Drought Resources / Wildfire / Natural Disaster / Crops and Livestock Articles

Drought / Wildfire / Natural Disaster
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Drought Series Recording

Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch: A Planning Guide for Great Plains Ranchers

Beef Cattle Management During Drought: Reproduction Considerations

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Grazing Management During and After Extended Drought in Montana

United States Drought Monitor

Report Drought Conditions in your Area

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Nitrate Toxicity of Montana Forages

Montana Ag Network: Drought Resources for Ranchers

Making Grazing Management Decisions After Severe Drought

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Nitrate Toxicity of Montana Forages

Suitability of Water for Livestock

Montana Department of Agriculture Stress Assistance Program

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Alternative Forages for Sheep and Goats in Drought Years in the West

Plants Poisonous to Livestock in Montana and Wyoming

Plants Poisonous to Livestock in the Western States

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Right Risk - Tax Implications of Disaster Losses and Weather Related Scales of Livestock

Managing Weeds After Wildfire

Helping Children Cope with Natural Distasters

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After Wildfire: Information for Landowners

Drought on the Ranch

Rangeland Drought Resilience

Crop and Ranch Related Articles
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August, 29th, 2022

Protecting Winter Wheat from Grasshopper Damage

Kevin Wanner

Grasshopper populations remain high, particularly in the central region of Montana. Late in the summer season adults can fly and migrate into cropland from surround dry grassy areas. Grasshopper numbers will begin to decline but the insects will remain active, feeding, mating and laying eggs, until the first hard fall frost. Fall planted crops, such as winter wheat, can be particularly susceptible to damage.

Emerging winter wheat, especially when surrouded by dry grassland, can be vulnerable to damage by grasshoppers. The larger adult stage grasshoppers are more difficult to control and can migrate and infest fields quickly. Some points to consider this fall:

  • Treatment thresholds (listed here and scroll down) for emerging winter wheat are lower compared to spring wheat;
  • Grasshopper numbers can be estimated using the square foot method; the number of grasshoppers in a one square foot area is estimated visually and randomly repeated 18 times while walking a transect. The total number of grasshoppers is divided by two to give the number per square yard;
  • Alternatively, four 180-degree sweeps with a 15-inch diameter sweep net is considered equivalent to the number of grasshoppers per square yard;
  • Border treatments applied as insecticidal sprays or seed treatments are the main recommendation for protectiong emerging winter wheat;
  • Typically, spraying 150 feet beyond the edge of the crop or 1-2 passes with treated seed aorund the perimeter of the field is a sufficient border;
  • Adult grasshoppers are more difficult to control, the higher end of the label rate is recommended;
  • Timing is important. Border sprays beyond the edge of the crop need to be applied just before the wheat emerges; if it is applied too early there may not be enough residual. It is applied too late, the damage may have already occured;
  • Systemic seed treatments eliminate the timing concern, but systemic insecticides require feeding to be active, however, damage should be slowed considerably;
  • High populations and migration from surrounding grassy areas is particularly challenging. Continued monitoring of border areas and crop margins is important, additional treatments and multiple strategies may be necessary;
  • Further information including insectide options are listed on the High Plains IPM Guide

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Mary Drewnoski

Nebraska Extension Beef Systems Specialist

Copper (Cu) deficiency in cow/calf herds has been associated with increased rates of diarrhea and reduced calf growth. Forages to not provide enough copper to meet the needs of beef cows and calves, thus supplementation is needed. However, it is important to note that both under and over supplementation can have negative effects on calf performance.

The natural question is "how much copper" needs to be supplemented? The goal is to provide enough copper to meet needs of cattle without feeding more than needed. Last year, four groups of weaned calves were brought from the sale barn in Valentine, NE and had their liver copper concentrations tested. Of these, one group had deficient liver copper, two were in the adequate range and one group was in the toxic range. It appears that two herds supplemented "just right" or the "Goldilocks amount" while one was not feeding enough, and another was supplementing too much. Do you know where you stand with your supplementation program?

Forage and water testing can provide some guidance. Currently, it is suggested to target 10 parts per million (ppm) of copper in the diet of cows and calves. However, looking only at copper content in the forage will not give you an accurate understanding of the amount of available copper or how much supplemental copper is needed. One must also look at the sulfur and molybdenum content as well. Molybdenum (Mo) and sulfur (S) are two minerals that act as antagonists, tying up copper and making it unavailable to the animal.

