Start-Up: Livestock Wx blends weather forecasting with market analyses

Chad McNutt poses near the Platte River Pumphouse on Thursday morning in Casper. McNutt, along with his business partner John Feldt, started Livestock Wx, which recently became one of the finalists in the 2018 Casper Start-Up Challenge. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Story by Tom Mast, special to Oil City News

For farmers and ranchers, a roll of the weather dice can turn up droughts or floods, good spring rain or inadequate winter snowpack, or any number of other meteorological variables that dramatically affect livestock management and profitability.

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So being able to predict weather patterns and assess their likely impacts on livestock production and markets can be a major factor in reducing risks and avoiding costly miscalculations.

The basic premise of Livestock Wx is to provide weather information to livestock producers with a deep dive into market analytics and economics.

“We can look at different things like weather trends that may impact livestock production,” Livestock Wx co-founder Chad McNutt said. “We can look at production efficiencies and how weather could impact those things. And so, our ultimate goal is to produce analytics that either the financial markets or producers can utilize.”

For example, detailed analytics might help a rancher conclude whether a drought is likely to lessen or worsen, which in turn could impact the number of cattle going to market in the short-term and therefore prices paid.

Livestock Wx currently provides weather information through subscription-based services and webinars.
Chad said “dashboards” that can slice and dice data for relatively specific locations also are under consideration. Producers thus could receive data targeted to their individual needs. “It would be pretty simple to do once you work out the code,” he said.

Chad and his business partner, John Feldt, were employed previously by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While there, Chad worked on a drought early warning project, which helped lay the foundation for Livestock Wx.

Subscribers to Livestock Wx receive 12 issues of the Livestock Weather Journal, which publishes weather trends and maps of regional weather patterns. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Texas is the largest cattle-producing state in the U.S., with 12.3 million head as of Jan. 1, 2017, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center. So, it’s no surprise that Texas is among the states Livestock Wx has focused on initially.

Gina Bryson is a media consultant for the monthly Cattleman Magazine, published by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth. The association also produces an online e-newsletter called “the Cattleman Update” in which a Livestock Wx weather analysis appears. Of all the site’s links, Gina said, the Livestock Wx link is the most popular.

Cattle producers must decide if they need to move their livestock, put them on higher ground, or buy extra hay depending on weather conditions, and the Livestock Wx feature “helps them immensely with their cattle ranches,” she said.

“I know Chad is very, very good at what he does,” Gina said. “He provides a great service for our cattlemen. They definitely appreciate his knowledge.”

Livestock Wx is one of five finalists in this year’s Casper Start-Up Challenge. The three eventual winners will each receive $5,000, one year of free rent at the Wyoming Technology Business Center, a chance to apply for a share in a $50,000 seed fund, and business counseling from WTBC staff to help grow their businesses.

As part of the Start-Up Challenge, Chad said a “boot camp” presented by the Casper Area Economic Development Alliance/Forward Casper and the WTBC was particularly helpful: “I don’t have a business background, so taking that business boot camp they offered was pretty invaluable for me.”

Being successful in the Challenge would allow Chad to bring in additional expertise to streamline his analytics process. He also wants to expand his advertising base and thus provide added revenue.

“We’re trying to make this business competitive by coming in at a very competitive price point,” he said.

In the future, Chad hopes his business establishes itself as an industry leader when it comes to livestock weather forecasting and analysis. “So, when someone thinks about weather impacts on livestock, they’re going to be thinking about Livestock Wx,” he said.

The Casper Start-Up Challenge is administered through the WTBC, a part of the University of Wyoming. It is made possible thanks to sponsorships from CAEDA/Forward Casper, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, Oil City News, First Interstate Bank, and WIDC Frontier CDC.

The aim of the program is “to catalyze Wyoming start-up businesses and provide the opportunity to apply for seed money to take the business past concept stage and into real-world first article builds and initial sales,” according to the Start-Up Challenge website.

In coming days, Chad will work with the WTBC staff and mentors from the community to develop his business, culminating in a “pitch day” on Nov. 15 at The Lyric in downtown Casper. The event will be open to the public.

WTBC assistance throughout the year
The many ways in which the WTBC can help start-up or fledgling businesses isn’t limited to the Casper Start-Up Challenge. For more information about how the WTBC might be able to assist you with a new business or a start-up idea, contact Jerad Stack at 307-315-6401, or email jstack@uwyo.edu.