Drought Relief Discount Announced by SweetPro & Agri-Best Feeds

SweetPro and Agri-Best Feeds have instituted a Drought Relief Discount of $80/ton on qualifying SweetPro orders delivered to ranches affected by the D2-D4 drought according to the U.S Drought Monitor – www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu .  The Drought Relief Discount is effective immediately and will continue on qualifying orders through the month of August.

SweetPro is a complete supplement that not only fills in the gaps where the grass is lacking; it also helps cattle break their forage down better, resulting in cattle performing better on LESS grass.  SweetPro’s nutritionist, Abe Scheaffer Ph. D., states, “The digestible fiber in SweetPro helps extend the use of a pasture, whereas the sugars in molasses or starches in grain increase forage consumption.  We know that our customers are hurting, and we need to do what we can to keep them in business,” concluded Scheaffer.

For more information and qualifications of the Drought Relief Discount call Agri-Best Feeds at 866 601-6646.

USDA Designates Eight Counties in North Dakota as Primary Natural Disaster Areas with Assistance to Producers in Surrounding States

In response to a request from Brian Haugen, Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) acting State Executive Director in North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Dunn, Emmons, Grant, Logan, McIntosh, McKenzie, Mountrail and Sioux counties in North Dakota as primary natural disaster areas due to losses and damages caused by a recent drought.

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Montana qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those counties are:

Richland, Roosevelt and Wibaux

All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas on July 6, 2017, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for FSA’s emergency (EM) loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Other FSA programs that can provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, include Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA service centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.

Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Northern Plains Drought Worsens, USDA Responds with Expanded Emergency Federal Program Measures on Conservation Reserve Program Acres

As conditions deteriorate and drought expands across much of the Northern Plains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering assistance to farmers and ranchers through numerous federal farm program provisions and continues to monitor the situation to ensure all viable program flexibilities are offered to producers.  Today, USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) acting State Executive Director in South Dakota, acting SED Jamie White, announced that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has authorized emergency haying on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands beginning July 16 through Aug. 30, 2017 for counties in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota designated as D2 or greater on the U.S. Drought Monitor.  Similar to the authorization for Emergency Grazing announced last month, this authorization includes any county with any part of its border located within 150 miles of a county eligible for emergency haying of CRP based on the U.S. drought monitor.

Increased demand for hay has further depleted already low levels of hay stock.  As of May 1, 2017, Montana and North Dakota reported the lowest hay stock since 2013 and since 2014 in South Dakota.

“We are offering any and all USDA program options that will provide farmers and ranchers relief from the devastating impacts of prolonged drought,” said acting SED White.

Landowners interested in emergency haying of CRP acres should contact their local FSA office and meet with their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff to obtain a modified conservation plan to include emergency haying. Not all CRP practices qualify for emergency haying. July 15 marks the end of the Primary Nesting Season in Montana. Due to the severe drought conditions, authorization for emergency haying may begin July 16 in North Dakota and South Dakota. Individual conservation plans will take into consideration wildlife needs.

Eligible CRP participants can hay their acreage for their own use or may grant another producer use of CRP land for haying purposes.  There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres hayed under this emergency authority.

According to acting SED White, this emergency CRP haying authorization is an added resource to an extensive portfolio of drought assistance programs and emergency provisions offered by USDA agencies and currently available to eligible producers having a qualifying drought loss or related need.

Emergency CRP Grazing – In June, Secretary Perdue authorized emergency grazing of CRP acres during the primary nesting season in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota in counties indicated as D2 or greater on the U.S. Drought Monitor.  This authorization was further expanded to include any county with any part of its border located within 150 miles of a county designated as level “D2 Drought – Severe” or higher according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Grazing is authorized through Sept. 30, 2017 unless conditions improve.  In South Dakota, 977,553 acres are currently enrolled under CRP.
FSA Farm Loan Livestock Physical Control Requirement Flexibility – USDA will authorize up to a 12 month exemption to the FSA farm loan requirement that borrowers maintain physical control of livestock during the term of the loan. This exemption will allow livestock producers the option of sending livestock to feedlots, drylots or otherwise relocate livestock to locations where feed, forage and water needs can be met.  FSA has 4870 direct loans totaling 408 million dollars in South Dakota.
Emergency Loan Program – Available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Secretarial Disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses.