Table 1 shows the total copper and the available copper (adjusted for Mo and S) of grass samples submitted by Nebraska producers to Ward Laboratories, Inc, from 2012-2019. In general, the amount of copper and its antagonists increases with quality (crude protein content) of the forage. Samples from Western and Central, NE (including the Sandhills) were similar and had enough Mo and S to tie up almost all the Cu in pastures. Eastern NE had lower concentrations of Mo resulting in more available Cu. The same level of Mo and S in pasture has more of a negative effect on copper absorption than in dry hay. Given typical sulfur content of fresh grass in Nebraska, the amount of copper needed is increased by 6 to 8 ppm for every additional ppm of molybdenum above 1 ppm in pasture.

Although variable, vegetative pasture in Western and Central NE typically contain enough S and Mo to make the majority (95%) of copper in pasture unavailable for absorption. Thus, at a minimum, supplementation of the full requirement (1,300 ppm in a 4 oz. mineral) is often needed to meet needs. In Eastern Nebraska, the Mo content of pastures appears to be less, resulting in 65 to 90% of the requirement needing to be supplemented (1,000 - 1,200 ppm in a 4 oz mineral). There can be significant variation in mineral content of forages by location and management; thus, testing your own forage can be beneficial to refine supplementation. While testing does cost time and money, it can save money in the long run through a more targeted mineral program.

One should also keep in mind that water can also be a source of S, and if the water source is high in sulfate (600 ppm or greater) than additional supplemental copper will be needed. Similarly, due to higher S content of distillers grains and corn-condensed distillers' solubles (often called syrup), extra copper may also be needed when feeding diets containing significant amounts (more than 7 lbs of DM from distillers or 2 lbs of DM from syrup) of these products. It is important to note that the typical lower levels of supplementation of these products provided to cows on dormant range/hay in the winter would not have a significant impact on copper needs. In high S (0.3% S or greater in the diet) and Mo situations, a 4 oz. mineral may need to contain up to 2,500 ppm of copper.

Testing your forage and water to account for Mo and S can be a great way to refine your supplementation program and make sure you hit the "Goldilocks range" of supplemental copper.


Proper Winter Hay Storage

Dr. Emily Meccage

MSU Extension Forage Specialist

There have been a lot of questions lately concerning how to properly store hay over the winter. The main goal with winter storage is to maintain quality and decrease any dry matter losses that we might incur. Minimizing exposure to the winter elements, especially precipitation which can decrease both hay quantity and quality, is our top priority.

Hay is the most common feeding option during winter, as it is less risky than other options such as stockpiling, and we know how much, or rather how long, our stores will last. However, not only is it important to have enough tonnage to support our herd, but also that we are maintaining the quality of our hay throughout the season. 

The ideal storage for hay is inside, out of the elements, in a well-ventilated structure, whether this be a barn, shed, or a pole structure. Unfortunately, in Montana this is often not possible. So next we need to decide what are some other feasible methods of decreasing exposure to the elements. Leaving hay outside completely uncovered increases dry matter losses, ranging anywhere from 5-40% dry matter loss. Quality is also decreased, with some of the water soluble nutrients, like water-soluble carbohydrates, potentially leaching from the hay. This can decrease the overall energy available from the forage. Other components, such as nitrates, can move within the hay stack, and become concentrated in the lower bales, creating a potentially toxic feed for our animals.

Regardless of bale size and shape, it is advised to keep the forage off of the ground. Whether you stack it on pallets, fence posts, or even a well-drained gravel base, this will help to minimize loss. Storing bales on bare ground can cause an estimated 5-20% loss in dry matter, which can add up pretty quickly and account for over half of total dry matter losses. Even if the ground immediately below the hay is not receiving moisture, the surrounding soil is, which will leach into the soils directly underneath the hay stack. It is common to see molding occur on the lower bales due to direct contact with wet soils. The same sort of issues can occur even on concrete floors, as concrete is great at absorbing moisture, so make sure to keep this in mind even if your hay is being stored under a shelter.

Covering the tops of bales with something such as a large tarp or water-resistant canvas will help to divert moisture away from the stack. Make sure that there is some overhang of the tarp over the side of the stack, so that lower bales are not accumulating moisture. If bales are not going to be covered, it is advised to keep stacks small, as water from upper bales will penetrate directly into lower bales, increasing the number of damaged bales.

