Montana Stockgrowers Foundation to host fire and drought seminar

Producers to discuss challenges and options following fire and drought

Montana Stockgrowers Foundation has joined with the Southeast Montana Livestock Association and the MSU Extension Service to provide a premier program to help livestock producers navigate management challenges following a devastating fire and drought season. Experts from around the country will address issues including how to manage the tax ramifications of drought influenced decisions, insurance, and risk management tools to assist in managing future risk. The program will begin at 1:00 pm, November 15 at the Range Riders Museum in Miles City, Montana. This event is free to the public.

For additional information, please contact the MSGA office at 406.442.3420.

 

Speakers:

Amy Iverson is a CPA in the Billings office of Wipfli CPA’s and Consultants. She specializes in working with those involved in agriculture and will present information on what options you have to manage tax issues related to decisions that are commonly made during the financial stress caused by drought conditions.

Brandon Willis is the owner of Rancher’s Insurance, LLC located in Utah. His expertise is helping ranchers manage their production risk through the use of forage, pasture, and rangeland insurance products. Brandon will provide information on how to decide if the available products might fit you particular situation and the mechanics of utilizing the various products.

Dr. Janna Kincheloe is the NDSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist located at the Hettinger Research and Extension Center. She will provide information on production strategies to manage through a drought. These include developing a drought management plan, efficient utilization of forages and alternative feeding options.

Dr. Andy Roberts, USDA-ARS Fort Keogh, Animal Research Scientist, research will be presented by Andy that shows how you can reduce the input cost of your cow herd while maintaining productivity through changes in your heifer development program.

Lance Vermeire, USDA-ARS Fort Keogh, Rangeland Ecologist. Lance has done extensive study on the effects of grazing on rangeland production following fire and drought. He will present strategies that allow for recovery of the range condition in the presence of grazing animals.

 

From the Great Falls Tribune: Death Camas Warning Issued in Yellowstone County

What is Death Camas and why is it killing Montana cows?

Source: Great Falls Tribune

David Murray, dmurray@greatfallstribune.com

 

Death Camas

The slender green plant is known as Death Camas, and given the right environmental conditions it can easily live up to its ominous name.

Over the past week, at least four cows in Yellowstone County have died after consuming lethal quantities of the plant. In one case a dead cow was found with a Death Camus plant still hanging out of its mouth.

“I have a producer that had three cows die in one night,” wrote Ag Extension Agent Steve Lackman in an email to Montana State University range scientist Jeff Mosely. “My producer tells me that the camas is the same height as the grass and they are eating it with the grass. My producer is alarmed and thought I may need to put out a warning to (other) producers.”

Significant concentrations of the toxic plant also have been reported in pastures in Custer County, though no livestock deaths have been attributed to it there. Range scientists are cautioning Montana livestock producers to keep on the lookout for Death Camas, warning that current environmental conditions are nearly perfect for a dangerous outbreak.

“It is something that comes around every year,” Chouteau County Ag Extension Agent Tyler Lane said. “It’s probably more common in years following drought because a lot of times after drought there isn’t very much carry-over grass from the previous year. The carry-over grass kind of helps buffer the toxins, so that even though (livestock) might eat the same amount it doesn’t reach a toxic concentration.”

“I think a warning to your producers is a good idea,” Mosely responded to Lackman’s email. “Death Camas is highly toxic in the spring, especially the underground bulb. When soils are moist, livestock can pull the bulb out of the ground and ingest it. Death Camas greens up earlier than most other plants, making it more palatable than other plants in the spring, thereby contributing to livestock eating toxic amounts.”

Death Camas has been a natural part of Montana’s prairie ecosystem far longer than cattle or sheep have grazed here. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Death Camas is a member of the lily family and can be found growing in pastures and fields from Texas to Alaska. Native American tribes were familiar with it, and were careful to avoid Death Camas while picking Common Camas, a native plant food source prized by tribes throughout the Pacific Northwest.

All parts of the Death Camas plant contain a steroidal toxin called Zygacine. Eaten in small amounts, Zygacine causes stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea. Swallow too much of it and the toxin in Death Camas will trigger varying degrees of paralysis and only rarely death. There is no cure for Zygacine poisoning.

Yet the risk associated with Death Camas is typically low. Given an adequate alternative food source, livestock will usually avoid the green Death Camas shoots. A unique set of environmental conditions have combined to make this year’s emergence of Death Camas a more immediate concern.

“The weather can play a role in the concentration of the toxins,” Mosely said. “The molecular structure of the toxins in many plants change depending on the barometric pressure. When the pressure goes low the molecular structure of the toxin changes into a more toxic form. A lot of time, right as storms are coming in, the plant develops into a more toxic state. Those are times when poisoning is more apt to happen.”

Less than two weeks ago a high-pressure system stalled over Montana, keeping temperatures unseasonably warm. That was followed by a fast-moving low-pressure system that brought a spring snowstorm to many parts of the state. Since then, the weather has remained cool and wet, a near perfect combination to promote the most toxic phase of Death Camas development.

