Montana Mountain Snowpack Looking Good Entering Runoff Season

Streamflow Forecasts above Average for Spring and Summer

After low flows in some of Montana’s rivers last summer caused issues for irrigators, anglers and recreationists, the spring and summer runoff this year looks to yield above average streamflows, according to snowpack data released by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Snowpack across the state is above normal for May 1 in all but a few sub-basins. Basins west of the Divide, which typically peak during the month of April, are all above normal with high elevations still gaining as of the end of the month. East of the Divide, where snowpack at higher elevations typically peaks a bit later towards the end of April to mid-May, also saw excellent gains during the month.

“Last month there was some concern over the lack of snowpack in some basins east of the Divide that provide irrigation and municipal drinking water, but April provided relief via abundant mountain snowfall and valley precipitation,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for NRCS in Montana. “Two of these basins in southwest Montana, the Ruby River Basin and Hyalite drainages, have snowpack that is now normal for April 1.”

Abundant precipitation throughout this water year in most of Montana and healthy snowpack totals on May 1 have resulted in streamflow forecasts that are above average for most rivers in the state. In addition, the melt at higher elevations has been slightly delayed in some basins this year due to the cool and wet weather experienced during April.

“Delayed onset of snowmelt generally provides more efficient runoff and helps to keep the water in the mountains until it is needed to sustain streamflows later in the summer,” Zukiewicz said. “Over the last three years there has been early runoff of the seasonal snowpack, which has led to below average flows later in the season.” Streamflow forecasts issued by the NRCS are duration forecasts, or the total amount of water that will pass by a streamflow gauge during runoff season and do not forecast timing or magnitude of flows on any given day.

“The words ‘too much snow’ don’t come out of my mouth very often, but with regards to the snowpack in Wyoming basins, which feed the Bighorn River, it’s the case this year,” he said. Snowfall in the Wind River and Shoshone River basins has been record breaking this year, with snowpack totals over 200 percent of normal in some areas on May 1. Federal water managers have been working to make room for the water that will enter the river systems and reservoirs during runoff this year, increasing outflows from reservoirs in Montana and Wyoming. The May 1 – July 31 seasonal volume forecasts for some of the rivers in Wyoming are approaching record levels, with some over 200 percent of average. Zukiewicz said water users should anticipate above average flows for some time on the Bighorn River.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found here after the 5th business day of the month:

May 1, 2017 Snow Water Equivalent

River Basin Percent of Normal Percent of Last Year
Columbia River Basin 119 163
 – Kootenai in Montana 121 178
 – Flathead in Montana 125 169
 – Upper Clark Fork 109 140
 – Bitterroot 122 174
 – Lower Clark Fork 124 185
Missouri River Basin 108 144
 – Jefferson 113 135
 – Madison 119 149
 – Gallatin 110 124
 – Headwaters Mainstem 90 130
 – Smith-Judith-Musselshell 83 94
 – Sun-Teton-Marias 129 379
 – St. Mary-Milk 124 200
Yellowstone River Basin 157 174
 – Upper Yellowstone 137 180
 – Lower Yellowstone 172 174
West of the Divide 119 163
East of the Divide 133 166
Montana Statewide 118 159

May 1, 2017 Precipitation

River Basin Monthly Percent of Average Water Year Percent of Average Water Year Percent of Last Year
Columbia River Basin 124 130 129
 – Kootenai in Montana 142 141 128
 – Flathead in Montana 146 136 135
 – Upper Clark Fork 105 113 119
 – Bitterroot 98 117 122
 – Lower Clark Fork 123 136 135
Missouri River Basin 126 128 125
 – Jefferson 120 119 119
 – Madison 142 141 147
 – Gallatin 154 132 127
 – Headwaters-Mainstem 97 110 110
 – Smith-Judith-Musselshell 119 110 108
 – Sun-Teton-Marias 95 125 151
 – St. Mary-Milk 105 149 123
Yellowstone River Basin 168 153 150
 – Upper Yellowstone 140 145 154
 – Lower Yellowstone 181 161 152
West of the Divide 124 130 129
East of the Divide 137 137 138
Montana Statewide 130 132 131

May-July 50% Exceedance Forecasts

River Basin Highest Point Forecast* Lowest Point Forecast** Basin Avg Forecast***
Columbia 152% 102% 126%
Kootenai, Montana 145% 124% 131%
Flathead, Montana 152% 117% 135%
Upper Clark Fork 136% 102% 125%
Bitterroot 117% 108% 112%
Lower Clark Fork 130% 119% 125%
Missouri 125% 78% 109%
Jefferson 125% 92% 109%
Madison 116% 111% 114%
Gallatin 108% 101% 105%
Headwaters Mainstem 113% 108% 111%
Smith-Judith-Musselshell 94% 78% 86%
Sun-Teton-Marias 119% 93% 112%
St. Mary 125% 124% 124%
Yellowstone River Basin 244% 94% 153%
Upper Yellowstone 167% 94% 134%
Lower Yellowstone 244% 125% 172%

Note: Streamflow forecasts are issued for multiple points on rivers and streams within a major river basin and are given as a range of exceedance probabilities. Consult the individual river basin of interest to see the range of values for streams of interest.