Ventilation is really important in continuing the drying process after bales become wet. For example, it is best to keep round bales in single layers placed end-to-end, with several feet in between rows to increase air flow and circulation around all bales. Bale density is also really important. The tighter the bale, the better it will be able to withstand winter precipitation and damage. Loosely-packed bales will “pick up” more moisture, and it will penetrate throughout more of a bale than a densely-packed bale.

Wrapping round bales will help to significantly decrease any quality and yield losses from winter storage if the equipment and resources are available. A study found that six layers of plastic wrap is ideal, as it is the optimal trade-off between money spent on wrapping and amount of hay lost to the elements.

Proper storage of your hay is really important in ensuring that your animals will have enough roughage to get through the cold winter months. Decreasing exposure to the elements is the most important factor, and minimizing the number of bales that are exposed to the winter elements will help to minimize total quality and yield losses. 


Winter Feeding Tips (Don't Waster Your Hay)

Dennis Cash

MSU Extension Services (retired)



Informational Articles

By Tim Seipel, MSU Extension Cropland Weed Specialist and Assistant Research Professor in Land Resources & Environmental Sciences; and Lovreet Shergill, Assistant Professor of Weed Science in MSU Southern Agricultural Research Center

Preventing the spread of waterhemp in Montana is a high priority. This guide provides information on waterhemp identification, why it's problematic, and what actions to take if you suspect you have found it.


Waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus) is a common and problematic broadleaf weed in the pigweed family (Amaranthaceae). It is widespread in the south and Midwest of the United States. Waterhemp was first reported in Montana in 2020 and has been documented twice along the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana. The Weed Science Society of America ranked waterhemp as the seventh most troublesome weed in grass crops, pasture, and turf.

This pigweed is highly competitive and can grow rapidly, up to 1 inch per day under favorable conditions. Waterhemp is a prolific seed producer and female plants typically produce up to 250,000 seeds per plant. However, in non-competative environments and under optimal conditions some plants can produce 1 million or more seeds. Up to 80 percent of seeds produced are viable in the soil seedbank. Between 1 and 12 percent of seeds remain viable for up to four years.

Waterhemp is also closely related to another very problematic pigweed, Palmer amaranth, that is spreading toward Montana but has yet to be documented. The most common pigweeds in Montana are redroot pigweed, prostrate pigweed, tumble pigweed, Powell's amaranth, and slender pigweed. Pigweeds are common agricultural weeds around the world. Pigweeds, including waterhmep, are warm-season annual plants that grow quickly and aggressively, compete with crops, reproduce through prolific seed production, and have some of the highest cases of herbicide resistance. Prevention of waterhemp establishment is a high priority in Montana; for more informatin visit the Noxious Weed Task Force Program.

Waterhemp Dispersal

Seeds of waterhemp are small (0.8-1.0 mm diameter) and can easily be dispersed by contaminated machinery, water, birds, and other animals, via contaminated manure and compost, birdseed, and to some degree, wind. Waterfowl, particularly ducks and geese, have been documented to disperse pigweed seeds, including waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, with an estimated 1700-mile range. Waterhemp is also a common contamination in bird feed and other seed mixtures. When buying seed, ensure the seed is certified and check the label to determine if seed samples contain dioecious pigweeds, which indicate waterhemp or Pamer amaranth seeds. If you suspect pigweeds in the seed, it can be tested. Seed samples can be submitted to the Montana State seed lab for identification.

Identification of Waterhemp

Waterhemp looks superficially like many other pigweed species in Montana. Some charactertistics that can be used to distingish waterhemp are described below.

Seeds, Seedlings, and vegetative charactertistics

Seeds of most pigweeds are difficult to distinguish from each other. Waterhemp seeds are small (0.8 - 1.0 mm diameter), black to dark red, and shiny under light.

Seedlings of waterhemp have egg-shaped true elaves with a notch at the tip of the leaf. The first true leaves of other common pigweeds in Montana are wider, elliptical, or more round. The only exception is the leaves of slender pigweed. Waterhemp leaves are without hair and oval to lanceolate in shape and have a waxy appearance. The petiole, or leaf stalk, of waterhemp is often longer than that of redroot pigweed, but shorter than the length of the leaf blade itself, especially compared to other pigweeds in Montana. Waterhemp has a smooth stem with no hair (appear glossy) and contrasts with redroot pigweed, which has fuzzy, stems. Waterhemp stems are brightly colored and range in color from murky red or pink to green.


