- [Announcer] "Montana Ag Live" is made possible by the Montana Department of Agriculture, the MSU Extension Service, the MSU Ag Experiment Stations of the College of Agriculture, the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Cashman Nursery and Landscaping, the Northern Pulse Growers Association, and the Gallatin Gardeners Club.
(plucky theme music beginning) - You are tuned to "Montana Ag Live", originating today from the studios of KUSM on the very dynamic campus we call Montana State University and coming to you over your Montana Public Television system.
I'm Jack Riesselman, retired professor of plant pathology.
Happy to be your host this evening.
We're gonna have a fun program this evening.
We're gonna delve into cattle, which we haven't done yet this spring.
And I'm gonna learn a lot because I don't know much about cattle.
So I'm here for an education and if you have questions about livestock, specifically cattle, but anything or anything else you wanna know about 'em, phone in tonight; we'll have the phone number up there in a little bit.
We do have one issue tonight; the computers are down, so we're gonna get the calls handed to me by hand.
We've had somewhat of an issue with computers here on campus at MSU.
They've been down for three days, we've been hacked.
Hopefully first part of this next week, we'll be up and running again.
With that, let me introduce tonight's panel.
Way on my left, everybody knows her, Mary Burrows.
Mary's a plant pathologist, extension plant pathologist, part-time, part-time in the dean's office.
And I have never asked her which one she likes better, so one of these days I will ask her in public and put her on the spot.
Our special guest tonight, Darrin Boss, I've known Darrin for a long time.
He's superintendent up at the Northern Research Center up in Havre, Montana.
He came down, I'm glad he made the trip down.
It is a little warmer down here generally than it isn't Havre, so it wasn't too hard to convince him to come down.
Darrin, he'll tell you what he does in a little bit when I come back to him.
Perry's been here numerous times.
He's a cropping systems agronomist.
Perry's very knowledgeable about some of the new crops that have come into the state.
They're really not that new anymore.
We have some new ones, but in general, we are now the number one pulse-producing state in the United States and Perry has had a lot to do with that.
And, of course, we have an economist.
We always have to have an economist once or twice a year so we can learn about the economics of agriculture.
Eric Belasco, glad to have you here.
He's been here several times.
Answering the phone tonight, Nancy Blake and Sarah Thomas.
And get those phone calls in.
The number will be on the screen here shortly.
And with that, Darrin, welcome and tell us what you do up in Havre.
- Well, thank you, Jack, for having me today, a really great pleasure.
Always fun to watch it every Sunday and to be invited on it now recently, it'd be really good.
I've actually been in Havre since 1994, which just kind of creeps up, in almost 30 years I've been there.
I'm currently the superintendent of Northern Ag Research Center, which is a 7,000-acre ranch and farming operation.
But I also do double duties as an administrator and I'm the department head all seven research centers around the state of Montana.
- [Jack] Your research specialty is?
- [Darrin] Beef cattle management and nutrition.
- And we do have beef cattle in the Northern climates.
- [Darrin] Absolutely.
- And I wanna learn a little bit more about that.
I'm gonna ask you a question quickly and it's always been my curiosity.
How do you treat cattle differently in Havre than you would in Billings?
I mean, it's warmer in Billings or Park City than it is up in Havre.
How do you handle that?
- I think the geographical differences around Montana is what makes it interesting.
I mean, we know it's colder, we try to prepare earlier for those 30 below days that we get pretty regular in Havre versus down in Dillon or Billings, and it's about preparation and being ready more so than more dramatic impacts.
We don't tend to do a different type of breed just because we're up from northern Havre down South, so.
- Do cattle require more nutrition, more feed, hay, for instance, in Havre than they would in Billings?
Depending on the temperature.
Now there's a lot of places in Havre or Montana this year were super cold.
But as we get below that lower critical temperature and whether their height is wet or not, it's gonna increase those nutritional requirements and their energy values.
- Okay, we'll get into that a little bit more.
First question that came in tonight from Great Falls, and I'll keep this with Darrin.
They'd like you to talk about the pending antibiotic restrictions that are presented for cattle.
- Okay, well there is a way or a policy be coming in place that most of the antibiotics will have to be through a veterinarian.
We used to have veterinary-directed protocol for the past several years, but now all antibiotics are gonna have to be run through the veterinarians.
It is an inconvenience for our producers, it's probably gonna cost 'em a little bit more, especially when our producers are not right next to their veterinarian all the time so to be able to get their antibiotics that they need.
But we really do need to preserve what We don't have a whole lot of new ones coming and a lot of different ones, so we need those broad-spectrum antibiotics to be able to be usable and functional.
So it is gonna be inconvenient and costs a little more money, but understandable.
- Eric, from Facebook.
I always like this.
With crop prices high, will the new farm bill that I think is currently being debated.
- Allow CRP at a higher price?
Any word on that?
- Oh, interesting.
So the farm bill, I guess just to talk about that for a second, is renegotiated right now.
It gets renegotiated every five years and there are certain parts of it that change.
The majority of it will stay the same this time.
The last farm bill was in 2018 and that expires in September, the end of September of this year.
So there's a lot of activity going on right now about that.
- Anything that you've heard in the farm bill that would really benefit or not benefit the state of Montana?
- Yeah, I mean I think a lot of the stakeholder groups are trying to preserve what they have in those farm bill support programs.
There have been some talk about raising, because commodity prices have gone up, raising reference prices, raising, you mentioned CRP rates.
I'm not sure if that's in there, but I wouldn't be surprised 'cause with inflation and just with crop prices, you see a lot of that talk.
The majority of the talk right now is on nutrition programs.
80% of that farm bill comes from the nutrition side, SNAP and things like that.
But as far as impacting Montana, yeah, I mean changes to CRP would definitely have an impact there.
Changes to reference prices and the price loss coverage program could have an impact also.
I wouldn't expect anything from say crop insurance to change in this next farm bill.