*Highest point forecast is the highest 50% forecast of all forecast points within the basin.

**Lowest point forecast is the lowest 50% forecast of all forecast points within the basin.

***Basin average forecast is an average of all 50% forecasts within the basin.

From: Natural Resources Conservation Service

MSU to host annual agricultural research center field days across Montana

The public is invited to attend free annual field days across Montana to tour and learn about the people, places and projects involved with agricultural research at Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station or MAES. Five research stations across the state and a local Bozeman campus farm will each host a field day this summer.

“Statewide field days are a longstanding tradition where we invite the public to tour our facilities, meet our faculty and staff and learn about trends and progress in agriculture research that hopefully makes a difference in their lives,” said Barry Jacobsen, associate director of MAES. “What’s most important about field days is that they serve as an opportunity for statewide producers, farmers, ranchers and agribusiness to share successes and challenges face-to-face with faculty scientists and learn about what the university is doing in response to those challenges and needs. It’s a chance for faculty and stakeholders to engage as an agricultural community and for the university to get feedback on what we need to be focusing on.”

Field days include facility tours, explanations of research projects and results and a chance for citizens, producers, legislators and agribusiness representatives to speak with MSU scientists and Extension agents.

Summer 2017 field days include:

  • Northern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, June 29: The field day begins at 4 p.m. with tours before and after dinner. The center is located about seven miles southwest of Havre on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 265-6115.
  • The MSU Arthur H. Post Agronomy Farm , Thursday, July 7: The Post Farm will begin tours at 8:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The Post Farm is located eight miles west of Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191. (406) 586-6819.
  • Central Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 12: The field day starts at 9 a.m. and includes a free lunch. The center is located 2.5 miles west of Moccasin on U.S. Highway 87. (406) 423-5421.
  • Northwestern Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 13: The field day begins at 2 p.m., with dinner following the tour. NWARC is located near Creston on State Highway 35. (406) 755-4303.
  • Eastern Agricultural Research Center, Wednesday, July 19: The field day begins at 9 a.m. The center is located one mile north of Sidney on State Highway 200. (406) 433-2208.
  • Western Agricultural Research Center, Thursday, July 27: The field day starts at 4 p.m. with dinner at 5 p.m. and a tour following. WARC is located at 580 Quast Lane, Corvallis. (406) 961-3025.

MAES comprises agricultural research of on and off-campus MSU faculty. The research centers are strategically located across Montana to allow research with different soil types, elevations, climate zones and landscapes, and a local advisory council guides the research at each station. The federal Hatch Act of 1887 authorized every national land-grant university to establish an agricultural experiment station, with research reflecting the university’s curriculum and state needs. The Smith-Lever Act authorized the Extension Service in 1914. MSU College of Agriculture, Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and MSU Extension have been cooperatively serving the land-grant mission and the Montana public for the past 100 years.

For more information about the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station, visit For more information about the station’s research centers, visit

Strong Finish for 2016 Red Meat Exports

U.S. pork and beef exports wrapped up an excellent 2016 performance with very strong December results, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons (mt) in 2016, up 8 percent year-over-year and 2 percent above the previous high in 2012. Export value increased 7 percent from a year ago to $5.94 billion. December pork exports totaled 222,635 mt, up 18 percent year-over-year, valued at $564.2 million, up 20 percent.

Exports accounted for 25.8 percent of total 2016 pork production and 21.5 percent for muscle cuts – up from 24.2 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively, in 2015. December ratios were 28 percent for total production and 23 percent for muscle cuts only – up significantly from December 2015. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.20 in 2016, up 4 percent from the previous year. The December average was $56.06, up 24 percent.

Beef exports increased 11 percent in volume (1.19 million mt) and 1 percent in value ($6.34 billion) from 2015. December exports totaled 116,847 mt, up 24 percent year-over-year. This was the largest monthly volume since July 2013 and the largest ever for December. Export value was $619.1 million in December, up 22 percent.

Exports accounted for 13.7 percent of total beef production in 2016 and 10.5 percent for muscle cuts – up from 13.1 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2015. December exports accounted for 15.6 percent of total December beef production and 12.1 percent for muscle cuts only – each up more than 2 percentage points from a year ago and the highest since 2011. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $262.17, down 6 percent from 2015, but the December average was $301.97 – up 14 percent and the highest in nearly two years.

