Nebraska Extension in Cheyenne, Kimball & Banner Counties

Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference Dec. 16 at Sidney

“Ideas to Grow With” is the theme for the Annual Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference set for Dec. 16 at Sidney.

The conference will cover a diverse set of topics, including good and bad bugs; making the transition to organic farming; planting annual forage mixtures for cattle; gardening for profit; the business of new ag enterprises; and solar panels.

The Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference was initiated by farmers who saw the need for a conference to bring research-based information to farmers and ranchers in western Nebraska about alternative and value-added agriculture, especially those looking for new ways to keep their operations sustainable, according to Nebraska Extension Educator Karen DeBoer, one of the conference organizers.

The conference will take place at Western Nebraska Community College, 371 College Drive in Sidney, from 8:45 a.m. until 4 p.m. Pre-registration is due by Dec. 8.

For more information about the conference or exhibitor booths, contact Extension Educator Karen DeBoer at the Extension Office in Sidney, telephone 308-254-4455 or email  Download the brochure here.

Sponsors include Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) and Organic Crop Improvement Association Nebraska Chapter No. 2.

Keynote speaker Dr. Jeff Bradshaw’s topic is “Good Bug, Bad Bug: Can we grow the former while we decrease the latter?” According to Bradshaw, roughly 90 percent of the known insect species on the planet have some beneficial role. Yet in schools, homes, and agriculture, we spend an inordinate amount of time and expense on the remaining 10 percent. 

Sustainability attempts to take the long view on people, planet, and profits. Therefore, in terms of sustainability in agriculture, our focus should be on the role that beneficial insects could have in improving yield while reducing inputs and input costs, according to Bradshaw. He will discuss his current research on beneficial insects in confection sunflower, dry edible beans, and dryland wheat. Additionally, the successes (improved yield and reduced input costs) and challenges will be discussed.

Bradshaw is an Associate Professor of Entomology and Extension Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stationed at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. His research focuses on the areas of applied ecology of insects and host plant resistance, primarily on crops common to the High Plains region. He is a frequent contributor to Extension newsletters, various media outlets, and can be found bantering on Twitter (@true_bug) with other researchers, Extension professionals, and producers.

The full list of workshop topics at the Sustainable Ag conference:

Is Organic Farming for You? Presenter Martin Kleinschmit of Hartington, Neb., has been certified organic since 1993. In addition to managing his 380-acre farm, he designed and managed several organic education programs for farmers and ranchers. Topics to be discussed include organic requirements for certification, what to do during the transition period, the USDA Organic Transition Incentive Program Organic Transition Incentive Program through EQIP, the economic and environmental benefits of organic farming, and the hurdles to certification.
Kleinschmit, a Nebraska farmer with 50 years of experience as a sustainable farmer (24 as an organic farmer) now focuses his skills toward being retired and sharing his experiences. After 22 years of managing his 385-acre grain and livestock farm, he accepted a position with the Center for Rural Affairs Beginning Farmer/Sustainable Agriculture Project in 1993 where he designed and managed a three-year carbon management project to learn what factors affect farmers' decision to sequester soil carbon. He also designed and managed a seven-year organic education project to provide NRCS and Extension staff a basic understanding of organic rules and regulations and assist farmers/ranchers wanting to transition to organic production.

Using Annual Forage Mixtures (a.k.a. Cover Crops) for Beef Cattle: Presenter, Dr. Karla Jenkins, Cow/Calf Specialist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, will focus on growing annual forage mixtures in western Nebraska and how that differs from eastern Nebraska. She will also address the economics of grazing mixtures as well as projected gains.
Her research program includes finding more efficient and economical ways to produce beef cattle while sustaining the range resource. Since 2009, she has been studying limit feeding energy-dense byproducts mixed with crop residues to maintain beef cows in confinement to provide grazing deferment for range, maintain a core herd from liquidation, or as part of a system to reduce dependency on pasture. She also evaluates annual forage crops and alternative uses for crops such as field peas or sugar beets as components in beef cattle diets to improve sustainability and efficiency of cattle operations in western Nebraska.