“That fits,” Mosely said of recent weather patterns. “Death Camas is not the only plant that does that. Low Larkspur is also a plant that’s on these spring ranges and can be a problem sometimes.”

Mosely stressed that there is likely a narrow window through which Death Camas will remain a concern. As the grasses continue to mature they will quickly displace Death Camas as a significant grazing source. He recommends livestock producers make a general survey of their pastures, and if at all possible, delay turning animals out into pastures where a significant presence of Death Camas appears to exist.

“By delaying the turnout two things will happen,” Mosely said. “The Death Camas will get more mature and less palatable, and the grass will grow more so there will be more grass in the diet of the animals to buffer the toxin.”

Ranchers and sheep producers who’ve recently added new animals to their herds and flocks should take extra precautions.

“There is some evidence to suggest that the resistance to Death Camas poisoning is genetic,” Mosely added. “For producers who have purchased cattle outside of their immediate area and brought those cows in, those would be ones to watch and to be more concerned about.”

Over the long term, good land management remains the key to reducing the threat from noxious and toxic plants like Death Camas.

“It does become more abundant in pastures that are less healthy, and that don’t have as much grass,” Mosely said. “It’s a native species, but you can exacerbate the problem if you don’t take good care of the range.”

Beltway Beef discusses WOTUS with Scott Yager, NCBA Environmental Counsel

Chase Adams discusses legislative and litigation efforts against the EPA’s WOTUS rule with NCBA Environmental Counsel, Scott Yager.

Livestock, Ag groups oppose grazing changes at Flat Creek Allotment

Livestock and agricultural groups including the Montana Stockgrowers Association, R- CALF and the Montana Farm Bureau have filed written protests to a Bureau of Land Management proposal to change the land-use provision on the Flat Creek Allotment in Phillips County, MT. At issue is a change in the class of livestock from cattle to bison, removal of interior fencing and allowing bison to graze year around.

Currently the grazing permit for the allotment designates cattle as the approved species.

The American Prairie Reserve (APR), a Bozeman, MT-based wildlife group, submitted the change request. APR has been purchasing private ranch land and acquiring BLM grazing permits for several years in an effort to create a private wildlife reserve for bison. The stated mission of APR on its website is “to create and manage a prairie-based wildlife reserve that, when combined with public lands already devoted to wildlife, will protect a unique natural habitat, provide lasting economic benefits, and improve public access to and enjoyment of the prairie landscape.”

The notice of proposed change was issued in late December by BLM Field Office Manager Vinita Shea. The notice provided for a “right of protest and appeal” whereby any applicant, permittee, lease holder or other affected person could file a written protest. The protest period closed Jan. 20.

In the notice, Shea wrote, “In the absence of a protest, this proposed decision will become my final decision without further notice.”

Jonathon Moor, Public Affairs Specialist with the BLM in Lewiston, MT, told WLJ the office received 125 protests. He noted that those letters were required to state a clear reason why the proposed decision is in error so the BLM could address the protest points.

A number of state and national agricultural organizations expressed opposition when the proposal was announced in 2015, and several issued formal letters of protest to the latest proposed decision.

Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) Natural Resources Director Jay Bodner told WLJ his organization was submitting a formal protest. He noted some of the concerns included removing interior fencing to allow a common pasture that would include private and BLM land. In addition, MSGA voiced concern over bison getting out of the remaining exterior fences and infringing on private land or other BLM permittee allotments.

Montana Farm Bureau (MFB) submitted a letter to Shea noting the organization voiced opposition in April 2015 when the initial application for changes was made. MFB President Bob Hanson wrote, “Our members are very concerned with the idea of and movement toward establishing a ‘wild’ bison herd in Montana. We think this decision symbolizes the BLM’s endorsement of doing just that.”

The letter from MFB, the state’s largest agricultural organization, noted it is especially concerned with the term “indigenous” bison in indicating the class of livestock. The group said that under Montana law, bison are considered “a species in need of management,” citing Montana Code Annotated 87-1-216, and thereby is under the authority of the Department of Livestock and the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“For all intents and purposes, we believe they should be classified and referred to strictly as ‘bison’ to avoid any confusion or ambiguity regarding Montana state law,” Hanson said. “Nowhere in state law are bison classified or referred to as ‘indigenous bison.’” Further, Hanson said, “It appears APR and BLM freely manipulate the term considering bison are not listed as a class or kind of livestock in the BLM Hi-Line RMP [Resource Management Plan] Appendix.”

Hanson went on to say the approval of year-round grazing to foster economic development for the community and private ranchers is wrong. “This decision does the exact opposite,” he said. “It ensures, for the foreseeable future, these allotments are merely an extension of APR’s boundaries and serves no economic benefit to any rancher or citizen of Phillips County or the State of Montana.”