Waterhemp and Palmer amaranth are the only two dioecious pigweeds likely to occur in Montana. Dioecious means there are separate male and female platns, so these plants will only produce pollen or seed. This is one of the best characteristics to distinguish these species from redroot pigweed and slender pigweed, which have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male inflorescences of both male and female plants are long and narrow compared with redroot pigweed. The inflorescences of waterhemp males and females are narrower and more elongated when compared to redroot pigweed.

Prevention is the Key

Waterhemp is one of the most problematic weeds and has evolved resistance to multiple groups of herbicides. A population from Missouri has been documented to be resistant to six groups of herbicides including group 2 (chloriumuron), group 4 (2, 4-H), group 5 (atrazine), group 9 (glyphosate), group 14 (fomesafen), and group 27 (mesotrione). Currently, two populations of waterhemp have been found in eastern Montana. Preventing waterhemp establishment in Montana is vital. Once established, waterhemp increases input costs and decreases yields. Below are a few key points that will be helpful to prevent waterhemp establishment in Montana.


Optimize crop growing conditions using row spacing, planting, density, fertilization, and pest management to maximize crop competitiveness and enhance overall weed control.

Crop Rotation

It is an important aspect of weed management. The rotation of various crops creates diverse environments over time through the difference in crop competitiveness and the use of different herbicide active ingredients, which helps suppress weed populations.


Waterhemp seeds are small and need to emerge from near the soil surface. Tillage or culitvation, if done timely, may be an effective method of waterhemp control. Primary tillage can control early emerging seedlings and strategic or occasional moldboard plowing can be used to bury seeds beyond the germination zone.


Few in-crop herbicides for waterhemp control are available for pulses, or oilseeds. It is very difficult to control waterhemp or Palmer amaranth in these crops and they should be avoided until the infestation is eliminated. Cereal grains or fallow offer the most herbicide options and include pre- and post-applications of herbicides to manage a long emergence period of waterhemp. Residual herbicides can protect crop yield by delaying waterhemp establishment early in the growing season. Some examples of residual herbicides for waterhemp control may include Group 3 [pendimethalin (Prowl H20), trifluralin (Traflan)]; Group 5 [metribuzin (numerous), atrazine]; Group 7 [linuron  (Lorox)]; Group 14 [formesafen (Reflex), sulfentrazone (Authority products), flumioxazin (Valor)]; Group 15 [acetochlor (Harness/Warrant), pyroxasulfone (Zidua), and S-metolachlor (Dual H Magnum)]. 

Post-herbicides should be applied with the addition of an overlapping soil residual herbicide. Post-herbicides should be applied before the waterhemp reaches four inches in height. Keep in mind that waterhemp can grow than one inch per day, so scouting to identify the right stage for herbicide application will be necessary. Resistance to glyphosate (Roundup) has been reported from North and South Dakota as well as nationwide, so it should be assumed that any population found could be resistant to glyphosate. Group 2 herbicide [imazamox (Raptor), chlorimuron (Classic)] resistance in waterhemp is widespread and resistance to Group 14 herbicides [fomesafen (Reflex or Flexstar), lactofen (Cobra)] is also common. Therefore, the characterization of herbicide resistance is necessary to develop an effective herbicide program. Group 27 herbicides [mesotrione (Callisto), tembotrione (Laudis), and topramazone (Impact or Armezon)] are highly effective when used in combination with atrazne. Other post-herbicide groups in appropriate crops that could be effective in controlling waterhemp include Group 10 [glufosinate (Cheetah, Interline, Liberty)] with Liberty Link crops, and Group 4 [dicamba (Clarity, or 2, 4-D]. Use premizes or tank-mixes with multiple effective sites-of-action at each application and rotate sites-of-action when possible. Applicators should follow the herbicide label, use full-labeled rates, spray volume, and apply herbicides in a timely manner.