- Crop insurance has always been a touchy issue in this state.
And for every dollar that a farmer or producer pays, how much do they generally get back?
Can you put a figure on that?
- Yeah, so crop insurance products are subsidized and so it depends on the program that you're in.
For about every dollar they put it in premiums, it's $2 kind of over the long run.
But a lot of producers will buy it in one year and then they'll notice, well, I didn't get a payment and then the next year I paid a premium and I didn't get a payment.
It's really over the long term you would see that type of return.
- Sounds good.
Mary from Columbus, this person's tomatoes die in August, they had leaves kind of droop and turn brown.
Any thought what that might be?
- [Mary] Frost?
(all laughing) - [Jack] It could be.
But generally, with global warming, I don't think it's gonna freeze that often.
- I don't know, I live in Bozeman so.
- I've seen it in July.
- There's a few things, but if they see.
It depends on the variety and they can get some drought stress that time of year, too.
So consistent watering and that sort of thing.
You got any other ideas or?
- We used to have a (indistinct), but I think most varieties are now pretty.
- Yeah, unless they're using some heritage breeds.
- Heirloom varieties, yeah.
- Then they can always submit a sample next fall if they see it, yeah.
- Do you think we'd be better off if we just didn't allow people to try to grow tomatoes in Montana?
(all laughing) - Good luck with that.
(laughing) - That's a good point.
But honestly, the last few years, it's changed.
I have harvested tomatoes in-- without covering-- the first week in October here in the Gallatin Valley.
Now that never used to be.
But you're right.
In general, this is not tomato country.
- [Mary] But you live in Bozeman's banana belt, so.
- That's true, I do.
If you live closer to the hills, you might run into a little bit of a problem.
Perry, why I had you up.
This came in actually last week.
This person would like to know the current status of winter canola and they're curious what the advantage, if they ever can grow winter canola, what the advantage would be.
- So the advantage could be really substantial.
Spring canola has this problem where it tends to bloom and grow pretty vigorously in through about June and then we turn hot and dry and we get hardly any seed set.
So it can be a real major disappointment for farmers in lots of parts of Montana.
With winter canola, we can accelerate that growth cycle up at least three weeks.
And so we can get all that flowering and seeds set done at a time of year when we still have moisture and not too much heat.
And so there could be a really big deal, actually.
And there are some changes with winter canola.
They're constantly getting a little better genetics.
I'm hopeful one day soon we'll have anti-shatter pod genetics in winter canola, which really make harvesting a lot easier.
So those are a couple of changes that would be very helpful.
But it's still, the trick is to get it through the winter.
And so we're having a little better luck generally statewide, I think.
I think when I looked recently, there's 14 different counties that have grown winter canola in this past year.
So a lot of farmers are trying it.
They're getting some experience, whether it's positive or negative, we'll find that out.
But I think this winter has been pretty tough from what a little bit I'm hearing, but.
- How about up in your country in Havre?
Have you grown it up there?
- There's a lot of people trying it in smaller acreages.
It just whether it can winter kill or not, or whether we get it through the winter is a tough part.
I know a couple years ago we did a trial with a cropping systems agronomist that we put it in exceptionally early, we had water to it, so we were able to irrigate it.
And the evaluation was winter canola being grazed or not grazed.
And so it actually added a forage source for cattle.
And then the next spring or summer when we harvested, there was really no difference in that.
But we had irrigation, which is a big difference when getting something germinated in end of July and August in Havre.
- That's the challenge.
I mean, we would love to have about an inch and a half rain in about the middle of August to get winter canola started at the perfect time.
- [Jack] You're asking a lot.
- Yeah, it was that once in five years, once in 10 years.
Once and never.
(laughing) - (laughing) Yeah.
So yeah, it's a challenge.
So irrigation, there would be a lot more possibilities.
- For sure.
But at Bozeman, just anecdotally.
Well, actually it's numbers, so I guess it's more than anecdotally, we look for about a two X yield increase over spring canola.
Now that's average.
If it survives.
If it doesn't survive, then it's zero.
But if it survives.
- So my wife and I were talking the other night about oils.
So canola, winter and spring canola, have basically what, 34, 35% of oil?
- [Perry] Little higher.
= Little higher?
That was our debate.
What's corn oil?
- It wouldn't be very high.
- No, I know it's not.
- But there's a lot of it, so they can (indistinct).
Does anybody know offhand?
Would it be?
Be less than 5%, for sure.
- So that's in our homework to find that out just outta curiosity.
While I have you up.
One of the big changes that's occurring in the state, and I know Darrin's involved with it, you're involved with it, you're involved, Mary's involved, cover crops.
Cover crops seem to fit well into certain situations where you are grazing livestock on it.
What are you doing up in Havre area on the Hi-LIne relative to cover crops and livestock?
- Sure, yeah.
I thank you for the question out there.
The cover crops is an interesting question.
We've just wrapped up an eight-year study in Havre and I believe they're showing some pictures on there.
And the goal, the reason I got involved with cover crops is I was trying to figure out alternative ways to graze livestock and extend their grazing period.
I was always taught by my undergraduate professors that cows have four legs and they can use all four of 'em to gather all the forage they need and we shouldn't be providing them all the time.
So it was not just a way to extend the grazing period, but how to do that and possibly replace fallow in certain areas.
Now we realized that in the early 90s when we intensified cropping systems in Montana, we really crashed the systems when we continuous cropped in Havre and we started stacking drought on drought.
So I was very pessimistic of whether it's gonna happen.
So we went on an eight-year study where we looked at a bunch of different cover crops and then used cattle to take that biomass off so we could put winter wheat in and spring wheat in.
And there is a drag on winter wheat and spring wheat after those cover crops as you expect, water drives the system.
However, we didn't crash it near as bad as we did in those early 90s, which is very surprising to me.
Did we see increased infiltration after No.