R-CALF also submitted a formal protest asserting the BLM overstepped its authority saying, “R-CALF USA believes the BLM’s proposed decision is contrary to the BLM’s stated objective of promoting the improvement of rangeland ecosystems for the purpose of sustaining the western livestock industry.”

Citing information from APR’s website, R-CALF said the conservation group states its purpose is to “maintain a fully-functioning prairie-based wildlife reserve.” In its protest points, R-CALF—like MFB—says BLM regulations exclude bison from animals eligible to be included as livestock on BLM grazing permits. Only cattle, sheep, horses, burros and goats are listed as species considered livestock.

APR’s Communications and Outreach Manager, Hilary Parker, defended the organization’s request to remove interior fences on the leased land saying it is a way to accommodate the way bison graze, saying bison roam farther from their water source than cattle.

She said the changes to the Flat Creek Allotment are not a step toward freeroaming bison and the animals are managed as livestock. However, she told WLJ that doesn’t mean the group wouldn’t consider a free-roaming bison plan in the future if the state proposed one. Montana has considered establishing a free-roaming bison herd, but hasn’t taken any action. “If the state decides it wants wild bison in that area, we would consider taking the fences down and would consider allowing those bison to go under state management,” Parker said.

The bison are currently contained by exterior wildlife friendly fences. These have a bottom wire high enough above the ground to allow antelope to go under it and an electric “hot” wire across the top that is supposed to contain buffalo.

In the proposed decision notice, Shea said the rationale for her opinion in part was APR’s proven positive record on the Box Elder and Telegraph Creek Allotments which have been amended to accommodate the group’s bison. She wrote, “Removal of interior fencing will likely be a benefit to wildlife species by removing manmade barriers and reducing habitat fragmentation, especially when combined with the addition of 6,130 acres of private lands not previously part of the allotment which will be returned to rangeland habitat.”

APR shares some of the same concerns as ranchers when it comes to maintaining a healthy rangeland, according to Parker. However, the organization doesn’t believe in the Savoy rotational grazing system followed by many ranchers. She acknowledged this is one of the areas where APR and livestock producers have a different mindset. “Bison just interact with the land differently,” she said.

The conservation group has radio collar data that, according to Parker, shows the animals’ movement. In addition she said they invite people to come see the condition of the rangeland where bison graze.

The APR bison herd started with just 16 head and now includes about 620 animals. Parker said the group continues to expand its land and BLM lease holdings in anticipation of continued herd growth. The proposed decision would not change the recommended animal unit months, according to Moor, who said the permitted number is 1,247.

APR makes no apologies for being well-funded, and from small one-time gifts to large contributions it has raised in the neighborhood of $75 million. That money has helped the group complete about 23 transactions so far.

Parker said the purchases have been from willing sellers, who for a variety of reasons have decided to get out of the ranching business. She acknowledged the project is viewed as controversial by some, and noted that is because it is changing the scope of how the land is being used.

“We may be benefiting from that change, but we didn’t start the change,” Parker told WLJ. “We’re not trying to run people off or bullying in any way.” That said, she noted APR is benefiting from people not coming back to the farms and ranches in the area. “We recognize we have different uses for the land, different ideas about use of the land, but we are in no way antirancher.”

And while APR wants to be rancher-friendly, there are conflicts. Peggy Bergsagel, whose family has the Billie Lou Arnott Ranch that borders APR land south of the Flat Creek Allotment, said they have had problems with a bull buffalo “standing off” with Hereford bulls. Bergsagel said they tried to contact APR but received no response and finally called the county sheriff who shot the buffalo.

Parker said they have met with surrounding landowners and told them if bison are on private land or leases to shoot first and ask questions later. “If they feel they or their animals are being threatened, shoot.” Bergsagel, however says although shooting the animal was the result, she wasn’t aware taking that action was approved by APR.

Moor told WLJ Shea will take a hard look at the protest points, and to ensure all protests are adequately considered, there is no set time frame for a decision. He said after reviewing the protests, Shea will have three options: issue a final decision, which would be open to a public appeal period; issue a revised proposed decision, which again would be subject to protest by qualified interested parties; or a new Environmental Assessment could be prepared, which would be subject to the normal public engagement opportunities afforded under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Bodner said the protest period is an administrative process and typically, based on previous actions, agencies don’t deviate very much from their original decision, either in the protest or appeal processes. He said at that point, the individuals or groups opposed to the decision will make a decision of whether or not to take legal action. — Rae Price, WLJ Editor

Source: Western Livestock Journal

 

Cattle Markets Volatile, Hay Trade Favors Cattlemen

Drought Monitor Update November 12

Montana Drought Monitor November 12

Montana Drought Monitor Update, November 12, 2015. Click image to learn more.

Periods of snow and moisture arriving in early November have significantly improved drought conditions across much of Montana during the past few weeks. However, one-third of the state, mostly west of the Divide remain in drought conditions. Areas where drought was more entrenched will need abundant precipitation to continue much farther into the wet season before any notable improvement could evolve.