Nebraska Sustainable Ag Research and Education (SARE) Program: From Presenter Gary Lesoing, UNL SARE Coordinator and Extension Educator.

Key Business Considerations of a New Agricultural Enterprise: Jessica Groskopf, UNL Regional Extension Economist, will explain how starting a new agricultural enterprise entails more than just knowing how to produce the desired good. This presentation will discuss the business considerations of a new enterprise, including initial investment, cash flow, insurance, government programs, and more. Groskopf is based at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center. She joined Nebraska Extension in 2012. A native of Colorado, she received a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Business from Colorado State University and a master's in agricultural economics from Kansas State University. Jessica, and her husband Andy, farm corn and dry edible beans north of Scottsbluff.

Organic Farming: The Rewards and Challenges: Sara Fehringer, Coordinator of Organic Crop Improvement Association High Plains Chapter 2, and Dennis Demmel, organic farmer from Ogallala, will review the process of organic certification for those interested in organic farming.

Gardening for Profit: From a local panel of producers who raise produce for Farmers' Markets.

Converting to Solar Energy: Presenter Martin Kleinschmit, who has worked in the renewable energy field since 1980, built his own 9,000-watt PV system in 2009. Once satisfied with its output, he started his own solar business, MarLin Wind & Solar LLC, which works with residential, commercial and ag settings. He will talk about how solar Photo Voltaic (PV) panels work, what you need to know about net-metering, cost breakdown on a PV system, examples of solar systems, sizing your system to fit your needs, and more information sources.

Workshops aim to give ranchers the tools to know their costs, operate their ranch as a business

Having information to make effective business decisions is important for ranch success.

Enterprise analysis and unit cost of production (UCOP) are tools that can help ranchers identify where value is being created on the ranch, where costs are occurring, and what changes could be made to improve profit.

For cow-calf producers, UCOP is figured as cost per pound of weaned calf.  Knowing what it costs to develop a bred heifer, harvest a ton of hay or put a pound of gain on a stocker or a yearling are valuable information as well for the ranch business manager.

A series of two-day workshops in November and December at several Nebraska communities will provide a hands-on learning experience for producers to learn how to calculate a unit cost of production for a cow-calf operation. Workshops will be held in Chadron, O’Neill, North Platte, and Kimball.

Workshop participants will work through a sample ranch to determine the profitability of four common types of ranch enterprises: cow-calf, stockers/breeding heifers, hay, and land.  Participants will go through the steps of analyzing costs and calculating what it costs to produce a unit of product for each enterprise. They will also learn how to identify how changes that could improve ranch profitability.

It takes time to set up and calculate a UCOP, but the benefits are:

  • Knowing what present costs are;
  • Projecting what unit cost of production will be in 2018;
  • Identifying opportunities to improve profitability;
  • Using information to make management and marketing decisions.

Sounds difficult?  Hands-on, group activities, and examples of how to calculate key numbers will help participants through the process. They will receive access to Excel® spreadsheet templates that can help analyze cost of production for their own operation.  Extension Educators Aaron Berger, Jay Jenkins, and Bethany Johnston will be available for follow-up after the workshops.

Below are dates, locations and contact information for pre-registration with the local host.

Dec. 4 and 5 at North Platte: West Central Research and Extension Center, 8:30 am-4 pm CST; contact Randy Saner at 308-532-2683 or;

Dec. 14 and 15 at Kimball: 4-H Building, 8:30 am-4 pm MST; contact Aaron Berger at 308-235-3122 or

Cost is $50 per person and covers meals for both days. Please pre-register one week prior for a meal count.  Payment is due the day of the workshop. Workshops are limited to 30 people per location. Contact Aaron Berger at 308-235-3122 with questions about the workshops.

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