Did we see an increase in soil organic matter or carbon?
No, but as we know, soils in Montana take a long time to change and alter and so we may have not done it long enough, but something's happening there, timely range really benefit those cover crops if we're gonna go into a continuous cropping system.
And we had yields of, just so you know, we had yields of 900 pounds dry matter up to 13,000 pounds in Havre.
Remember that year of 13 when we had 18 inches of rain in Havre in a growing season.
So we can have the capacity to grow it, it's just the water drives the system.
So I won't profess I'm an economist 'cause I have one sitting two doors down for me.
But when we're able to put livestock into a cover-grapping system, it tends to pencil a lot better on cowboy math.
And that's why we have George Haynes and prior to him, Anton was looking at some of the data on that.
If we returned 100% of the biomass to feed the next future crops, we just didn't see a cash flow value, we just didn't see any profits.
And if we bailed that hay, took it off as hay as if we were doing like a CRP with large swathers, we didn't see it either.
But it looked like if we could implement and put livestock on there, there was an economic advantage.
- [Jack] Hmm, okay.
- The logical question is can you put some dollars on it?
But I realize, we got an economist here and somebody has actually done it and I know you've put some dollars to it.
- We have without all the inputs and everything else and that's why we have the economist jumping in.
It's about a hundred dollars advantage per acre of a traditional fallow wheat fallow system.
Even with the yield drag.
And we try to incorporate the protein, we try to incorporate that.
So if I can get the livestock on there, grazing and replacing $30 AUMs is where it pencils in my and on the cowboy math of it side.
Well, so once we get some economists working on it.
- (laughing) Yeah.
Well, yeah, once you save, I mean input prices and you can start to replace some of that.
I'm sure it's very helpful.
I mean that's a good amount, but is that by today's input prices or?
- No, that was back towards the tail end of it during five and six is when we started putting these economics together.
And what we use for $30 an AUM, which is pretty consistent right now in the state of Montana, but we use $90 hay and that hasn't been that way for almost three years now.
But in year in, year out, 30 years I've been in Havre, $90 hay was pretty consistent until recently.
So inputs are gonna drive it, but that was also when wheat was super low.
So that's why we need the economists; to build us some models.
We'll see how this is gonna trade off and happen.
- Well, provide some insulation against those really bad years where like you said, you just don't have the hay and you have that backstop.
- And the interest is really big right now coming outta drought and how can we look at alternative grazing mechanisms to let either our native range recover or to use as annuals.
So that's a really important question.
- I'm curious, and this is just I'm wanna learn a little bit tonight.
Are there certain cover crops that are better nutritionally for cattle than others?
And I know we use a lot of rye grass and turnips and stuff like.
Which of the cover crop plants work best in a cattle situation?
- So that's a great question and the first question I ask producers when they want to move livestock into a cover mechanism is when do you want to graze it?
If you wanna graze it in late June through July 4th onto the end of July, we'll get away with cool season crops.
Our barley with our radishes and turnips.
Safflower, believe it or not, works really well.
We've tended to move into oats 'cause oats tends light crowding, although we don't recommend it as an annual forage 'cause it accumulates nitrates.
It tends to do very well in a cover crop mix.
That early grazing season is really good because we had really good luck with a simple five, I call it a Montana bin blend.
It's oats, a radish or a turnip, safflower, a forage canola, and peas so we have a nitrogen source.
So that goes really good all the way 'til August.
But when it starts to nesting and getting dry, we know that nutrient profile and protein is dropping drastically and we really want this beef produced so you want to stay above that 6 or 7% protein so we don't have to supplement as much protein all through day.
So if we're going into a fall grazing mechanism, either with my weaned calves or cow-calf pairs in the fall, I tend to target some of those warm season cover crops.
And I think they had some pictures on there a little bit earlier ago.
We have millets, sorghum-sudangrass, and that kind of stuff 'cause that's gonna retain those nutrient profiles long up until that frost and have a better nutrient profile for 'em.
- Okay, sounds interesting.
Times change and we are definitely changing both in the agronomics and also in the livestock side of things.
Mary, from Whitehall.
This person has potatoes every year that have small black spots and holes under the skin.
Any idea what that might be?
- There's a couple options.
One is a disease that if you rotate your potatoes and there's certain varieties that are less susceptible.
And then the other is flea beetles, which is what I get.
So if you peel the skin and there are little holes, that's where the flea beetle laid their eggs.
And you'll probably see lots of holes in the leaves as well where the flea beetles fed.
- Can you eat 'em?
- Yeah, they're fine.
They don't store quite as well, but.
- I hear the flea beetles taste like chicken.
(all laughing) - Right.
- You gotta to eat a lot of 'em though.
(laughing) From Bozeman, I'll let Eric and Darrin answer this one.
Is the legislation considering bringing back country of origin labeling for beef?
Is that still on the agenda or coming back?
- Yeah, I see a lot of activity surrounding country of origin labeling.
It came about and then some of our trade agreements that kind of clashed with some of those and so.
But there are definitely groups that want to see it put more formally into law.
And so yeah, there's been a push to get meat labeled.
It's one of those things where you look around, you're like, well, every other commodity has a label on it.
You get a banana, it says "Made in Costa Rica".
And one of the unique things about the cattle industry is that they obviously move around and so you can have them born, raised, and slaughtered in different places.
And so what does an American cow look like?
Does it have to be all of those segments here or just grown here and processed here?
And so I think, this is coming from groups that want to deliver that kind of clarity to consumers and hopefully get a premium for having that type of a product.
- Okay, that raises a question.
And from Havre, I think it might be important.
Can we move Montana cattle into Canada?
Can we sell cattle into Canada or vice versa?
Can Canadian cattle be brought in the US?
- Yeah, you caught me off guard on that one.
I don't know the current regulations, but there is certain tests we used to have to do and I just don't have it off the top of my head, which I should.