Waterhemp plants that have survived a post-emergence application and begin to regrow by two weeks after the application will need to be removed before they produce seed. Follow-up scouting of the field should be conducted for years after an infestation is discovered and plants removed from the field. Waterhemp is a broadly adapted weed found not only in crop fields but along field edges, near sloughs, roads, and other disturbed sites. It is important to scout these areas and remove or prevent the annual weed from going to seed. Seeds on the surface can be expected to survive for 3 to 5 years. Preventing waterhemp or Palmer amaranth from setting seed is crucial as large plants can produce up to one million seeds. In areas where infestations are small, hand pulling can be effective in removing plants.

Take action if a suspicious plant is found.

Early detection and rapid response are critical.

  1.  Contact the local Extension agent or an agronomist to help identify the plant.
  2.  If waterhemp or Palmer amaranth is suspected, a specialist will visit the site and make visual confirmation.
  3.  Record the location with GPS.
  4.  Genetic testing should occur to confirm pigweed identity.
  5.  Work with agricultural professionals to determine the source of waterhemp or Palmer amaranth.
  6.  Develop an action plan. Plants must be pulled and removed from the site before they got to seed, and the area should be search and monitored for additonal plants for at least three years.

Waterhemp has been found twice in eastern Montana. Monitoring and correct identification is important and is often made through genetic testing. If you have questions, please contact the local Extension agent or MSU Extension specialists.

Noxious Weed Task Force Program

Rebecca Kern-Lunberry for Progressive Forage

Published on March 31st, 2022

Most often, the question is posed when there is a major difference between the relative feed value (RFV) and relative forage quality (RFQ), which ultmately leads to conflict and difficulty determining a forage's market value. The difference of a few points on the forage quality index can make a huge difference in pricing that hay - not surprisingly, sellers often want to point toward the higher index value while buyers put more stock in the lower value.

View the Equations and more information

What difference between RFV and RFQ can be expected?

Which index to use

R. Reid Redden, PhD, Sheep Extension Specialist/Assistant Professor - NDSU

Straw is a good alternative in rations for cows and sheep if properly supplemented with higher quality feedstuffs.

Straw is the most common crop aftermath in North Dakota. Straw should not be fed without supplementation because rarely does straw provide enough energy and protein to meet an animal's requirements. However, straw is a good alternative in rations for cows and sheep if properly supplemented with higher quality feedstuffs.

Differences in feeding value do exist among the straws. Oats is the most palatable and nutritious; barley straw is second and wheat straw has the lowest nutritional value of the main grains. Millet straw is more palatable and higher in energy and protein. Flax straw is lower in feed value than all the others because of its lower digestibility.

View Nutrient Contents of Straws table

Straw one year old could also be considered a feed source. It usually is slightly more digestible and palatable than fresh straw. Rust-infested straw or straw from smut-infested fields apparently present no specific toxicant or irritant to ruminant animals. Nitrate accumulation will not be a factor in grains that have matured adequately to produce ripe seed.

Mature beef cows can utilize a higher percentage of straw in the ration than any other class of farm livestock. Rations utilizing 50 percent straw can be combined with higher protein grass hay, legume hays, and legume-grass hays to result in nutritionally adequate wintering rations for beef cows through the second trimester of gestation. Straw should be used more sparingly in diet during the last trimester because pregnant cows, especially ewes, lack the amount of abdominal space for large quantities of feed and growing fetus/s. Moreover, animal requirements during lactation are quite high and straw does not have enough energy and protein to meet these needs when fed at rates greater than 25% of the diet. If feeding straw during lactation is unavoidable,supplementation of higher energy feedstuffs, such as grains, is highly recommended.

Pregnant two-year-old heifers can utilize straw up to 25 percent of their ration. Grain straw can substitute satisfactory for good quality hay when included up to 20 percent of the ration with only modest reduction in rate of gain when included in ground and mixed growing or backgrounding rations.

Medium to low quality roughages such as straw and late cut prairie hay are less palatable than higher quality forages. For this reason, feeding good or high quality roughages simultaneously but seperately from poor quality roughages every day often results in shy or timid animals being forced to eat mostly poor quality roughages. This is undesirable.

The total time required to digest roughages in the ruminant digestive tract varies from about two to six days, with the digesting, fermenting forage releasing nutrients while the forage remains in the digestive tract. Virtually all the fibrous components of forage that can be digested by the cow or sheep must be digested in the rumen and reticulum by ruminal microbes, explaining why lower quality roughages must spend more time in the forepart of the digestive tract. This is why "rumen fill" becomes a major factor in determining upper limits of how much lower quality roughages cattle and sheep can consume.