Pork to Mexico sets fifth straight volume record; China/Hong Kong also record-large 

A remarkable second half pushed 2016 pork export volume to Mexico to its fifth consecutive record at 730,316 mt – breaking the previous record by 2 percent. Export value to Mexico totaled $1.36 billion, up 7 percent year-over-year and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $1.56 billion mark reached in 2014.

“At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the U.S. industry,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia – once a large destination for U.S. hams – and China’s demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that’s absolutely critical to the entire U.S. pork supply chain.”

Though down from the high levels seen earlier in the year, December pork exports to China/Hong Kong were still up 40 percent year-over-year in volume (47,242 mt) and 42 percent higher in value ($96 million). For the full year, exports to China/Hong set a new volume record of 544,943 mt (up 61 percent) and broke the $1 billion mark for the first time ($1.07 billion, up 53 percent).

Other 2016 highlights for U.S. pork exports include:

  • Japan remained the leading value destination for U.S. pork, though exports fell 5 percent in volume (387,712 mt) and 2 percent in value ($1.56 billion) compared to 2015. However, chilled exports to Japan set a new record of 218,211 mt, up 8 percent.
  • Led by a record performance in Central America and a fourth-quarter surge in Colombia and Chile, exports to the Central/South America region increased 11 percent in volume (135,954 mt) and 9 percent in value ($334.5 million).
  • Pork shipments increased to both Australia and New Zealand, as export volume to Oceania reached 69,963 mt (up 10 percent) valued at $197.3 million (up 3 percent).
  • Exports to the Dominican Republic set another record in 2016, topping the previous year’s totals by 10 percent in volume (25,591 mt) and 6 percent in value ($56.4 million).
  • Fueled by increases in China/Hong Kong and Canada and steady exports to Mexico, pork variety meat exports jumped 20 percent in volume to 523,199 mt and 24 percent in value to $999 million – just short of the record levels reached in 2014.

Asian markets drive strong beef export growth 

Driven by strong demand for higher-value chilled cuts, beef exports achieved new value records in South Korea and Taiwan in 2016, and rebounded strongly in Japan.

In Korea, December beef exports soared by 81 percent in volume (20,333 mt) and 88 percent in value ($130 million) from a year ago, capping a remarkable year in which exports totaled 179,280 mt (up 42 percent) valued at $1.06 billion – up 31 percent from a year ago and breaking the previous value record by more than 20 percent. Korea’s per capita beef consumption set a new record in 2016 of 34 pounds (carcass weight) – so the U.S. not only gained market share, but also capitalized on the market’s overall growth.

Beef exports to Taiwan were also strong in December, with export value ($43.3 million) hitting its highest level ever. Full-year exports to Taiwan were up 25 percent in volume to 44,053 mt and 14 percent in value to $362.8 million.

2016 exports to Japan were the largest of the post-BSE era at 258,653 mt, up 26 percent year-over-year. Export value totaled $1.51 billion, up 18 percent. Chilled beef exports to Japan totaled 112,334 mt, up 44 percent from 2015.

“In addition to the strength of the U.S. dollar, U.S. beef overcame other severe challenges in these north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results,” Seng said. “Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, U.S. beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the U.S. industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We’re seeing U.S. beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product.”

Other 2016 highlights for U.S. beef included:

  • Beef exports to Mexico increased 7 percent year-over-year in volume to 242,373 mt, though value fell 11 percent to $974.9 million. While challenged by a weak peso, Mexico remains a key destination for muscle cuts such as shoulder clods and rounds, as well as for beef variety meat.
  • Led by strong growth in Chile and a doubling of exports to Colombia, beef exports to South America increased 6 percent in volume to 22,810 mt, valued at $92.7 million (down 2 percent). The region should see further growth in 2017 with the reopening of Brazil.
  • Exports to Central America were up 7 percent in volume (12,745 mt) with top market Guatemala up 1 percent and exports to Honduras nearly doubling. Export value was $71.8 million, up 1 percent.
  • Fueled by a resurgence in Indonesia and solid growth in Vietnam, beef exports to the ASEAN region were up 41 percent in volume (29,920 mt) and 15 percent in value ($156.9 million). Indonesia expanded access for U.S. beef in early August. Despite being closed to many products through the first seven months of the year, U.S. exports to Indonesia set a new value record of $39.4 million.
  • Beef variety meat exports increased 10 percent in volume (341,433 mt) and 4 percent in value ($902.2 million) in 2016. Liver exports increased 12 percent to 81,727 and reached a broader range of markets. While liver exports to Egypt – the largest destination for U.S. livers – increased 4 percent, further growth was achieved in Central and South America and with the reopening of South Africa to U.S. beef.