I should be better on that, I just don't.
- [Jack] I was just curious about that.
- I mean, there is a live animal trade that goes across the border, but yeah, like the regulations on it.
- I don't have those top of my head right now.
- Well, we could always find out.
- That's right, yeah.
- Okay, and I think an economist would be the person that should find that out.
(laughing) - [Perry] Homework.
- Next time.
(laughing) - I'll remember that, you know that.
From Stillwater County, Darrin, last year, their cattle developed a skin condition that caused them to lose hair and develop warts.
They were told it was a virus and to switch feeding from corral feeding to pasture feeding.
This solved the problem, but damaged their pastures.
Any idea what this disease is and how to prevent it?
- Well, we tend to see a lot of diseases when we have animals in dry lot like that.
I'm assuming this vitamin A that was out there in the pastures is what's cured those up, we see that a lot.
Whenever we have our feed lot steers, we tend to go through that or even our heifers.
So that green grass is a wonderful thing.
- [Jack] I believe that.
- It's been around forever, it's nothing new.
- It's a little slow getting here this year.
- Yeah, I agree.
- But once it gets here.
Did the ground freeze in Havre this year?
- It did.
I mean we, even though it was as dry it was, we still see some frost out there.
- Okay, I was just curious.
The snow melted rapidly here and I didn't see a ton of runoff here in the Gallatin Valley, so I'm not so sure that our ground froze very much here.
Am I wrong?
- [Mary] I still have snow.
(laughing) - Okay.
You're not the only one.
(all laughing) All right, well that's just curiosity.
Perry, talking about late springs.
Normally by now a lot of the peas in this country are in the ground.
I doubt very many are in the ground.
- Yeah, no, I think this is gonna be a record spring for delayed, or at least in the last couple decades, a pretty late year.
And so peas really need to be in the ground early.
I mean, April is when I like to see 'em in the ground for sure.
And so, it depends how soon things dry up and when you can actually get out there.
But we're running outta April, so-- - [Jack] Fast.
- Yeah, and so there are other pulse crops options, but you've already got your seed lined up so it's not always easy to just make a quick change.
But lentils will handle a little bit more heat.
Chickpeas will certainly handle a little bit more heat.
So if you wanna stay in that pulse class and maybe not get the hit quite as bad with this late seeding, there are other options.
But there's logistical obstacles to that, too, I guess.
- When does spring canola seed?
- When should it be in the ground?
- Yeah, April also.
I mean it's so susceptible to that summer heat that if you don't get an early start with spring canola, you haven't got much of a chance of, in Dryland.
- [Jack] In Dryland.
- Of making decent yields, so, in most of Montana.
- [Jack] It is gonna be a tough year.
- Well yeah, 'cause we've got this situation where we did get some snow, we got some moisture there, we got a little better ground pack than we would normally have and yet it keeps, the starting line keeps getting pushed back and that's not a good thing.
'Cause we know what's coming.
It always comes the 4th of July, so yeah.
- On that note, and we've talked a little bit and we had a question last week that I just found on here.
We've had two to three years of continuous drought, mainly in the triangle, northern part of the state.
And there's been a serious problem with grasshoppers.
And this person wants to know what is the outlook for grasshoppers.
And we don't have an etymologist here, but Darrin, you've been around grasshoppers a lot.
You want to delve into that a little bit?
- Yeah, the past couple years have been just a disaster on the Hi-LIne for grasshoppers.
They were eating fence posts after they went through all the forages and everything else.
And grasshoppers tend to go with drought.
We're hoping for a very wet, possibly cold spring.
So when those first instars, I think is what it is, and remember I'm a cow guy, right?
And from what I talked to Dr. Weaver about is that we want to get them the infected in the full molt so we reduce those populations right after they hatch.
Right now we're headed for a good one and we just needed the right time to reduce those populations.
- You mentioned multi-year drought and that's gotta have taken a hit on the statewide cattle herd.
How big a hit?
- There's people in my country that are down 50%.
I don't know what the total numbers, I haven't looked at those, but we're starting to rebuild.
I mean we're in the rebuilding phase of the cattle industry right now and Montana's moving cattle out as fast as we possibly could.
'Cause we had no forages and hard for people to pay for $250, $350 hay, so it was tough time.
- Yes, so it was 10% a couple years ago and then another 2% this last year and it was up by Havre, Phillips County, that area got hit especially hard with drought kind of both years.
- Is that a nationwide trend?
I mean beef prices seemed to be holding up pretty strong and I assume that supply and demand?
- Yes, supply, I mean supply's a big driver of cattle prices, especially the feeder cattle prices are consistently over $2 and part of that is just inflation, but it's also need more young cows to come through the system.
And so yeah, we got hit, the Northern plains, kind of the Dakotas, and then Texas, Oklahoma, kind of moved into the South.
So just about every part of the US has been hit by drought in the last few years.
- I appreciate the answers.
Thank you, guys.
Mary, from Missoula.
This person has maple trees with black spots on their lower leaves, not on the upper leaves.
Any idea what this might be?
- Oh, I'm not up on my maple diseases, but they could send a picture to Eva Grimme at the diagnostic lab and it's probably in the lower canopy just because it's wetter down there.
The upper canopy tends to get more circulation.
- [Jack] You know, I bet it's anthracnose.
- Could be.
- [Jack] Missoula's famous for that.
- Is it?
- And if it's on the lower leaves, it's probably because they're surface irrigating and the trees are getting wet.
- Could be.
And if they get rid of the leaf litter, that will go a long way.
- I'm sure you guys plug the plant diagnostics lab from time to time, but in case this person doesn't know what that is, I mean I think it's one of the best free services we offer at MSU.
- Well, you can run to your county agent and they will either diagnose it right there or they'll send it to the Schutter Diagnostic Lab here on campus.
If you go to diagnostics.montana.edu We really like your name and phone number if nothing else.