Higher quality roughages digest more rapidly and move through the tract much faster than low quality roughages, such as straw. Because roughage requires at least three days or more to digest completely, it becomes possible to feed only good quality forages one or two days, then feed only straw or poor roughage on alternate days or on third days.

Critical nutrients (digestible protein and minerals) from higher quality forages are being gradually released from good quality forages to supplement and stimulate the microbial digestion of straw eaten on a different day.

Grinding and mixing straw and higher quality hay is the idea method to feed stray. However, when grinding equipment is not available, an alternate days feeding schedule will often be the best alternative for ensuring that all animals in the group receive some good and some poorer quality roughage.

Consumption of straw can be increased by grinding, but efficiency of digestion is actually not improved by grinding when compared to straw consumed in long form.

Except for millet straw, the amount of digestible protein provided by straws is essentially zero, since only about 10 percent of the crude protein of mature grain straw is actually digestible and available to cattle. Straw should be assumed to provide no digestible or useable protein to the ration. Unfortunately, experimental trails fail to show nonprotein nitrogen (urea) to be an effective substitute for natual plant/animal protein in rations containing high level straw. Natural protein sources are far more effective in supplementing the lack of digestible protein from straws.

Straw does not provide enough nutrients to deserve any place in the ration of producing dairy cows. However, small amounts could be used in situations of unusual forage shortage for dry cows and for replacement heifer rations.

Reviewing the basic feed requirements of ewes shows alternative feeding programs using straw can be made. A 150-pound ewe needs 3.5 pounds of feed per day during the first 15 weeks of gestation, 4.5 pounds during the last four to six weeks of gestation and 6-7 pounds per day during lactation. Naturally heavier ewes require more feed. If straw is available, it will make the ration considerably cheaper and still meet the ewe requirements.

See table for Daily Straw Rations here

Ideally, hay and straw should be mixed together with the grain to improve consumption of straw. However, if a grinder-mixer is not available, the hay and grain can be fed daily and straw free-choice. If you do not prefer to feed the straw free-choice and rather feed it on a daily basis, feed the straw in the morning and hay in the evening. This should help force the ewes to eat the straw more readily during the day when they are most active.

CAUTION: Ewe lambs that are bred to lamb as lambs may not respond as well as the older ewes to feeding straws.

CAUTION: Excessive over-dependence on straw for a large proportion of the ration, in combination with inadequate good quality feed and inadequate daily intake of total ration digestible protein, can result in stomach impaction and death. This can happen even when straw is ground. Impaction is more likely to occur after extended periods of 10 days or more of bitter cold weather and in older ruminants that likely are losing some teeth or timid, shy animals low in the social or pecking order.

Low quality grass hay or prairie hay, usually very late cut, can cuase the same stomach impaction problem when not adequately supplemented with high quality feedstuff providing adequate digestible protein.

August 17th, 2021

Stockmen throughout much of the West are dealing a "grand slam" of tough events - severe drought, grasshoppers, fire and extreme heat. Trying to keep cattle healthy and well fed when there isn't much hay or grass around, as well as keeping your business afloat, has called for hard decisions and creativity. The Montana Farm Bureau Federation has put together a resource page on their website where producers can find links for help. This includes everything from the Montana Department of Agriculture's Hay Hotline to the Managing Drought Risks on the Ranch Guide through MSU Extension. Click here for drought resources.

According to Cory Parsons, CHS nutritionist, who spoke to Park County Farm Bureau during their drought summit, said the key is to put pencil to paper and figure out the nutrient requirements of your cows.

"Remember, there are different nutrient requirements for different cattle at each stage of their lives," Parsons said. "See what you can do to both balance your checkbook and then see what you have to pull together with grains, hay and other commodities. Be sure to do a feed analysis and see how much protein your cows need."

Parsons explained that often ranchers will feed dry distiller grains, beet pulp and barley sprouts to supplement protein intake, but this year, even those supplemental feed stuffs aren't readily available. The other challenge is the labor and equipment needed to make feed changes. If you're not set up with a cake feeder to feed cake and store cake, you need to get creative. Do you have the labor to do it?

Finish reading feeding article

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Beef MOOving Minutes

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*If interested in buying or selling hay, please feel free to contact the office, 406-566-2277 ext 104 or 105

Services Offered at the Office

High-Nitrate levels have been prevalent across Montana during the past three years.