Lamb muscle cut exports continue upward trend 

Although U.S. lamb exports were down in 2016, this was largely due to a sharp decline in variety meat exports. While total exports fell 11 percent in volume (8,248 mt) and 4 percent in value ($18.3 million), muscle cut exports increased 26 percent (2,239 mt) and 16 percent ($12.3 million) respectively. Leading market Mexico followed a similar pattern, as variety meat exports declined significantly, but muscle cut exports increased 9 percent in volume (965 mt) and 1 percent in value ($2.8 million). Emerging markets showing promise in 2016 included Bermuda, the Philippines, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates.

Complete January-December export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.

If you have questions, please contact Joe Schuele at or call 303-547-0030.


  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.

Source: USMEF

Costco Expansion Provides Even Greater Momentum for U.S. Beef in Korea

U.S. beef has been rapidly building momentum in South Korea, and received a further boost this week as Costco officially began converting its imported chilled beef selection from Australian beef to 100 percent U.S. product. The move follows a multi-year effort by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to persuade store managers that sales of U.S. beef – a popular item at Costco – would match or exceed Australian beef sales due to revived consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef.
Costco currently has 13 warehouses in Korea, with two new locations scheduled to open this year. On Feb. 13, Costco began transitioning two of those warehouses to 100 percent U.S. chilled beef. The others will be converted in May.

In total, Costco’s move represents an opportunity for about 15,000 metric tons (mt) of incremental new beef business in 2017, said Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea. Yang noted that the theme of U.S. beef promotions in Korea has gradually moved from food safety to consumer enjoyment and product quality.
“While USMEF still reassures Korean consumers that U.S. beef is a safe product, we are now able to focus more on the outstanding flavor of U.S. beef,” Yang said. “Tasting demonstrations at Costco and other popular stores have been very successful in getting consumers to taste U.S. beef and increase awareness of our product.”

USMEF is also providing support to Costco to ensure a smooth transition to U.S. chilled beef, helping re-acquaint customers with the full range of U.S. beef cuts.
“Korean consumers love the high quality of U.S. beef and really enjoy the flavor of our product,” added Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing. “In Korea, Costco is the gold standard when it comes to imaging food products, especially beef. USMEF, along with our partners in the U.S. beef industry, have been working hard to recapture market share in Korea. We’ve been able to do that, but mostly on the frozen side. The marquee items at Costco are the chilled beef cuts and we finally have that chilled section of the meat case back.”

U.S. beef exports to Korea totaled 179,280 mt in 2016, up 42 percent year-over-year. Export value reached $1.06 billion, up 31 percent from a year ago and breaking the previous value record (from 2014) by 25 percent. Chilled beef exports to Korea totaled 24,572 mt in 2016, up 47 percent year-over-year, valued at $216.4 million (up 43 percent).

U.S. beef captured 42 percent of Korea’s imported beef market in 2016, up from 35 percent the previous year, while Australia’s market share fell from 57 percent to 49 percent. But Yang notes there is still room for further growth, citing pre-BSE data from 2003.

“Prior to the December 2003 market closure, U.S. beef accounted for the majority of imported beef sales in Korea and 49 percent of total sales – including domestic beef,” she explained. “So while U.S. beef has made excellent progress in Korea, the market still holds strong growth opportunities.”

Korea’s per capita beef consumption set a new record in 2016 at more than 25 pounds (product weight), up about 5 percent year-over-year and increasing by one-third since 2009 – so U.S. beef is not only gaining market share, but also contributing to growth in overall consumption. Korea’s demand for imported beef remains strong, and based on customs clearance data U.S. beef topped Australian beef in Korea’s January imports, continuing a trend that began late last year.

“Regaining Costco’s chilled beef business is a milestone on several fronts,” says Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific region. “Not only will U.S. sales soar at this iconic beef retailer, but Costco’s beef merchandising decisions are a bellwether for overall Korean consumer sentiment toward U.S. beef.”

Source: U.S.M.E.F.

USTR Defends U.S. Beef from European Mistreatment

Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced it will start the process of reinstating retaliatory tariffs on goods and products from the European Union due to the E.U.’s unfair treatment of U.S. beef. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Tracy Brunner applauds USTR Ambassador Michael Froman for standing up for the U.S. beef industry and taking action in defense of U.S. beef producers.

“The European Union has left us no choice but to seek compensation for the long-standing mistreatment of U.S. beef exports,” said Brunner. “Our temporary agreement with the E.U. was meant to be an opportunity to build a bridge of trust between U.S. beef producers and E.U. consumers, and to compensate the United States for the losses we have suffered as a result of the E.U.’s hormone ban. The E.U. has violated the spirit of that agreement and caused U.S. beef exports to become a minority interest in a quota meant to compensate U.S. beef producers.”

In 2009 the U.S. and the E.U. signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which the E.U. agreed to create a new duty-free quota for imports of specially-produced beef to compensate the United States for losses arising from the E.U.’s ban on the use of hormones in beef production. Imports under the quota have grown steadily since then, and for the past two years, the entire 45,000 metric ton quota has been filled, though from countries other than the U.S.