We've tracked down packages based on the zip code stamped on the box, but prefer not to spend our time on that.
But they do have forms for submission and you can get plants identified, you can get insects identified either in crops or in urban situations, and we just try to help.
- [Perry] It's a fantastic-- - It's great.
And then our number is 406-994-5150.
- [Jack] I remember that.
- Is there instructions on how to send samples in so they aren't shown up as goo?
- And there's even videos.
(all laughing) - Okay, perfect.
Thank you, Mary.
- Okay, moving on.
This was called in earlier today from Great Falls.
And the question is if the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture requires electronic air tags, will the USDA pay for them?
- [Eric] Hmm.
- So I love to put economists on the spot, it's one of my favorite jobs.
- Well, yeah, I mean I don't work for the USDA so I don't know the answer to that, but I can at least, this traceability issue, yeah, has been.
I mean we were talking about country of origin labeling and traceability is one of those that's been a hot topic and you think about some of the animal food outbreaks that we've had, especially in the beef industry and having some kind of way to really pinpoint where they came from would've been helpful.
But at the same time, you're paying a lot of upfront money just in case something like that happens.
And I guess the other benefit, for instance, something like that is a lot of our export markets are requiring that and have implemented it.
And so being competitive in the global market, we could think about traceability.
Although yeah, if the USDA mandates it, boy, that'd be interesting.
I don't see them going in that direction, but.
I also don't see 'em paying for the tags.
(laughing) - [Perry] What do they cost?
- I have no clue.
- 3 to $6, give or take the last time I bought 'em, but I'd have to tell you, it's been a couple years.
My technician's been buying 'em for us so I can't give you a current number.
But years ago when we used to source and age our cattle to be able to go to different markets, we were able to pay for 200 head in our feed lot.
We'd make sure those were all there, so to source and age.
We were able to pay for all of our 400 head lot on those EIDs, so it was pretty much a push.
So it got us into it.
And if I could make a comment about EIDs, it has saved us tremendously on labor and data collection.
And now the research centers take a lot of data, but the amount of time and access to data is immediate.
Be honest with you, they have ear tag readers now that the cowboys can have on their phones, read the EID, they can scan the barcode and merge those and upload to the cloud so we know what's doctorings happening.
So there's some certain benefits and I'm not justifying USDA mandating it, I'm thinking as a management perspective for myself and the ranch, it's been really helpful.
- And a lot of ranchers around the state do it, I assume.
- You know, I don't have a number on that, but more and more.
The retention on the tags are becoming worth the investment.
We wanted to make sure that retention was there, it's not falling out.
- Well, the collection of data is so critical.
- [Darrin] Absolutely.
- That's a really good point 'cause it is really the easiest way to keep track rather than keeping an Excel spreadsheet or by hand.
But yeah, having an ear tag is great.
- With the apps nowadays, there's purebreds and C stock organizations that can upload it right away as soon as they have that data so you're not punching them in by hand.
- Okay, while I have you up, Darrin, this came from Plains.
I love these curve ball questions.
- I dunno if I do.
- (laughing) And it says, could Darrin talk about the introduction and production of yaks in Montana?
- Oh, you know, I can't.
(all laughing) I wish, I can't.
I can tell you that retired professor Jim Berardinelli did some work on that and wanted to look at the semen and reproductive characteristics and blood content years ago.
But that's as much as I can tell you.
So there is some Montana data, if they want to email me in my email or whatever, I'd be happy to try and push 'em that way.
- They go on to say that over the years she has seen a few herds in the area, but they don't seem to stay in business.
So that'd be the case.
Our annual question, Mary, short and sweet.
One time this spring, fairy rings.
- You promise?
- I promise.
(all laughing) - So fairy rings are circles of growth in a lawn and they will pop up mushrooms, which is why they're called fairy rings.
They are usually from some sort of decaying organic matter.
So like a tree that was planted there and then, or something underneath the surface that's decaying and the mushrooms are decaying it.
And so it can be green in color or it can have mushrooms associated with it.
And some people think they're unsightly, but not the pathologists, for sure.
You can fertilize to try to get more even greenness in your lawn and there are some fungicides you can use and you could contact a professional about that.
- How long do they last?
- Depends on how much organic matter is here.
- We're talking decades, centuries, what?
- Well, it could be decades, for sure.
- Yeah, because I mean I've had the same one in my yard for 25 years.
It hasn't changed a bit in 25.
I thought, geez, sooner or later this would go away, but no.
- Yeah, I just appreciate it.
Little piece of magic in your lawn.
(all laughing) - That's some area of my lawn.
- From Reed Point, Darrin, and this is a good question, which grain forages, wheat, barley, et cetera, gives the least amount of nitrates in an average year?
And you might explain what nitrates do to cattle and so forth.
So nitrates is a compound in plants that they use as the building blocks.
Nitrates combine with starches to grow the plant.
So if there's an excessive amount of nitrates there, it actually can cause death in cattle.
And what happens it's turned in from nitrate to nitrate and a ruminant nitrate goes across it and it actually binds where oxygen would be on the hemoglobin molecule, on the blood molecule.
And once it does that, essentially, the cattle can suffocate to death is how it's portrayed.
So Montana State Universities has data where there's ways to decrease nitrates.
One is you can do different selections.
We tend to see oats tend to select and accumulate nitrates high.
Brassicas, canolas, forage canolas, radishes tend to accumulate nitrates high, too.
When we look at the cereals, barley is less than the wheats.
And if we can get into a winter wheat, it's the least of all.
And it's simply because it avoids that very hot summer like Perry was talking about earlier with the canolas and some of that.
So if we can avoid that very hot number, stress tends to bring those nitrates up, drought.
- Is it a big problem in Montana?
- It's huge, it's absolutely huge.
In the past two years, I'm sure the county agents can tell you that they've seen nitrates in any possible forage here, including alfalfa, believe it or not.