After significant winds during the past few days, some gusts reaching 90+ mph east of the Divide, conditions should calm into the week ahead. Weather forecasters are predicting the first push of arctic air moving into the state as early as next weekend. Many NRCS SNOTEL sites are reporting below average for this time of year.

View the most current Montana conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Montana Weekly Auction Report – Week of November 15

Market:

Montana Weekly reports are now released on Mondays. Read more in USDA’s latest Montana Weekly Market Report.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – November 13

Receipts This Week:  Total 344,900 – 286,600 (Auctions); 23,400 (Direct); 34,900 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: the bulk of the feeder supply consisted of calves which traded mostly 10.00-20.00 lower, instances 25.00-30.00 lower. Yearlings on a light supply traded mostly 5.00-15.00 lower. Direct trade was mostly 5.00-12.00 lower. Last week’s CME “Sky is Falling” attitude continued into this week, keeping stomachs turning and cattle prices hard to manage and resentful to say the least. Buyers became noticeably price cautious and conscious on calves and yearlings.

Cattle futures have remained very volatile, as volatility appears to be out of control. CME cattle futures rebounded on Wednesday with limit moves higher and added to their positions on Thursday but closed Friday with sharp triple-digit losses as the agony and the ecstasy continues. Prices for futures and cash seem to fall faster and further than expected or as one would suggest. Before last week the market had tried to hold the line and continue to wait day by day to see what the next move would be. We have had tremendous weather to feed cattle that have performed very well and a packer who hasn’t had to chase the market; adjusting their kill schedules and having plenty of cattle bought forward. The heavy weight fed cattle situation is improving but not over, U.S. beef exports are near 13 percent lower year to date.

Auction volume included 35% weighing over 600 lbs and 37% heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s latest National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report – November 13

Compared to last week: Alfalfa was generally steady on light to moderate. Weather conditions have been mostly in cattlemens favor over the last few weeks as many cows and calves remain out on pasture. Demand for hay remains mostly light as a result. Producers needing to move hay have been forced to do so at weaker prices over the last few weeks as demand for hay has lightened. Many cattlemen purchased large quantities of hay late in the summer and as a result they are sitting well on feed needs. A mild fall and limited snow fall totals have limited feed use only adding to demand issues.

Demand for dairy quality, 3rd cutting hay remains limited. Dairy producers continue search for deals and many have already purchased hay for the year. Producers continue to price hay at 1.00 per RFV point, however demand for hay is very limited above 185.00 per ton at any quality level. Grass hay saw light to moderate movement and mostly light demand this week. Prices for grass hay were steady to weak as pressure continues to be seen from from neighboring states.

  • Alfalfa:
    • Supreme: Small Squares, 200.00; Large Squares 150.00-185.00
    • Premium: Large Squares, 140.00-180.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 150.00-170.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 80.00-135.00
    • Utility: Large Squares, 100.00
  • Grass:
    • Alfalfa Mix Premium: Large Squares: 170.00; Good Large Rounds, 125.00-140.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 135.00; Large Rounds, 115.00-120.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 80.00-100.00; Large Rounds, 80.00-110.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 180.00-225.00
    • Good: Large Rounds, 120.00; Small Squares, 150.00
  • Barley Straw:
    • Large Squares, 35.00
  • Wheat Straw:
    • Large Squares, 25.00; Large Rounds, 50.00

Read more from the USDA’s latest Weekly Montana Hay Report.

The Science Doesn’t Support IARC Decision

Philip Ellis_headshotBy Philip Ellis, Wyoming Rancher, NCBA President

We learned this week that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has voted to tell the world that they believe processed meats are a human carcinogen. Similarly, they have decided red meat is a “probable carcinogen.” Let me be clear, this group did not conduct new research during their meeting, they simply reviewed existing evidence, including six studies submitted by the beef checkoff. That evidence had already been reviewed and weighed by the medical and scientific community. The science reviewed by IARC simply does not support their decision.

We know that there isn’t clear evidence to support IARC’s decision because the beef checkoff has commissioned independent studies on the topic for a decade. In fact, countless studies have been conducted by cancer and medical experts and they have all determined the same thing: No one food can cause or cure cancer. But that hasn’t prevented IARC from deciding otherwise.

Since IARC began meeting in 1979, these experts have reviewed more than 900 compounds, products and factors for possible correlation with cancer. To date, only one product (caprolactam, which is a chemical primarily used to create synthetic fibers like nylon) has been granted a rating of 4, which indicates it is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.” Most other factors or products that have been examined by the body, including glyphosate, aloe vera, nightshift work and sunlight have fallen into three categories: 2B “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” 2A “probably carcinogenic to humans,” or 1 “carcinogenic to humans.”

It seemed likely from the beginning that we’d find ourselves here. We knew the deck was stacked against us, so the beef industry and others have long been working on providing credible research that would support what many others outside our industry have already verified: A full, fair and unbiased examination of the entire body of research does not support a finding that red or processed meats cause cancer. This conclusion isn’t mine alone and you can evaluate the information for yourself. We’ve posted the studies reviewed by IARC on the website: factsaboutbeef.com. At NCBA, our team of experts has also been working with our state partners and other industry organizations to mount a full-scale defense of beef.

