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Public unaware of predator problem, livestock educator says

By Dean Rea

For the Capital Press

Livestock expert speaks about predators, other challenges of cattle industry.

Wolves and other predators pose a more serious problem for Pacific Northwest livestock producers than the public may realize, a beef expert said during a breakfast meeting of the Lane County Livestock Association.

“Wolves are a really big challenge,” said James “Jim” Males, the former director of the Oregon State University Animal and Range Sciences Department and now a professor emeritus who teaches half-time in Corvallis.

Wolves are blamed not only for kills but also for creating stress among livestock in eastern Oregon and Washington, he said. Stressed cattle don’t gain weight.

Other predators, including foxes and cougars, are becoming more of a problem in western Oregon, he said.

Fish and wildlife departments in Oregon and Washington are responsible for predator control under state and federal statutes. Each state has reimbursement programs for livestock killed or injured by gray wolves, which are classified as an endangered species. The Oregon department, for example, reported eight incidents involving death and injury to cattle and sheep in Wallowa, Umatilla, Union and Baker counties during 2012.

Except for predator problems, the beef industry is in “pretty good shape,” Males said during the monthly Lane County educational program. “We really need more cattle to fill our feedlot and packing plant capacity.”

Even though wet weather creates problems in the western portion of the Northwest, the region has not experienced drought that has decimated herds in other sections of the country, he said.

Despite problems posed by such things as regulations, wolves and the weather, Males said he tells his students at OSU that “cattle are cool.”

“I’m a fifth-generation cattle person,” he said. “It’s in my genes. I love cattle.”

He discussed marketing calves.

“We have a feedlot industry in the Northwest because we have a potato industry,” Males told the group. “Twenty percent of the rations of all the feedlot cattle in Washington, Oregon and Idaho are potato waste,” he said.

“Beef cattle make a really good secondary farm income,” he said in response to a question about what attracts people to be involved in the industry.

Half of the beef in the country are in herds of more than 100, he said.

“Beef cows also are rather low in labor costs compared to other livestock,” he said. “You don’t have to milk them twice a day.”

Dean Rea/For the Capital Press

James “Jim” Males, Oregon State University beef specialist, reviews the Oregon Feedlot and Carcass Futurity program with members of the Lane County Livestock Association during a breakfast meeting in Springfield, Ore.



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