Being able to network with other cattlemen has proven invaluable for Tom Schweers.
It’s one of the many reasons Schweers, who raises cattle as part of his JoToms Farm operation located along Highway 133 just in to Douglas County, stays so involved with the Washington County Cattlemen group.
“You just learn so much, almost anytime you talk to anybody,” he said of being able to get together with association members.
Schweers first joined the Washington County Cattlemen in 1990.
The group, which meets once a month from November to March and then has an annual banquet in April, is a great way for people to get together to learn about the latest issues facing the industry, as well as exchange stories and ideas.
The group has been in Washington County since the 1960s and maybe even earlier, said Schweers, who serves as secretary/treasurer on the association’s board of directors. There are about 50 members, most from Washington County, but also some, like Schweers, who live in Douglas County. The group also has about 45 supporting members, people Schweers said don’t necessarily raise livestock, but still want to support the group, including area businesses.
The group, Schweers said, has been attracting many more younger members in recent years.
“We are getting a younger group in all the time, which is kind of amazing,” he said.
Meeting attendance, he said, is pretty good, with between 30 and 50 people at each one. He expects about 200 people will be attending April’s annual banquet.
During their meetings, the group gets together to socialize, eat dinner and hear about the latest issues from a guest speaker. At their meeting March 3, the guest speaker was University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Rick Rasby, who spoke about early weaning for calves and dry lotting cows.
Dry lotting, Schweers said, is one of the issues cattlemen in the county are facing because pastureland is being used for other purposes.
“Pasture is much harder to come by since corn and soybean prices have been so high,” he said. “More of the marginal ground is being farmed instead of used for a pasture.”
It’s issues like that where the Washington County Cattlemen is beneficial, Schweers said. The goal of the group, he said, is looking out for the interests of people who raise livestock and to try and help them better their situation.
“There seems to be lots and lots of things that affect the profitability of it, from the standpoint of government regulations that always cost a lot of money,” Schweers said
He said one of those is property taxes, which he believes is going to hit people in agriculture pretty hard. He said the state has begun a system of using three-year averages when they look at property taxes. “We are only into the first year of those higher valuations of property and, even if land prices start to drop off in value, they are going to go back three years on valuations and it’s going to make agriculture get hit hard with some pretty big tax burdens.”
Schweers said there are a lot of good operations in Washington County. He said many, like his, are cow/calf operations where the animals are raised and then sold to larger feed operations.
He said Washington County also has a lot of purebred breeders, something that may surprise people.
In addition to being able to network with other cattlemen locally, Schweers said he can also talk with people from across the state through the local association’s affiliation with the Nebraska Cattlemen.
He said while there may be some instances where an issue in the Nebraska Sandhills may not pertain to Washington or Douglas counties, having those connections is still important. And, ultimately, they all have the same goals when it comes to their operations.
“Everybody is still looking to make a living and make cattle production profitable, so it’s very similar in that aspect,” he said.
Membership in the association isn’t limited to cattlemen, Schweers said. He said anyone wanting more information about being a member or supporting member of the Washington County Cattlemen can call him at 402-676-2889.