As just one example of the work we’ve done, we commissioned a study with the same body of research reviewed by IARC. Our study engaged a panel of 22 epidemiologists from the United States and abroad who were recruited by a third-party research group. Participants in the study averaged 22 years of experience and the full panel had a combined total of 475 years of experience. They were provided with a meta-analysis graph which showed data for a specific exposure and a specific human disease outcome, but the specific human disease outcome and exposure were not revealed. In other words, they plotted the results of the study findings on a graph, without telling the participants what product the studies examined. Of the 22 participants in the study, 21 (or 95 percent) said their assessment of the magnitude of the association was weak. Of the 22 epidemiologists, only 10 (or 45 percent) said there was even a possible association. Perhaps most importantly, the epidemiologists agreed that, given the evidence provided, there is not sufficient evidence to make public health recommendations.

Cancer is a complex subject and no one understands fully what causes it or how it can be prevented. Despite billions of dollars spent on research, we only know that no one food can cause or prevent cancer. We also know, thanks in part to decades of producer-funded work on the subject, that when people lead overall healthy lifestyles and maintain a healthy weight, they reduce their risks for chronic diseases, such as cancer, and our team and our state partners are hard at work on this topic to be certain that consumers and their influencers know and understand that beef should remain in their diets, regardless of what IARC might say.

Cattle on Feed Up Two Percent, Hay Prices Dragging

Drought Monitor Update October 22

Montana Drought Monitor October 22

Montana Drought Monitor Update, October 22, 2015. Click image to learn more.

Moderate to Extreme drought continues along and west of the Divide with slight increase in dry conditions in Central Montana this week. Dry weather dominated much of the country, favoring summer crop harvesting and winter wheat planting. However, topsoil moisture shortages hampered wheat emergence and establishment in a variety of regions, including portions of the Plains, lower Midwest, and interior Northwest.

Extremely dry conditions persisted in much of Oregon and Washington, hampering winter crop establishment. By October 18, winter wheat emergence was at least 10 percentage points behind the 5-year average pace in Oregon (18% emerged) and Washington (62%).

View the most current Montana conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Montana Weekly Auction Report – Week of October 19

Market:

Montana Weekly reports are now released on Mondays. Read more in USDA’s latest Montana Weekly Market Report.


Cattle on Feed Report – October 23

Cattle and calves on feed for the slaughter market in the United States for feedlots with capacity of 1,000 or more head totaled 10.2 million head on October 1, 2015. The inventory was 2 percent above October 1, 2014. The inventory included 6.93 million steers and steer calves, up 7 percent from the previous year. This group accounted for 68 percent of the total inventory. Heifers and heifer calves accounted for 3.29 million head, down 7 percent from 2014. October 1, 2015 heifers and heifer calves inventory is the lowest percent of total October inventory since the series began in 1996.

Placements in feedlots during September totaled 1.93 million head, 4 percent below 2014. Net placements were 1.87 million head. During September, placements of cattle and calves weighing less than 600 pounds were 395,000 head, 600-699 pounds were 290,000 head, 700-799 pounds were 416,000 head, and 800 pounds and greater were 830,000 head. Placements are the lowest for September since the series began in 1996.

Marketings of fed cattle during September totaled 1.64 million head, 2 percent below 2014.

View more in this month’s USDA Cattle on Feed Report.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – October 23

Receipts This Week:  Total 324,400 – 281,200 (Auctions); 40,100 (Direct); 3,100 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: the calf market this period experienced wide price ranges and trends in all reporting regions, lightweight feeders under 500 lbs selling mostly 5.00-15.00 higher and calves over 500 lbs and yearlings trading fully steady to 5.00 higher with instances 10.00 higher. Last week’s sharply higher fed and feeder cattle markets and sharply higher futures caused feeder prices to come out of the gate with compelling buying interest. The fed cattle market has rallied near 20.00 over the last two weeks, after declining over 30.00 since Mid-August. Feedlot managers have reclaimed a considerable leverage and an overall positive attitude. This has also spilled over into the feeder cattle markets the last two weeks.

CME Live Cattle futures are back to trading at Mid-September levels, prior to the big break in the market. It seems what use to take months for markets to move is now taking days and weeks, hopefully this is not going to be the new norm as this market is trying to find its course. Optimism also remains guarded as the cattle markets continue higher. Futures are also finding renewed buying support. Despite higher futures prices and cattle producers continue to struggle to reach breakeven levels. This still could create some long term tension and volatility.

Corn harvest is now 59 percent completed, with soybeans 77 percent completed.