And that's the kind of stress we've been seeing.
- So if you have, how do you manage it if you have it in your hay?
Do you throw the hay away or can you?
- (sighing) Okay, well so that's a really good question, I get this all the time.
There's a really good Mont guide out there, so please see your county agent get this Mont guide.
But if we have nitrates in our hay and it's 1,500 parts per million or less, we generally say it's adequate for all class of livestock.
From 1,500 parts per million to 5,000, it's generally safe for non-pregnant animals.
We wanna limit that to 50% of pregnant animals 'cause it can cause early term abortions or problems with the reproductive animal.
'Cause you think about the blood flow, it makes sense.
If we go from 5,000 to 10,000, we say no more than 25% to non-pregnant animals, maybe 50%.
Anything over that we tell 'em essentially we have to either burn the haystack or figure out alternative mechanisms which will blend it even more.
And remember it's cumulative.
So if you have nitrates in the water along with your nitrates in your forage, a lot of people don't realize that.
And we're on the edge of feeding critical forages and we're seeing animals impacted, check your water also.
- Brings back another question I have.
You mentioned sorghum and millet.
I don't think they get as much nitrate, don't they get cyanic acid or something?
- [Darrin] Prussic acid.
- Prussic acid.
Is that also pretty toxic to livestock?
- It's exceptionally.
It's essentially arsenic is the way we want to describe that is, right?
And they will accumulate nitrates, just stress and other things.
All plants can accumulate it at a certain time.
When we think about prussic acid and these warm season crops, because we do grow really tremendous warm season crops.
If we can get a little bit of rain late in the season, high biomass, prussic acid is more of a management thing than a nitrates, right?
Once I cut a forage and put it in a bale, I can't get rid of nitrates.
It's there and it's content.
Prussic acid tends to dissipate.
And so what we tell people is don't graze it until the plant is 16 to 24 inches tall.
If you have a hard, crushing frost, wait two weeks so that prussic acid can dissipate, then turn them out.
So it's more of a management thing than nitrate.
And so for people who have more questions on it, we have really good information on prussic acid.
- Good, good answer, great.
Perry, from Forsyth.
When would be a good time to plant alfalfa and oats?
- So with, obviously, the oats are gonna be a nurse crop with the alfalfa 'cause alfalfa's a perennial.
We have better luck planting alfalfa in the spring than in the fall under Dryland conditions.
It's hard to get that alfalfa seedling big enough if you're gonna do it late season to reliably survive it and get going the next season.
So I think there's a, actually, I think there's a fairly good sized window in the spring, certainly into May and maybe even into June where you could still get that crop established.
It's probably gonna depend at that point more on your cool season companion crop, was oats, you said, in this case?
- [Jack] Yes.
- So you'd probably want to be early enough that you could get some biomass with that oats.
On the other hand, you don't want that nurse crop to be real competitive with your alfalfa.
There is research that shows that if that nurse crop is actually competing too strongly with that establishing alfalfa, that effect actually can last for years later and that alfalfa stands.
- For a long period of time, people used to seed, if I remember correctly, and I probably don't, but six or seven pounds of alfalfa seed, which was way too high, I think, what two to three pounds is?
- Yeah, I think it's about right.
I think it's about right.
I think it's nine to 10 under irrigation and five to six depending on in the Dryland, I think.
- And so you're going, Jack, you're going from the number of seeds, the number of potential plants that we're putting out there.
And so if you could really do an excellent job of getting every one of those alfalfa seeds to germinate, you could probably reduce your rate.
A lot of times that forage ground isn't the most friendly place to place seeds.
And so I think that's why we have these seed rates that can be a little bit higher just to sort of compensate for maybe not ideal germination.
- One struggle we have on the Hi-LIne, Jack, if I could really quickly say is if we get to a late-planting alfalfa, we tend to dry that surface out so fast and we don't get much rains after June one.
And so it just never germs and people say the winter killed or we just killed it.
It never germs.
So just a heads up on that early, because you're only seeding in a half an inch deep.
- At the most.
- At the most.
- Another good one for our economist from Richie.
With the closure of the sugar plant in Sidney, do you think that the same might eventually occur in Billings?
Tough question, but it's based on economics.
- Well, yeah, it is.
I mean, these processing plants, they require these big fixed costs and we've seen manufacturing kind of in general and processing in the state dropping really in the last 30, 40 years.
So yeah, it seems to be a trend.
You consolidate a lot more of that processing into kind of some of the more dominant production areas and it leaves to areas where you have some production.
I mean that's what we saw in meat processing in Montana was.
We still do have some meat processing, but not nearly as much as we used to have.
And it's those economies of scale that you can get in kind of a larger facility.
So it's tough to compete.
And so that seems to be the trend.
I won't make a prediction on Billings, but that certainly seems to be the trend.
- It's hard for beet sugar to compete with cane sugar in October, is that correct?
- I don't know exactly, but yeah.
- Eric, do you have an idea on the economic impact to Eastern Montana in that Sidney and Williston area?
I mean, I don't have the numbers, but yeah, I mean it's certainly a lot of employment where you gotta wonder if there are other employment opportunities.
People moved in to work at that plant and so yeah.
I mean the economic impact isn't just the jobs itself, but it's the whole supporting industries and yeah.
- Okay, question from somebody from Nebraska who happens to be in town and watching the program and they would like to know what the difference with cover crops in the Midwest is compared to Montana.
And they say there are a lot of cover crops in the Midwest now.
- [Darrin] You wanna tackle that?
So if we think about what the purpose is for cover crops, I mean at some base level, we're trying to build soil, we're trying to do something positive for soil carbon, soil organic matter.
But in a lot of areas, maybe not Midwest, but certainly as you get further east, the cover crops have a very specific purpose.
They're designed to suck up water and suck up nutrients so that they don't get into the waterways.