Over the past two years the U.S. government has attempted, without success, to engage the European Commission in discussions about ways to rectify this situation.

“While this is not our preferred choice, retaliation is the only way cattle producers are going to secure our rights for the losses we have incurred over the years due to the E.U.’s hormone ban,” said Brunner. “If the E.U. is unwilling to honor the terms of the agreement then we have no alternative but to seek restitution. We will not continue to be subjected to such trade agreement abuse.”

While initially imports from the United States accounted for the majority of the business done under the quota, over time imports from Australia, Uruguay and Argentina increased rapidly, taking a greater share of the quota. Neither Australia, Uruguay, nor Argentina was a party to the hormone dispute or the 2009 MOU that created the quota intended for the United States. The United States now has a minority and declining share of the quota, and imports so far this year point to a continuation of this trend.

Agri-Best Feeds Celebrates 10 Years of Business

by Northern Ag Network Staff

Agri-Best Feeds’ mission to provide superior agricultural products, satisfying every customer, and enhancing the lives they touch is seen throughout their history – and they are only just getting started!

Ten years ago at the Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings, Montana, rancher Irv Haidle introduced SweetPro to the Montana and Wyoming cattle market.  At the time, Irv thought he was showcasing a new product that he would build to into a small business opportunity for himself, but it didn’t take long for him to realize this was going to be so much bigger.  Agri-Best Feeds grew from his vision into a successful family business that continues to grow and expand today.

Irv was first contacted by SweetPro Feeds back in 2004 to market their feed products in and around Montana.  Having been a rancher all his life, he was initially skeptical of the claims that SweetPro would improve the feed efficiency of the forage for cattle and that the cattle would eat up to 25% less hay.  It was a whole different approach to feed supplementation.  Most supplements currently in the market  stimulate appetite so that the cattle eat more, but this product claimed to help the livestock utilize their feed better so that they actually eat less and perform better.

Jim Skillsted, who runs a purebred Simmental Ranch in Glendive Montana, with Irv Haidle discussing cattle

Bob Thornberg, president of SweetPro Feeds, contacted Irv again in 2005 about selling the product but first, Irv wanted to test out the product on his own cattle.  The first trial went well, but he still wanted more proof so he also did a follow up trial in early 2006.

“He was actually 2 years into it before he was confident enough to put his name behind it,” said Scott Anderson, Agri-Best Feeds Director of Operations and Irv’s son-in-law.  Bob Thornberg agreed, “Irv needed to prove the claims to himself.  And when he saw the results, he jumped into it with enthusiasm.”

For his trial, Irv put mature cows on test in a dry lot with eight round bale feeders, with the supplement that he had been using, and monitored the number of days that it took his cattle to consume the hay. He then replaced his supplement with SweetPro, refilled the bale feeders, and in a six-week timeframe, found the hay lasted 28 percent longer with SweetPro.  He able to duplicate the trial results two years in a row so he decided take his experience on his own ranch to market SweetPro.

Irv was a big visionary and from that first NILE show in 2006, he saw that there was an interest in this new product well beyond what he would be able to handle himself.  Based out of his ranch in Fallon, Montana, Irv began to set up a network of dealers.  His business began to build rapidly in eastern Montana and he knew if he wanted to grow and cover the entire state that he could not do it all himself.

Scott Anderson, Irv Haidle and Daryl Haidle visiting SweetPro’s corporate office in Walhalla, ND fall of 2008

“Through that first season, 2006-2007, Irv began to talk to the family and really started looking at which way to go with this business.  One option was being a big dealer located in the Fallon/Terry area and just service what he could in the local region or look at developing a larger business structure that would be able service all of Montana and be able to get product moved efficiently and effectively.  To do that he would need more help.  Irv started talking to his family and wanted to make a family business out of it. The family agreed with him and Agri-Best Feeds was incorporated in April of 2007,” Scott said.

Scott joined Agri-Best Feeds in 2007 as the Director of Operations to help with the accounting and help move the company into the computer age.

“As things really started rolling, it was pretty obvious that Billings would need to be the hub of our business,” said Scott

Scott and his wife Kim moved to Billings and initially started selling SweetPro out of their garage in Shepherd, while Irv continued working in eastern Montana.  His son Daryl Haidle joined the team as the Distribution Manager in 2008 and his grandson-in-law became the business manager in 2009.

Irv Haidle (right) manning a trade show in 2008 with Troy Harrington (left), from Hammond, MT (Agri-Best Feeds top dealer) and Brett Phipps (center) from Whitman, NE (Agri-Best Feeds #2 dealer – top in Nebraska)

By 2009, the business was growing rapidly and their distribution base now covered Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.  Agri-Best Feeds also started adding to their product line.  Looking for distribution in the same geography, Redmond Natural Trace Mineral connected with Agri-Best Feeds to add their products to Agri-Best Feeds product line.  Redmond Natural Trace Mineral is a mined sea salt that contains 60+ minerals in their natural balance.  It seemed like a natural addition to the Agri-Best Feed program of your forage + SweetPro + salt = a complete balanced ration.