Auction volume included 39% weighing over 600 lbs and 36% heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s latest National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report – October 23

Compared to last week: Alfalfa was steady to weak this week on mostly light movement and light to moderate demand. Producers are finished with 3rd cutting and a few have started on a 4th. Rain this week helped improve pasture and range conditions and allowed producers to leave cows turned out. This has decreased short term demand for hay. Demand for high quality 3rd cutting continues to be very limited, however demand for lower quality 3rd cutting was mostly moderate to good, with movement continuing to be seen on RFV under 185. Grass hay saw light movement and mostly light demand this week. Hay prices in neighboring states continue to be a drag on all hay prices as many feeders are shopping around to find the best deal.

  • Alfalfa:
    • Supreme: Small Squares, 200.00-225.00
    • Premium: Large Squares, 170.00-180.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 150.00-170.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 90.00-135.00
    • Utility: Large Squares, 100.00
  • Grass:
    • Alfalfa Mix Premium: Large Squares: 170.00; Good Large Rounds, 125.00-140.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 135.00; Large Rounds, 115.00-120.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 80.00-100.00; Large Rounds, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 180.00-225.00
    • Good: Large Rounds, 120.00; Small Squares, 150.00
  • Barley Straw:
    • Large Squares, 35.00-55.00
  • Wheat Straw:
    • Large Squares, 25.00 (New crop); 32.00 (Old crop)

Read more from the USDA’s latest Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Cattle Markets See Recovery, Winter Forecasts Dry and Warm

Drought Monitor Update October 15

Montana Drought Monitor October 15

Montana Drought Monitor Update, October 15, 2015. Click image to learn more.

Moderate to Extreme drought continues along and west of the Divide with improvement of conditions in eastern portions of the state during recent weeks. Dry and warm conditions have persisted across much of the region during the past week. While a limited period of dry and warm conditions is ideal for the maturation, dry down, and harvesting of summer crops, too much time under such conditions degrades topsoil moisture, pasture conditions, and winter grains growth while creating ideal wildfire conditions.

For the upcoming 5-day period (October 15-19), a rather dry weather pattern should exist east of the Rockies, however light rainfall is expected over the weekend. Winter forecasts released this week by NOAA continue to predict abnormally warm and dry conditions in the coming months that will do little to relieve persistent drought conditions along and west of the northern Rockies.

View the most current Montana conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Montana Weekly Auction Report – October 12

Market: Billings Livestock, Public Auction Yards, Miles City

Receipts: 7,716; Last Week 6,151; Last Year 7,663

Compared to last report: Spring born feeder steers calves sold mostly 5.00-10.00 higher. Heifer calves sold steady to 10.00 higher. Yearling steers were too lightly tested for and market comparison, however steady undertones were noticed. Yearling heifers sold mostly 5.00-8.00 higher in a arrow comparison. Quality this week was mostly average for yearling cattle, with the exception of a few small strings of tested open heifers which were attractive to very attractive. Spring born calves were mostly average to attractive with a few long stings of very attractive offerings. Demand this week was good to very good at times for spring born calves. Notably demand for heifers was much improved this week as some buyers searched for fancy quality heifers that they could use as replacements. Demand for high quality yearling cattle was good to very good at times, with demand for average quality cattle moderate at best.

Weekly reports are now released on Mondays. Read more in USDA’s latest Montana Weekly Market Report.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – October 16

Receipts This Week:  Total 306,200 – 246,300 (Auctions); 40,900 (Direct); 19,000 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: yearling feeder cattle sold 5.00-15.00 higher with highest advances mostly early in the week as auctions first part of the week
were catching up with major advances from middle of last week. Direct sales were mostly 3.00-10.00 higher. Feeder calves traded 10.00-20.00 higher with instances 25.00-30.00 higher. The cattle complex has experienced a good recovery from the lows made the first of the month. Feeder prices had finally fallen to a point where replacing feeder cattle became attractive to buyers. Many buyers over the last several weeks have been on the sidelines waiting to see when and where this collapse would end. The recovery this week has come at a time when many cow-calf producers are getting ready to sell their calf crop.

After a sharp break in the cattle complex and now that the dust is settling, one positive take is often when the market breaks sharply you can also recover the same way as one extreme leads to another. Cattle futures on Friday closed with sharp triple-digit gains to end the week after a pull back on Thursday. This is a market that has had much price volatility over the last six weeks with Live Cattle prices falling mostly 20.00-25.00 since the first week of September has been an extreme.

Corn harvest is 42 percent completed, compared to 27 percent last week. Soybean harvest continues to barrel along with 62 percent harvested compared to 42 percent last week. Winter wheat planting is 64 percent completed compared to 49 percent last week.