These and a number of other disaster assistance programs are available to farmers and ranchers. For more information on disaster assistance programs and loans visit www.fsa.usda.gov/disasteror contact your local FSA Office. To find your local FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Selective Culling and Early Weaning in Drought

From the Cow Sense Chronicle by Rachel Endecott – Beef Cattle Specialist

While forage and pasture conditions are in good shape on the western side of our state, the eastern half is suffering from a worsening drought. Reducing forage demand is an important part of a drought plan and selective culling and early weaning are two strategies that can achieve that goal.

The first level of selective culling is to remove cows with obvious production issues, such as age, bad teeth, feet, or udders, as well as open cows or cows with poor quality calves. The second level of culling is where things get more difficult. There are a couple of approaches to consider, and I suspect most producers would use a combination of them. The first approach is to identify cattle with the most value per unit of forage consumed. These may be young cows and heifers that are products of the most advanced gene cs in your herd. Retaining the young nucleus of the cowherd is important for future gene c improvement, so marketing older cows, some of whom may still be productive, may be the best option to retain a future genetic base.

On the other hand, young cows and heifers have higher nutrient requirements compared to mature cows and are more likely to not breed back. Additionally, young cows and heifers often command a higher premium, so a second approach may be to identify and retain cows who are done growing and will tend to breed back easier in tougher conditions while raising heavier calves.

Early weaning can reduce forage demand in a couple of ways. Lactating cows experience dramatically increased nutrient requirements compared to dry cows. Energy requirements decrease over 20% and protein requirements decrease over 30% as cows move from late lactation to mid-gestation. This decreases the forage intake of the cow, as well as removing the forage demand the calf had been placing on the pasture. One rule of thumb indicates that for every day calves are early weaned compared to normal, about 0.6 grazing days worth of forage are saved. This rule was calculated using a 1300-lb cow who weans a 600-lb calf at 7 months of age. Positive impacts from early weaning are generally observed for cow body condition and reproduction as well. Because of the decrease in nutrient requirements for lactation, more nutrients are available for the cow to partition to body weight gain. Reproductive responses and their timing depend on the timing of early weaning. If the breeding season is already over, cow condition improvements may have an impact on breed back the following year if cows go into winter and calving in better body condition. If early weaning happens before the breeding season (calves around 80 days of age), reproductive performance can be positively impacted for the current year.

Hard decisions will have to be made if the dry conditions persist. In the meantime, pray for rain!

USDA Authorizes Additional Flexibilities for Producers in Northern Great Plains

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2017 – On June 23 Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres during the primary nesting season in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana in the counties meeting D2 or greater, as indicated by the US Drought Monitor. Since that time the drought has continued to deepen and the forecast is for hot, dry weather in the upcoming week in the northern plains.  As such, the Secretary is authorizing emergency grazing of CRP for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of a county approved for emergency grazing of CRP.

In addition, for any county in which any part of its border lies within 150 miles of any county approved for emergency grazing of CRP, USDA will allow CRP contract holders who hay their acreage according to their mid-management conservation plan to donate their hay to livestock producers. CRP contract holders still have the ability to sell their hay with a 25-percent reduction in their annual rental payment as they’ve been fully authorized to do in the past.

Emergency haying is not authorized at this time. The Secretary will continue to monitor conditions and will consider expanding emergency authority if conditions worsen.

Eligible CRP participants can use the acreage for grazing their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage. There will be no CRP annual rental payment reductions assessed for acres grazed.

A map displaying counties approved for CRP emergency grazing and the donation of hay under mid-contract management authority will be available at:


To take advantage of the emergency grazing provisions, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.  To find your local USDA Service Center visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Tester Announces Assistance for Montana Counties Affected by Drought

Senator Secures Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers in Six Montana Counties


(U.S. Senate)– U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced that farmers and ranchers in six Montana counties would have access to drought assistance through U.S. Department of Agriculture disaster relief programs.


“Northeast Montana has been hammered by drought and I’m pleased this critical farm-saving relief is available to those who need it the most,” Tester said.  “I encourage all eligible Montana producers to contact their local FSA offices and apply for assistance.”


Farmers and ranchers affected by the drought are eligible to receive payments through the USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program.  Payments are determined by the intensity and length of the drought for the impacted areas.


The Livestock Forage Disaster Program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.  Assistance is available for producers in Garfield, McCone, Daniels, Sheridan, Valley, and Roosevelt Counties.


Tester, the Senate’s only farmer, has held several farm bill listening sessions across the state.  Tester will be advocating for Montana priorities in the next farm bill, which comes up for reauthorization in 2018.