And so if you just sort of flip that now to Dryland, Montana, well, they're gonna do the same thing, right?
They're gonna still pull up water and they're gonna pull up nutrients.
They may release those nutrients in some useful timeline, but certainly they're gonna tie up water that's going to affect the subsequent crop.
And you heard Darrin say that we also did an eight-year study, some of it on farm.
And in ours, we didn't do grazing, which because right now cover crops in Montana, they're grazed.
I mean there's not many people doing it just for the sake of building soil.
And in our case, we were really reducing subsequent crop yields pretty dramatically behind some of these covers just because of the water use.
So, but you just have to come back to the purpose.
What is the purpose of these things?
There's sometimes when too much water, too many nutrients is a problem in our system.
I think then there's another aspect, the Midwest sometimes has higher rainfall, but they also, they can have higher evaporative demand.
And so water can have a use-it-or-lose-it aspect to it.
And so there's some parts of the, I'm thinking the Dakotas where if you don't use that water that you're getting in the summer, it's just gonna evaporate anyways.
So there's an opportunity to put it through a cover crop and make that be a positive outcome, I think.
We're really tough.
It's tough in Montana because of our low rainfall and the fact that water is so scarce.
- And when we get the rain and when we get it.
And when we get it.
There's a really good article, Jack, called "The Cover Crop Conundrum" that talks in layman terms, talks about Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, and explains why it's changed.
One key is not gonna fit the lock everywhere.
So it's a really good article.
- Okay, I think we covered that well.
Spring wheat prices are currently pretty attractive.
Do you think they should lock in profits or not?
- Oh, boy.
(laughing) That's (indistinct).
- Isn't been fun to be here?
- Your investment questions lightning round, right?
(laughing) I mean if prices are good, lock 'em in, I say, right?
- [Perry] There you heard it.
(all laughing) - Yeah, it's a tough one.
- Yeah, well it's-- - It depends on your own situation.
- Yeah, I mean you gotta keep in mind, those prices that you see are sort of integrating what everyone else knows about the market right now.
But stuff's gonna happen that people don't know about or you might have some additional information, but.
And people might think an economist would have additional information, but generally, we don't.
Generally, we look to the market to see what their wisdom is and then we utilize that.
But it's really just maybe trying to anticipate what other things are out there that could really shock prices and.
Commodity prices are global and so there's a lot of things that can drive them.
- I agree entirely.
It's really hard to predict that kind of thing.
There's no doubt about that.
Mary, from Clyde Park.
We haven't had a question from Clyde Park in a long time.
This person's hollyhocks, one of my favorite flowers, turn yellow and the leaves die early.
- [Mary] One of my favorite diseases, probably.
- [Jack] Probably.
- They get a rust and I'm not even sure where it comes from, but it's on mine every year and I admire it and then it defoliates them if the deer don't and it does turn the leaves yellow.
So look a little closer and you probably see little brown dots on those leaves.
Comment from Helena.
And by the way, we love comments if they're nice.
If they're not so nice, I don't read them.
But no, seriously, comments are welcome anytime.
Wants to answer the question on fairy rings.
Says it's a sign of good health in the lawn.
So your lawn's healthy.
- [Eric] There you go.
- If you don't spray it and they don't recommend spraying it.
And I will mention that if I aerate around fairy rings and then irrigate religiously during the summer, you can knock it back pretty well.
A couple of weeks ago there was a question about corn smut as sweet corn.
They would like a little more explanation on it.
We didn't cover it very well.
You want to touch on that at all?
So corn smut is a pretty common disease in sweet corn.
And if you get it early, it's very tasty fried up with a little butter and garlic.
I think it's carried on the seed.
Oh gosh, I'm trying to remember.
- [Jack] Soil born, too.
- Soil born, too, yeah.
So there are certain varieties that are much more susceptible to it.
You can't spray a fungicide for it, it's pretty internal to the plant and crop rotation is pretty effective.
- Yeah, in most varieties now.
And the other thing that happens if you get a hail storm or something like that, you're gonna get a lot more corn spot, but it really doesn't do that much damage.
Cook it early.
- Cook it early.
It's not good canned and it's not good late.
- No, it's not.
Couple questions that we should have touched on last week.
One from Victor and they would like to know how to control flickers from drilling holes in his house and you really can't, it's a protected bird.
As Stephen Vantassel would say, "Haze it and make it uncomfortable."
And then we also had one about Eurasian collared doves last week that are taking over from the mourning doves.
And I don't think there's any evidence that that's actually true because the nesting habitat of both birds are totally different.
Perry, a question from Billings.
They hear a lot about soil carbon.
They wanna know how do they get more of it.
- Yeah, so that kind of relates to the cover crop topic that we're discussing tonight or has been part of the conversation.
So it's a pretty simple equation when it comes to soil carbon, more biomass in equals more soil carbon.
So it's really just a matter of thinking about your cropping system and are there opportunities to increase that plant biomass input over top of what you're already doing?
And so soil carbon has some status quo.
It's like you and I, if we wanted to stay the same weight, we gotta eat something, right?
We gotta feed ourselves.
And so soil's the same way.
There's some amount of carbon that is necessary, some amount of plant biomass inputs just to feed that soil to keep it at the same carbon level.
If you want to increase that carbon, then you gotta do something different.
You gotta do something over and above what you would normally be doing.
And that may be taking advantage of a late summer rainfall to grow some cover crops there.
It may be a different rotation.
Could be putting perennials in the system if that is gonna work for you.
There's a number of ways that you could increase that biomass input, but that's really what it's all about.
You've gotta have more biomass if you want to get more soil carbon.
- Carbon credits.
Is there a price on carbon credits right now?
- I do not know.
(laughing) There's a price for everything, but I don't know what the price for carbon is right now.
- [Mary] Stump the economist week.
- Yeah, right?
(laughing) - So there is a price, but I don't know if there's a price for Montana, right?