Auction volume included 40% weighing over 600 lbs and 38% heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s latest National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report – October 16

Compared to last week: Alfalfa was steady this week on mostly light movement and light to moderate demand. Producers are almost finished with 3rd cutting and a few have started on a 4th. Very limited movement has been seen for high quality 3rd cutting. Lower quality 3rd cutting has seen moderate to good demand and movement has been fairly good. Relative feed values this week ranged from 150-220 as producers continue to get feed test back. Grass hay has seen very light movement and mostly light demand this week. Hay prices in neighboring states continue to be a drag on grass hay prices as many feeders are shopping around to find the best deal

  • Alfalfa:
    • Supreme: Small Squares, 200.00-225.00
    • Premium: Large Squares, 180.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 150.00-170.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 110.00-135.00; Large Rounds, 120.00-130.00
  • Grass:
    • Alfalfa Mix Premium: Large Squares: 170.00; Good Large Rounds, 125.00-140.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 135.00; Large Rounds, 115.00-120.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 80.00-90.00; Large Rounds, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 180.00-225.00
    • Good: Large Rounds, 120.00; Small Squares, 150.00
  • Barley Straw:
    • Large Squares, 35.00-55.00
  • Wheat Straw:
    • Large Squares, 25.00 (New crop); 32.00 (Old crop)

Read more from the USDA’s latest Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Calf prices remain lower as fall run begins

Drought Monitor Update October 1

Montana Drought Monitor September 24

Montana Drought Monitor Update, October 1, 2015. Click image to learn more.

Moderate to Extreme drought continues along and west of the Divide with no significant changes in recent weeks. For this week’s analysis, above-normal temperatures prevailed across much of the country, seasonably dry weather continued over the western U.S. Hot, dry conditions prevailed, with temperatures averaging more than 10°F above normal. Despite the 90-degree readings and a lack of rain during the period, changes to this week’s drought designation were generally minor.

The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 6 – 10 calls for above-normal precipitation and near- to above-normal temperatures nationwide, with drier-than-normal conditions confined to the lower Southeast.

View the most current Montana conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Montana Weekly Auction Report – October 2

Market: Billings Livestock, Public Auction Yards, Miles City

Receipts: NA; Last Week 4,574; Last Year NA

Compared to last report: No report available at this time.

Read more in USDA’s latest Montana Weekly Market Report.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – October 2

Receipts This Week:  Total 249,800 – 170,300 (Auctions); 53,200 (Direct); 26,300 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: yearling feeder cattle started the week 3.00-5.00 lower then turning mostly 5.00-10.00 lower as the week progressed. Calves traded mostly 5.00-15.00 lower.. Calf prices have lost a third of their value in just a few short months, as any class of feeder calves do not look attractive to buy as the bottom continues to succumb in this market free-fall. Some of the best 500 lb steer calves are now looking at 2.00/lb or less in many areas. Fear seems to be a very good motive that is driving this feeder cattle and fed cattle market as the cash market searches for a bottom.

Last Friday’s limit higher move in the Live and Feeder cattle futures was nothing more than a mirage. Cash fed and feeder cattle prices along with the futures continue to slide into a black hole as the inability to draw any kind of interest into this market has uncertainty dominating the picture as huge losses continue in the cattle complex. The “calf run” is beginning to start and with wide price spreads for similar weight and class calves depending on if they are weaned and have a health program or if they are right-off the cow, severe discounts will more than likely be seen.

With record heavy carcass weights and record highs for the number of cattle grading choice, Choice boxed-beef has lost over 55.00 from the May record high to current.

Corn Belt farmers are in the middle of harvest with 18% of the corn crop completed a bit behind the 5 year average at 23% with 68% still rated good to excellent. Soybean harvest is 21% harvested, compared to the 5 year average of 16% with 62% rated good to excellent.

Auction volume included 47% weighing over 600 lbs and 35% heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s latest National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report – October 2

Compared to last week: Alfalfa was steady to 10.00 lower this week on light to moderate demand and light to moderate movement. Producers are beginning to wrap up 3rd cutting and many have it priced, however limited movement has been seen to test the market. Rain is currently falling across many parts of the state which is both a relief for wildfire concerns as well as a hindrance for producers putting up high quality 3rd cutting.

Grass hay was mostly steady this week with mostly light movement seen. Feeder quality hay has come under pressure in the last couple of weeks as cattle produces have been looking hard for bargains as calf prices have fallen significantly since June.

  • Alfalfa:
    • Supreme: Small Squares, 200.00-225.00
    • Premium: Large Squares, 180.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 150.00-170.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 110.00-140.00; Large Rounds, 120.00
  • Grass:
    • Alfalfa Mix Premium: Large Squares: 170.00; Good Large Rounds, 125.00-140.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 135.00; Large Rounds, 115.00-120.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 80.00; Large Rounds, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 180.00-225.00
    • Good: Large Rounds, 120.00; Small Squares, 150.00
  • Barley Straw:
    • Large Squares, 40.00-55.00

Read more from the USDA’s latest Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Cattle markets continue downward trend as Autumn volume increases

Drought Monitor Update September 24

Montana Drought Monitor September 24

Montana Drought Monitor Update, September 24, 2015. Click image to learn more.

Moderate to Extreme drought continues along and west of the Divide with no significant changes in recent weeks, except some decrease of abnormally dry areas in Eastern Montana. Long-term conditions remain dry heading into the Fall season.