Last week, Tester sent a letter to USDA urging them to assist eastern Montana ranchers during this drought.

Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline Source for Producers Short on Hay

With severe and extreme drought expanding throughout the state this growing season, some cuttings of hay and pasture haven’t been as productive as years past. The Montana Department of Agriculture’s Hay Hotline is available to producers as an online tool to connect buyers and sellers of hay and pasture.

“We started the Hay Hotline during the droughts that impacted the state in nineties. Ever since it went online, it has been a popular and useful tool for producers when they are in need or looking to sell. Even in a good year parts of our state can be dry or unproductive and the hotline is an easy tool to find the resources needed,” said Director Ron de Yong.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions cover nearly three-fourths of the state. With the relatively mild winter and low snow pack, many areas reported that grass and grazing pasture was not in good shape. The most recent crop progress report by National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) rated pasture and rangeland as 26 percent either poor or very poor, 42 percent as fair, 28 percent as good, and only 4 percent as excellent. The 5-year average for pasture and rangeland in Montana is 19 percent poor or very poor, 24 percent fair, 38 percent good, and 19 percent excellent.

“We didn’t get off to a great start this year and it’s really showed up in the dryland grass and summer rangeland. Most people have gotten their first cut of hay done but they are worried about getting a second cut this year,” explained de Yong.

The latest NASS report also showed that 91 percent of the first alfalfa hay and 88 percent of other hay cutting was complete, “that is about 20 percent ahead of our typical five-year average,” according to de Yong. “If we continue to get some moisture, maybe we can get another cutting or two to carry producers through the winter.”

The department maintains the Hay Hotline as a service to the agricultural industry, making it available with the expectation that all buyers and sellers will treat each other in an equitable and lawful manner. Visit the online tool at agr.mt.gov/agr/Producer/HayHotline/.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the department, visit agr.mt.gov.

Livestock Forage Disaster Program Triggered in 15 Montana Counties

(BOZEMAN) – Montana Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Bruce Nelson announced on Tuesday, July 14, that the 2015 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) triggered eligibility in 15 Montana counties based on the U.S. Drought Monitor report released on July 9, 2015.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought or fire on federally managed land. Eligible producers must own or lease grazing land physically located in a county affected by a qualifying drought during the normal grazing period for the county.

The following counties met the extreme drought (D3) criteria; qualifying producers with land in these counties will be eligible for three monthly payments: Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Mineral, Missoula, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sanders and Silver Bow.

“Montana livestock producers who own or lease grazing land or pastureland physically located in these 15 counties should contact their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to begin the enrollment process,” said Nelson. “This is an important program for livestock producers affected by the drought. LFP provided almost $60 million in disaster relief to more than 4,100 Montana livestock producers for the 2012 and 2013 crop years.”

Producers must complete an application and provide supporting documentation for 2015 losses by Jan. 30, 2016.

For more information, contact your local FSA office and visit Montana FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov/mt.

Drought Moves East, Ranchers Retaining Heifers | June 27 Montana Markets

Drought Monitor Update June 23

montana drought monitor june 23 2015Little precipitation fell from the Rockies westward to the Pacific Coast last week. Overall, there was little change in conditions except along the northern tier of states from Montana westward through Washington and Oregon. Continued dryness and exceptionally hot weather kept dryness and drought increasing most significantly across eastern Washington, central and northern Idaho, and western Montana. These areas recorded generally 6 to 12 inches less precipitation than normal in the last 6 months, and less than half of normal amounts in the last 60 days.

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

National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary – Week Ending June 27, 2015

Receipts This Week: 254,800 Total – 130,100 (Auctions); 65,500 (Direct); 59,200 (Video/Internet)

Compared to last week: yearling feeder cattle sold mostly steady with spots 2.00 higher to 2.00 lower.  Steer and heifer calves traded steady to 5.00 lower throughout auctions in the Midwest and the Southeast.

The Northern Livestock Video’s Early Summer Special featured over 40,000 head of some of the fanciest cattle that walk the outdoors on Monday and Tuesday.  Many high-country ranchers are adding value by preserving their cattle’s all-natural or NHTC status with near 1300 head of value added steer calves weighing between 500-550 lbs averaging 519 lbs sold with a weighted average price of 307.03 for November delivery. In addition, three loads of value added current delivery steers averaging 825 lbs sold for 243.00. It was also noted that Montana and Wyoming ranchers are aggressively rebuilding their herds with only 26 percent of sales being heifers. Strings of yearlings will soon be moving off double-stocked pastures in the major grazing regions and the dog days of summer will soon be upon us right as consumer beef demand usually suffers its post July 4th hangover.