“Keeping within our goal of unique high performing products, we’ve continued to add to our product line.  We now offer Cattlemen’s Choice Mineral, a new product we just started offering this year and MasterHand DDGS cattle cubes and pellets,” said Scott.

In January of 2010, Agri-Best Feeds moved their distribution and operations headquarters into the former Pierce Packing Plant building, now known as the Kairos Center, at 47 North 15th Street in Billings.  They saw the location as ideal for serving customers and distributors locally and throughout Montana and Wyoming.  That same year, Agri-Best Feeds was awarded the Family Business of the Year by Montana State University, College of Business.  Dr. Abe Schaefer also joined the team in 2010 as a nutritional consultant.

In September of 2011, Irv Haidle was killed in an automobile accident.  With the infrastructure in place and Irv’s clear vision for the future of the company, the family was able to pick up the reins and continue the business.  Two generations of Irv’s family are actively involved the family business and Irv’s son, Kevin Haidle, was named President of the company in 2012.

The Agri-Best Feeds crew: Scott Anderson (marketing), Dean Haidle (oversees Callaway, NE farm store), Irv Haidle (founder), Kevin Haidle (president), Daryl Haidle (Distribution Manager), Kelvin Haidle (advisory board), not pictured Sammy Higgs (business manager)

What does the future hold for Agri-Best Feeds?  While obviously very proud of what they’ve accomplished so far, Scott says they are just getting started.  “We haven’t even started to scratch the market potential.”

With the addition of another regional warehouse and farm store in Callaway, Nebraska, Agri-Best Feeds now covers a four state area, including Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and northern North Dakota.

Scott Anderson said, “Revenue and sales growth has continued to grow year after year, started from nothing to 142 truckloads of SweetPro and 70 loads of Redmond last year.”

Bob Thornberg was very enthusiastic in his support of how Agri-Best Feeds have expanded and grown their business.  “We are delighted with everybody at Agri-Best Feeds and all they have done with SweetPro.  Agri-Best Feeds has consistently either been number 1 or in the top 2 or 3 in the nation for sales.”

“As we continue, we would like to basically double or triple our business in the next three years and really put a concerted effort into continued growth.  The infrastructure is already in place to support that growth, so it’s a matter of continuing to work with and focus on our dealership network and helping our sales reps spread the word,” said Scott.

Keeping in line with their innovative products, Agri-Best Feeds team continues to reach out to their customers, producers and dealers utilizing technologies like webinars and social media such as Facebook.

Agri-Best Feeds and SweetPro manufacturers talk about the expansion of their business in Billings. Jordan Thornberg, left, and Bob Thornberg, in the gray jacket, both of SweetPro, talk with, from left, Scott Anderson, Daryl Haidle, Kevin Haidle and Sammy Higgs, all of Agri-Best, at the Agri-Best warehouse in the former Pierce Packing building at 33 N. 15th St. (Photo byLarry Mayer/Billings Gazette, reused with permission)

However, they still see the value in “boots on the ground” and make a point to drive out to see many of their customers face to face or visiting with them at Ag Shows like the NILE.  Gwen Shepperson, a Wyoming rancher, SweetPro dealer who has been with Agri-Best Feeds since 2007, and runs Agri-Best Feeds’ Facebook agreed.  “They are always willing to travel and see their products working.  We had Kevin Haidle out with their nutritionist Dr. Abe Schaefer this summer and they went all over the ranch.  They like to be involved and I think producers can appreciate that because they don’t just want someone to sell them a product, they want a company that’s invested in their wellbeing as well.”

Although there are plenty of supplements to choose from, no one has the same approach as Agri-Best Feeds, according to Scott, to offering a program that blends animal health and performance, forage utilization (true feed efficiency) and producer profits, which why he feels their future is bright.

Bob Thornberg added, “Interesting thing with Agri-Best Feeds is that they see the marketplace as growing pretty significantly because we’ve been out there steady now for 10 years.  We were really brand new 10 years ago and everybody wants to know if you are going to stick around.   Agri-Best Feeds is finding that after 10 years they are expecting more significant growth even now.  The customers know Agri-Best Feeds.  They know they can benefit from them and it’s a great group to do it with.”

