleased, the man reported that he had had his knee replaced three years ago, but the last thing anyone needed to worry about if the plane was going down was his knee.

I never laughed out loud, but I did get lots of chuckles. And made a note to self. If you are trying to save a seat in an emergency row, the best approach is not to say a gimp needs it.

New Pricing Model for Cattle Markets?

According to a Reuter’s story by Tom Polansek in late January, a proposal for an online auction that could shake up the U.S. pricing model for cattle made its debut after a test run in mid January, with the support of a unit of the world’s largest meatpacker. Attendees at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Convention in San Diego learned of the plan, backed by a feedyard owned by JBS SA, as exchange-operator CME Group Inc said it was studying steps to improve cattle futures after complaints about extreme volatility.

The cash and futures markets have come under scrutiny over pricing following a setback from record levels reached in 2014 and a year’s long drop-off in cash sales. Terry Duffy, executive chairman of CME, said he was concerned about the decline in cash sales because futures contracts need a viable underlying cash market to function properly.

Cash sales, in which producers and meat packers negotiate for cattle a few weeks before they are killed, have declined as producers have increasingly locked in prices months in advance. Still, prices for the advance sales are usually based on average prices for cash sales, which are concentrated in certain geographic areas.

Some producers say that method undervalues cattle, and the fall in prices has refocused attention on efforts to improve the system. A change could affect what consumers pay for steaks and burgers, wrote Polansek.

Jordan Levi, managing partner for Arcadia Asset Management in Oklahoma City, told cattlemen that he organized a trial run of an online auction on January 18 to improve price transparency. Representatives of the four major meat packers – JBS, Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], Tyson Foods Inc and National Beef Packing Company [NBEEF.UL] – took part, he said in a presentation that followed a Reuters report on the details. Levi aims to host a live auction within 60 days.

He organized the trial with Mike Thoren, chief executive officer of feedyard JBS Five Rivers, said Ed Greiman, chair of the NCBA’s marketing committee. In cattle futures, CME may reduce trading hours and take other steps to improve markets after producers complained about volatility.

Duffy fingered increased cattle inventories and fundamental factors for pressuring futures prices. U.S. data in late January showed the cattle herd was at a five-year high.

New Mexico Legislature

By the time you are reading this there will still be a week or more left in the Session. The beginning of Session has moved slowly with the biggest news being bad news about the budget.

Rather than have a slight surplus, it appears that budget numbers will be negative with the only way to balance them, which is required in New Mexico, there will be cuts. Depending on revenue projections, there may even be a need for a Special Session.

Because New Mexico is 30 percent or more dependent on oil and gas projections, the current slump in oil prices is having devastating impacts on the budget. Enjoy those low gasoline prices, but there is a bigger price that is doing to have to be paid somewhere down the road.

Please be watching for calls to action and jump in and help when you can.

The Roundhouse Feed is scheduled for February 16. Please come help serve 1,000 plus folks who have been toiling away in Santa Fe on behalf of all of us.