Last Friday’s Cattle on Feed report was viewed as neutral to slightly bullish as placements were down near 10 percent compared to year ago levels. Feedlots in most cases continue to face stiff competition from farmer/feeders with plenty of corn on hand, backgrounders and grass operations.

  • Auction Receipts: 130,100; Last Week: 118,900; Last Year: 151,000
    • Montana Not enough feeder cattle sales to report
    • Northern Livestock Video: 40,400. 48 pct over 600 lbs. 26 pct heifers.

Read more from the USDA’s June 27 National Feeder & Stocker Cattle Summary.

Weekly Montana Hay Report – June 27, 2015

Compared to last week: Trade activity is slow on light demand. Scattered showers across the region are adding to difficulty in 1st cutting production. Improved demand on Dairy quality and export hay. Light demand on cow hay due to Moderate to Heavy supply in the country. This week the US drought monitor again increased the land area in abnormally dry and moderate drought status. Most of this land is in the northwest and southwest corners of the state, where the western drought has inched its way east.

  • Alfalfa:
    • Good: Large squares, 140.00; Round bales, 120.00
    • Fair: Large squares, 90.00-130.00
  • Grass:
    • Premium: Small squares, 180.00
    • Good: Large squares, 120.00
    • Fair: Round bales, 110.00

Read more from the USDA’s June 27 Weekly Montana Hay Report.

Livestock Producers Need Stocking Rate Reduction Plan

moving cattle montana pastureLivestock producers should have a drought management plan in place prior to pasture turnout in case drought persists into the growing season this year, North Dakota State University Extension Service livestock and rangeland specialists say.

Producers need to have a good idea how to assess available forage, feed and water supplies to determine if they need to reduce their stocking rates or modify grazing plans before they turn their cattle out onto pasture this spring, according to beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen. The stocking rate is the number of specific kinds of animals grazing a unit of land for a specified time.

Developing a plan early is important because 80 percent of the grass growth on rangeland is dictated by May and June precipitation. Drought conditions during that time will reduce the amount of grass available on pasture and rangeland for the duration of the grazing season, rangeland management specialist Kevin Sedivec says.

If producers don’t reduce the stocking rate to compensate for the loss of grass, overgrazing can result. Overgrazing affects the entire rangeland plant community, leading to a loss of plant species diversity and biomass, soil erosion, weed growth and a reduction in the soil’s ability to hold water, livestock environmental stewardship specialist Miranda Meehan explains. Drought conditions also can lead to increased risk of toxicity from selenium and nitrates in plants.

“It takes a lot longer for the entire ecosystem (plants, soils, water, etc.) to recover if you don’t prepare and take active steps to change management in response to drought,” she says.

She advises producers to use the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor to keep track of the conditions.

“Selective culling is a quick way to reduce the stocking rate,” Sedivec says.

It also could be profitable because cattle prices are high.

“It’s a seller’s market right now,” he notes.

Culling targets include cows that are old, have a poor disposition or physical structure, or had a difficult time giving birth this spring and have a low chance of rebreeding.

“The importance of records is magnified in times when tough culling decisions need to be made,” Dahlen says. “Good calving and production records can help producers pinpoint cows that could be culled.”

Locating sources of and feeding alternative feeds is another way to reduce the risk of overgrazing.

In cases when surplus wet distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, are available as a result of dryer shutdown or reduced railcar availability, producers may have the opportunity to purchase those grains in early to midsummer at a relatively low cost, Dahlen says. The drawback is that the distillers grains are a wet product, but producers can use storage methods to preserve the nutrient quality until the feed is needed.

Producers also should evaluate hay and stockpiled forage remaining from last year that could be used to delay pasture turnout this year or supplement pasture grass later in the grazing season, Meehan says.

Other options the specialists suggest producers consider if warranted include weaning calves early, providing cattle with creep feed or feed supplements, and feeding cattle in drylots. Weaning early eliminates the cows’ energy demand for milk production, which may result in reduced intake of pasture grasses and improvements in body condition once the calves are removed, Dahlen says.

For more information on dealing with drought, contact the local county Extension office or visit NDSU Extension’s “Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management IV.”

–NDSU Extension Service