One of the major drawbacks of cereal forages is that under stress conditions (heat, drought, frost, nutrient, etc.) these crops can accumulate levels of nitrate that are toxic to livestock.

A number of chronic symptoms of nitrate poisoning occur in livestock, but in severe cases abortions and deaths are common.

The hay probe is a stainless steel tube with a sharp cutting end.

Probes are simply pushed through the bale.

One core should be sampled from at least 20 randomly selected bales of hay.

Get your hay tested to find out the level of nutrients in the hay to determine how much to feed to your livestock.

  • Energy
  • Protein
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Water

Time to Test Your Hay!

Soil testing is used to determine whether aluminum toxicity or other issues related to soil acidification are teh causes of poor crop growth.

Soil Sampling

How much hay do you need?

  • Depends on location and winter conditions, you will need a one to four month supply of hay per cow.

Why test forages?

  • Hay is fed in large quantities, and thorough forage testing is the first step to design an economical winter feeding strategy.
  • Hay is the bulk package to deliver energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to cattle, sheep, and horse.
  • Hay can be tested accurately and inexpensively.

How do I get a hay or straw sample?

  • Every hay "lot" should be sampled separately.
  • A hay lot is defined as hay taken from the same field and cut, harvested within 48 hours, and stored under the same conditions.
  • Samples are obtained by using a hay probe in randomly selected bales.
  • Probe should be inserted 12 to 18 inches into bales.

Where do I send a roughage sample for testing?

What tests should be run on my hay?

  • For a winter feeding program in Montana, the primary winter feeding tests are: Crude Protein (CP), Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) and Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF).

What are some special considerations?

  • Winter Tetany and Nitrate Toxicity are a concern during late gestation due to stress and high roughage intake.
  • Forages grown on many Montana soils are deficient in the trace minerals copper and zinc, testing can detect these levels.

How do I put it all together?

  • Once you get results back from the lab, use the information to balance rations to provide the desired levels of productivity.
  • Stop by in the office if you need help figuring out rations or have more questions!

Stop by in the office or call to get more information on how to determine rations or step-up your rations.

This link below is also a great resource. It is based on feeding a 4-H steer but it has all the information needed to help you determine how to change your rations.

Step Up Rations

MontGuides are a great resource to use whether you are wondering about AG related information or Human Resource related information.

There is a MontGuide for just about everything.

Stop by in the office to pick one up or click the link below to be taken to the pages to find and download your MontGuide.

MSU Extension Economics Publications and MontGuides

Also be sure to check out our MontGuide Monday page. Hannah posts weekly random MontGuides and informational articles every Monday!

Stop by the office to pick up or browse publications or visit this link to browse through and download them online!


At the office we have a smaller livestock scale that is perfect for weighing small calves, pigs, and sheep!

We do rent it out if needed!

The Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT) Program is for individuals and/or their employees who wish to apply Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) to land they own, rent or lease for the purpose of growing an agricultural commodity.

Private Applicator Training Program

To Become a License as a Private Applicator

Private applicators must be licensed prior to purchasing and using restricted use pesticides. To become a certified an applicator has two options: (1) take an exam or (2) attend an Initial Private Applicator Training.

Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam

The Montana Private Applicator Cerfication Exam can be taken here at the Judith Basin County MSU Extension Office. The exam has 50 questions and must be passed with a 70% or better. The exam is open book and not timed. Contact office to set up a time to take your exam.

Initial Private Applicator Training

An Initial Private Applicator Traiing is a seven hour program covering the basics of pesticide use. Upon completion of the program applicators must take an ungraded 50 question exam. Initial Private Applicator Trainings must adhere to criteria set forth for initial programs. Contact the Extension office for information about trainings.

License Fees

Private applicators must pay $12 for each year of the cycle for a total of $60 per each 5 year cycle recertification cycle to the Montana Department of Agriculture. This fee is to be paid at the time of licensing and when the license is renewed.

Paraquat Training for Pesticide Applicators

An online paraquat training is available, created by pesticide manufacturers and approved by the EPA. This training provides information about paraquat's toxicity, person protective equipment, new label requirements, restrictions, and the consequences of misuse.

Applicators must print out certificates online and retain for their own records. In addition, the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) wil retain certification records as well.

In order to take this training you will need an email address to set up a guest account.