For more information on Agri-Best Feeds, stop in and see them at their corporate offices and store at 47N 15th Street in Billings, MT, by calling 866 601-6646 or visiting their website at

conservation applications

Producers in 14 Montana Counties Eligible for 2016 Livestock Forage Disaster Program

Livestock producers in 14 Montana counties have until Jan. 30, 2017 to enroll in the 2016 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP)

Eligible 2016 LFP counties include Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers in qualifying counties for drought on dryland pasture. Eligible livestock producers must own or lease dryland pasture physically located in a qualifying county and eligible livestock must use this ground during the normal grazing period for the county. The following 14 counties have met the qualifying drought criteria for 2016 in Montana: Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton.

Livestock eligible for LFP include alpacas, beef cattle over 500 lbs, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, poultry, reindeer, sheep or swine that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the county’s grazing period.

Eligible land includes dryland native pasture, improved pasture, and small grains, annual ryegrass and forage sorghum planted specifically for grazing.   Irrigated acres used for grazing or aftermath grazing are not eligible under this program.

If all eligibility requirements are met, livestock producers in Carter County will receive for four monthly payments; livestock producers in the following 13 counties will receive one monthly payment: Big Horn, Carbon, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton.

Livestock producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office with any questions regarding eligibility.

Producers must complete an application and provide supporting documentation for 2016 losses by Jan. 30, 2017. Please contact the local FSA office ASAP to schedule an appointment to begin the application process and for questions on FSA programs.  For more information, visit Montana FSA online at and

LFP Factsheet (pdf)

Source:  Northern Ag Network

CME Working Group Update

Jim Fryer

Written by Jim Fryer | Hobson, MT

Our cattle industry is going through one of the most dramatic price declines in decades. Similar events are also occurring across many different commodities, from wheat to oil. Several years of record high prices building upon momentum from the previous decade have led to a surge in supplies. At the same time, macroeconomic conditions throughout the world face challenges we have yet to fully grasp. We know full well, in our industry, that it takes longer for our biological process to ramp production. This has left many reeling from overall deflation while the expansion of the cowherd has only just begun.

Lying in the middle of this malaise are the futures markets where a variety of firms anticipate forward prices for our commodity products. Price volatility is running higher than the last 30-40 years and many cattle buyers struggle with 5-10% price changes, both up and down, in short timeframes. Price bids in the country reflect the same uncertainty. This action incited the NCBA to expand their Cattle Marketing and International Trade Committee to identify problems and advocate changes with the CME’s live cattle futures contract. The NCBA accepted Montana Stockgrowers’ recommendation that I join the CME Working Group. It is an honor to be chosen to represent our industry in such a significant endeavor.

Our group assembled in early August with 26 members including Craig Uden, NCBA President-elect, as the chair. We divided into three subgroups: 1) Contract Specifications, 2) Price Discovery and 3) Price Volatility. Each subgroup conferenced several times to organize and prioritize issues within each component. I joined the Price Volatility subcommittee tasked with evaluating short-term price change and identifying pitfalls.
Following remote efforts and teleconferencing, our entire working group met in Washington D.C. during the first week of October. Our goal was to present our concerns and requests to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. The CFTC is the self-regulating agency supervising the CME while the Committee on Agriculture oversees the CFTC. The CME also traveled to D.C. to present price action data and information that the NCBA requested earlier this year.

Intention is one major theme that my subcommittee and I carried to D.C. Of the approximate 50,000 semi loads of fat cattle that trade daily in Chicago, there are many more bids to buy and offers to sell (quotes). The intention of honoring that specific bid or offer at that precise price is unknown.
Often, the bid-offer will disappear in microseconds. We want a clear answer from the CME that each bid-offer has the intention to fulfill true price discovery. Lack of intention (spoofing) is an illegal practice used by malign entities to disrupt real prices. I agree the CME must effectively enforce current spoofing rules and increase the punishment for illegal actions.

The contract specifications group is working to balance quality grades of the futures contract with industry standards. Evolution in feeding practices and technology in general has slowly pushed beef production into more choice grade carcasses. This group will be working with the CME to increase the number of choice cattle per semi load while advocating for a dynamic contract that will further reflect industry changes in a more timely fashion.

Another major component of our economic condition is price discovery. This theme runs in every current of our beef and cattle industries. The subcommittee tasked with this topic is pushing for more transparency and frequency of negotiated cash trade. As more cattle go on formula and industry average base contracts, the number of cattle setting the price foundation is dwindling. Several key players throughout the Midwest will be listing their cattle on Superior Livestock’s new Fed Cattle Exchange. This venue allows sellers of fat cattle to interact real-time with packers bidding on showlists in a public domain.

Currently, the auction is held mid morning on Wednesday to avoid a last minute rush to price cattle late on Friday after the futures market is closed for the week. As participation increases, it is likely another auction will be held on Tuesday or Thursday. That threshold is within reach following this week’s record participation.