Large sections of the nation experienced dry weather, reducing topsoil moisture but promoting summer crop maturation and harvesting. Above-normal temperatures dominated the Plains and upper Midwest, favoring fieldwork and helping to push summer crops toward maturity.

The overall trend toward drought persistence continued in our region, though pockets of beneficial rain were noted in the northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest, and lower Four Corners. The west was generally cooler than normal, easing stress on pastures, crops, and livestock. In the north, most of the region’s core Extreme Drought (D3) areas were dry. However, moderate to heavy rain on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (2-4 inches, locally more) staved off D3 expansion. Farther east, 1 to 3 inches of rain eased drought intensity and coverage over central and southern Idaho, though northern portions of the state remained dry.

View the most current Montana conditions from the U.S. Drought Monitor.


Montana Weekly Auction Report – September 25

Market: Billings Livestock, Public Auction Yards, Miles City

Receipts: 4,574; Last Week 3,767; Last Year NA

Compared to last report: Spring born feeder steers and heifers sold sharply lower this week with most sales 15.00-20.00 lower and instances of 30.00 lower on lightweight calves. Yearling feeder steers sold mostly 10.00 lower in a narrow comparison. Yearling heifers under 900 lbs sold 10.00-15.00 lower while heifers over 900 lbs sold weak to 5.00 lower with heavier weights selling with more demand than lighter weight offerings.

Quality this week was mostly average to attractive, with several very attractive sets of both yearlings and spring born calves. Flesh conditions were in buyers favor with many lightly fleshed feeders coming off grass. However, weigh up conditions were average at best this week; yearling cattle coming off grass were more likely to push excess fill than spring calves. Demand for feeder cattle was light to moderate on yearling offerings, while spring born calves saw light demand.

Slaughter cows sold mostly 5.00-6.00 lower and feeding cows sold lower as well on a notably poor quality offering this week. The best demand for cows this week was for young 2 year olds to young age cows suitable to enter a breeding program. These offerings sold fully steady on good demand. Slaughter bulls sold mostly 2.00 lower in a narrow comparison.

Read more in USDA’s latest Montana Weekly Market Report.


National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – September 25

Receipts This Week:  Total 250,600 – 177,700 (Auctions); 53,200 (Direct); 19,700 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: yearling feeder cattle sold mostly 5.00-10.00 lower, with instances 15.00 lower. Calves traded mostly 5.00-15.00 lower with some sales 20.00 lower throughout the Midwest and Southeast. Discounts are quickly becoming more severe on unweaned-fleshy types which complement the larger discounts on price trends on calves.

The calf market pressure is typical of autumn’s arrival with increase headcounts of new crop bawlers and the onset of warm days and cool nights. Pre-condition yard sickpens are starting to fill as the combination of separation anxiety and shipping fever takes its toll on new purchases.

Cattle futures and cash prices continued their free-fall from last week with no-way of applying the brakes to stop the bleeding. Heavy liquidation selling took place again this week in the cattle futures with limit losses on Wednesday. Futures continued in their flush out mode on Thursday closing again with sharp triple-digit losses, but then traded limit higher to close on Friday; perhaps to give some hard to come by hope for next week. Any justification for high priced feeders has worn out its welcome, as losses keep mounting for cattle feeders and the near term outlook still looking bleak. This has the feeder cattle market accelerating to the downside as feeder cattle prices now stand as excessively overpriced.

Last week’s Cattle on Feed Report did have somewhat positive news in smaller placements than expected, but lower placements are not providing any help to the fed cattle or feeder cattle market. Market psychology and beef demand definitely need a reversal along with cleaning up heavy fed cattle coming to market.

Auction volume included 49% weighing over 600 lbs and 40% heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s latest National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.


Weekly Montana Hay Report – September 25

Compared to last week: Alfalfa was generally steady this week on moderate demand and light to moderate movement. Perfect weather conditions have helped producers across the west-central portion of the state put up excellent quality 3rd cutting. With third cutting still going up very few sales have taken place, however limited sales have moved at around 1.00 per RFV point. Grass hay experienced moderate movement this week with sales steady to weak. Hay for export continues to move at the bottom end of the range.

  • Alfalfa:
    • Supreme: Small Squares, 200.00-225.00
    • Premium: Large Squares, 180.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 150.00-170.00
    • Fair: Large Squares, 110.00-140.00; Large Rounds, 120.00
  • Grass:
    • Alfalfa Mix Premium: Large Squares: 170.00; Good Large Rounds, 125.00-140.00
    • Good: Large Squares, 135.00; Large Rounds, 115.00-120.00
    • Fair: Large Rounds, 100.00
  • Timothy Grass:
    • Premium: Small Squares, 180.00-225.00
    • Good: Large Rounds, 120.00; Small Squares, 150.00
  • Barley Straw:
    • Large Squares, 40.00-55.00

Read more from the USDA’s latest Weekly Montana Hay Report.