My View From The Country

Controlling Prairie Dogs And Other Industry Varmints

Some of you may not have a lot of personal experience with prairie dogs, but they multiply at rates that would make a rabbit blush. Amazingly there are folks actually trying to make a case that prairie dogs are endangered but, as anyone who has dealt with prairie dogs knows, they're a lot like coyotes and cockroaches -- they'll be around as long as we're around, and probably longer.

Just when you think you've got prairie dogs licked, you'll wake up one morning and, like the Biblical Plagues, they're everywhere.
I won't go into the damage they do but all you have to do is go into a prairie dog town and compare the grass. They ruin pastures and carry disease. They make holes everywhere, which become a haven for rattlesnakes and make it a death-defying adventure to run your horse across a town.

Controlling prairie dogs is a lot like keeping good fences -- they make for better neighbor relations. You can't keep prairie dogs under control in your property if your neighbor doesn't keep his under control, and vice versa.

As I write this, my crew (a couple of great interns and two of wonderful kids) has spent the entire morning launching an all-out assault on the little buggers. After filling a couple hundred holes and not making much noticeable progress, these folks will forever understand what it is to stand and push against the wind.

Controlling prairie dogs is much like fighting some of the battles the industry faces. We're assaulted with our own version of industry prairie dogs -- from a host of liberal activist groups, whether on the trade front, the nutritional front, animal rights, environment, food safety, or a host of other fronts.

You never win an absolute victory. In fact, it's a success if you even thwart their progress. And where one makes a little inroad, others soon follow. Or, if you let your guard down a bit, you'll find the damage takes years to recover from, and a whole lot more effort.

I can't make it rain, and I can't stop people from sharing radical and baseless beliefs. I can, however, pay my dues and support my local and national cattlemen's organizations that do battle with these groups.

To experience victory in my lifetime over such industry foes would require an investment I can't make. But like fighting prairie dogs, my efforts today -- and those of my neighbors and friends -- will give my grandkids a fighting chance. The greatest risk comes when things are allowed to get out of control. Like prairie dogs, our opponents will always be there. But with focused and continual efforts, they can become a minor part of one's management agenda -- issue by issue, day by day, mound by mound.
-- Troy Marshall

What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contribur Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

Contributors

Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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