From our meeting in Washington D.C., it is clear that our industry is getting attention. The CFTC stated our comments reflect similar conversations with other industries and that we should continue pushing for resolve with the CME. It is also encouraging to see more fat cattle going on a transparent showlist that has active packer bids. This is perhaps the single greatest opportunity. Let’s ensure we are setting the best price possible for all our formula and base contracts. We must dedicate more volume to the price setting process. At the same time, we will keep pressure on the CME to ensure malignant participants cannot place orders with no intention of honoring. I will have more information on our progress in the coming months.

In response to the recent market volatility, MSGA nominated Jim Fryer of Hobson, MT to serve on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) / Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) working group. This working group has been tasked with investigating inconsistencies in the cash cattle market and ensuring a level playing field for all market participants. Jim Fryer lives in Hobson, MT with his wife, Heather, and their three children. Jim has decades of experience working in cattle and beef cash markets. For five years he handled global trading for Cargill including direct interaction with major hedge funds and exchanges. He has years of risk management and futures trading experience which makes him a key asset to discovering the cause behind the market volatility. For any questions about the NCBA/CME working group, please contact the MSGA office.

Montana Stockgrowers Association Opposes Initiative I-77

I-177 is an initiative that will appear on the ballot this November. The measure bans the use of traps for preventing the spread of disease and controlling dangerous predators on public lands in Montana. The Montana Stockgrowers Association’s (MSGA) vision is to exemplify leading innovation in ranching while preserving Montana’s complex natural landscape, history, economy, ethics and social values. I-177 fails to embody the vision of Montana’s ranching sector.

I-177 does not allow today’s advanced and ethical methods of trapping, to occur until after all non-lethal methods have been tried and found unsuccessful to prevent killing of cattle, thus deteriorating a rancher’s means to invest in environmental stewardship.

MSGA has worked proactively with the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and other stakeholders to evaluate trapping season structures, quotas and establish setbacks on public lands to avoid conflicts. Our system has worked and continues to work for Montana.

We cannot afford to limit Montana’s ability to manage public landscapes. MSGA encourages you to vote “no” on I-177.

Gene Curry
Montana Stockgrowers Association

MSU to host agricultural outlook conference Nov. 11

BOZEMAN – The Montana State University Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics and MSU Extension will host an agricultural economics conference, “Agricultural Production Trends and Changing Food Systems,” on Nov. 11. The Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics is a joint department of the MSU College of Agriculture and MSU College of Letters and Science.

At the conference, MSU agricultural economics and Extension faculty will speak about topics tailored to the Montana agricultural industry, including grain and cattle markets, banking regulation, crop viruses, farm bill updates, Montana poverty statistics and agricultural profitability under the statewide agricultural production research grant with the Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative.

“The annual conference is an opportunity for university economists and specialists to share their research findings and value with our state’s stakeholders,” said Joel Schumacher, MSU agricultural economics Extension specialist. “We look forward to the conference each year because it’s a chance for us to connect and talk with public supporters, who ultimately guide and direct our research priorities.”

The conference’s guest M.L. Wilson Speaker this year is Jayson Lusk, who will discuss “The Future of Food.” A Regents Professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair in the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, Lusk is often cited as one of the country’s most prolific commenters on food policy and marketing and agricultural marketing topics related to consumer behavior. He is a fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association and author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and six books, including “Unnaturally Delicious” and “The Food Police.” He has also published editorials in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Thursday’s conference speakers include Joe Janzen, MSU assistant professor of agricultural economics, who will speak about grain market fundamentals, and Eric Belasco, MSU associate professor of agricultural economics, who will speak on cattle market fundamentals. Gary Brester, MSU agricultural economics professor, will address the impacts of emerging bank regulations on agricultural loan competition. Conference registration includes a hosted a lunch with comments from Vincent Smith, MSU professor of agricultural economics, on MSU’s new Center for Regulatory and Applied Economic Analysis.

After lunch, two in-depth breakout session will be offered. One will feature a selection of ongoing research featuring MSU Agricultural Economics Extension Specialist Kate Fuller and Nina Zidack, director of the MSU Montana Seed Potato Certification Program, who will speak on the economics of disease screening in the Montana seed potato industry. Schumacher will share Montana poverty statistics, followed by a second session that will feature faculty involved with the Montana Research and Economic Development Grant, aimed at increasing general agricultural profitability across Montana. Speakers include Anton Bekkerman, MSU associate professor of agricultural economics; George Haynes, MSU Extension agricultural policy specialist; Bruce Maxwell, MSU professor of ecology; and Colter Ellis, MSU assistant professor of sociology.

The conference will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The morning session will be held in the Procrastinator Theater in MSU’s Strand Union Building. Conference registration is $25. Participants should call 994-3511 to register. A full schedule is available at

The 10th annual conference is part of MSU’s larger Celebrate Agriculture weekend, set for Nov. 10-12 and hosted by the MSU College of Agriculture. More information about Celebrate Agriculture is available at