California has a price right now and I'm surprised at some, it's running 18 to $20 a ton for CO2 credits.
And that's an, if I start backing that off to soil carbon, that actually is a big enough number that I think, gee, maybe if I wanted to chase that soil carbon number, maybe there's some value there.
But right now, that whole carbon credit game as I understand it very little is it's pretty undeveloped at the moment for say people in the state of Montana that want to play.
But I would love to be corrected on that.
We take comments.
Please, if you know of something different, please let us know.
- Yeah, it is fascinating.
I know other states other than California also, there's dollars involved with carbon credits.
From Cut Bank, Darrin.
What late fall grazing techniques can help our start hay for livestock especially 250 hay?
- Yeah, no, that's been a really recent question.
Thank you, Cut Bank.
There's a lot of different opportunities.
I wouldn't say they're all new, but things that aren't deployed quite often in Montana is windrow grazing.
Now in Cut Bank you tend to have a little bit of wind, so that makes a little bit tired or a little bit higher.
But you go and take like an annual forage, like a sorghum sudangrass and you'll swath it down when the nutrients are relatively high, before that killing frost, you put it in a windrow, you pack it down nice and tight, and you leave it stand, you don't bale it.
So we don't have the inputs and the fuel and the prices and labor of baling that up.
And then you bring your animals to it and you can either leave a portion of that pasture so they get a certain amount of windrows for a certain amount of days or you can just let them in there to graze that nutrient.
So you've captured two things.
We've reduced the inputs and we've now captured the nutrient profile.
So that's one.
Another one we're hearing about, and as people are scrambling every way possible is they're bale grazing.
And so they're putting out bales for six to 10 days and they're cutting all the strings off and then moving cattle into there.
And as cattle are actually adding organic matter to certain areas in their fields that maybe need attention to bale graze.
And so that's ways to try and decrease the amount.
That's just a couple ways.
And I know it's gonna be snowy in certain places.
And we actually, a couple years ago, did this with our calves.
We turned our calves out in a snowstorm.
Do as I say, not as I do, right?
We didn't know the snowstorm was gonna be quite as bad as it was.
And the calves kinda stood out there for a day and a half, just didn't know what all these humps were in the field.
Finally, one of our farm operations fellas says, "I have an idea."
And he went out and got our hay rake that we use all summer long.
It's in October and he actually started raking these windrows together and the calves found 'em immediately 'cause it started smelling and refreshed.
And they finally learned that they needed to dig a little bit and get under that.
And so it's a way of capturing nutrients and getting 'em to eat.
- Okay, thank you.
You're associated with the research center, Mary is, you guys are, everybody is.
Let's talk a little bit.
How many research centers do we have in the state?
- There's seven research centers that are connected to Montana Ag Experiment Station.
- Okay, and each and every one of those has a field day.
- And who should go to those field days?
- So the field days are open to the general public.
I can speak, I go to every one of 'em every day.
Perry, Mary, I think Eric's been to a couple.
They're open to anybody.
Mostly, you'll see there is producers, you'll see bankers, you'll see Allied Industries, herbicide salesmen.
You'll see government agencies, NRCS.
But really, as a community member, just come out and sit next to your farmer and rancher on a hayride as we're going through and learn about what we do in Montana.
We're becoming more and more disconnected with farming and here's your opportunity to go back and see what happens.
And I would really encourage all the agricultural, or not all the, all the science and teachers that are out in the summertime, come to a field day, bring ag into your classroom and realize that we actually feed the world and how well we do it.
- [Mary] How about 4-H too?
- [Mary] FFA.
- Oh, absolutely.
- And I might add that there are certain very delicious luncheons served as well.
- [Mary] And dinners.
- [Mary] And ice cream sometimes.
- Ice cream, too.
So I might be there.
(all laughing) From Bozeman, comment from a viewer.
She says that she uses stinky perfume she buys at the dollar store to get rid of flickers.
I'm not saying it works, but you might want to try it.
We're getting down a little bit.
- [Darrin] Up on the roof.
- Fort Benton comment, was known for mourning doves, but since Eurasian collared doves came, there are no longer mourning doves in Fort Benton.
I saw mourning doves this past week, but they are not as common as they used to be.
Couple other questions here from Kalispell.
What is haskap?
- So actually ironically, our research center down in Corvallis, just south of Missoula, I'm not sure I'm allowed to say that, the president might yell at me, but I didn't say the word.
Haskap is an elongated fruit, a little about an inch, about as big a round as my thumb and it looks a lot like a blueberry, but it actually grows quite well in Montana.
I believe it's a honeysuckle family.
The research center's doing a great deal of work trying to find winter hardy fruits like that.
That's just one of 'em that's been very successful in Montana and all the way up through the Flathead.
We don't have a fertility specialist on, but I'll throw this out because I know Mary knows the answer to this.
When should I fertilize my perennials, specifically rose bushes and tomatoes?
I think tomatoes.
- I know the answer to this question?
- [Jack] Sure, you do.
You fertilize yours, don't you?
- Yeah, pretty early.
And then tomatoes especially, I cut 'em off.
I don't fertilize 'em late 'cause I don't want that vegetative growth, I want 'em to set fruit.
- And I will say, I really don't like to fertilize very many bushes.
- No, not many perennials really.
- No, or trees.
You let 'em grow at their normal rate for this environment because we can get some awful, nasty September temperatures that are not hardened off.
And we've had that happen many, many times.
We're done this evening.
Thanks for all the questions, we had lots of 'em.
Sorry for the computer glitches.
We'll get that fixed by next week.
Darrin, we appreciate you coming down.
A lot of good information.
- I very much appreciate it.
- We enjoyed it.
Mary, Perry, Eric, even the economist was on top of his game tonight.
- Thank you.
That's nice of you.
- Next week we're gonna get on to subject of shoulder belts.
Meanwhile, have a great week, stay safe, and good night.
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