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

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

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

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

Drought Reshaping Cattle Feeding and Inventories

9Extensive and prolonged drought throughout much of the country is spurring a change in the feeding and inventory map for U.S. cattle herds. For the first time, Nebraska surpassed Texas in the number of cattle on feed and the trend continues as the finishing sector of the business continues moving closer to the feed source. Harvest Public media has a great story on the subject and insight to what has spurred the change. (Click here to listen to the story)

Here’s an excerpt from the story, Drought Re-shaping the Cattle Map, that describes more about cattle following the feed.

Many of those cattle have moved to Midwestern feedlots. This year, for the first time, Nebraska passed Texas as the top cattle-feeding state in the country. That is, Nebraska houses the most cattle in feedlots, which are generally the final step before they head to the slaughterhouse.

The main reason is a difference in feed prices. Feed costs are up in Texas, stoked by drought. But they’re relatively low in the Midwest, thanks to a byproduct of the region’s large ethanol industry — distillers’ grains.

Distillers’ grains are the leftovers of corn ethanol production. Nebraska is second in the country in ethanol production, behind Iowa. When the starch is removed from the corn kernel to be fermented into fuel, the protein-rich fiber is left behind. But it can be used as an inexpensive ingredient in livestock feed.

Terry Van Housen takes a handful of feed from the bunk at his feedlot. Lower feed costs give Nebraska an advantage in the cattle-feeding industry. (Photo by Grant Gerlock)
Cattle feeder Terry Van Housen calls Nebraska the “garden spot for raising cattle.” At his feedlot near the small town of Stromsburg, 8,000 animals line up along two miles of concrete bunks to pile on the pounds. He has replaced 30 percent of his regular feed ration with distillers’ grains, the corn ethanol byproduct.

Van Housen gets the moist, yellow, sweet-smelling stuff fresh from an ethanol plant just 18 miles away. He says the cheap source of feed gives Midwestern feeders an edge over southern competitors.

“So that’s a big deal,” Van Housen says. “A lot of this stuff, if you fed in Texas, it would have to come from here.” And as Van Housen says, it’s cheaper to haul the cattle to the feed than haul the feed to the cattle.

Click here to read more of the story from Quest Science.

How have drought and changing market conditions from across the country affected your cattle operation? Has your marketing plan changed in response to these adjustments?

Let us know what you think! Join in the comments section below, chime in on Facebook and Twitter, or send us your perspective via email to

United States Department of Agriculture

2014 Farm Bill provides Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP)

United States Department of AgricultureThe Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) makes the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) a permanent program and provides retroactive authority to cover eligible losses back to October 1, 2011.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses for covered livestock on land that is native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or is planted specifically for grazing. The grazing losses must be due to a qualifying drought condition during the normal grazing period for the county.

LFP also provides compensation to eligible livestock producers that have suffered grazing losses on rangeland managed by a Federal agency if the eligible livestock producer is prohibited by the Federal agency from grazing the normal permitted livestock on the managed rangeland due to a qualifying fire. The grazing losses must have occurred on or after October 1, 2011. LFP is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Livestock producers that own or lease grazing land or pastureland physically located in a county rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as severe drought (D2), extreme drought (D3), or exceptional drought (D4) may be eligible for LFP.

  • Producers are eligible to receive assistance in an amount equal to one monthly payment if any area of the county had a severe drought rating for at least eight consecutive weeks during the normal grazing period.
  • Producers are eligible to receive assistance in an amount equal to three monthly payments if any area of the county had an extreme drought rating at any time during the normal grazing period.
  • Producers are eligible to receive assistance in an amount equal to four monthly payments if any area of the county had an extreme drought rating for at least four weeks during the normal grazing period or if any area of the county had an exceptional drought rating at any time during the grazing season.
  • Producers are eligible to receive assistance in an amount equal to five monthly payments if any area of the county had an exceptional drought rating for at least four weeks during the normal grazing period.

A map of eligible counties for LFP drought is available at

Rates & Payments

Payment rates vary by species and year, and they also vary by cause of loss.

FSA will calculate LFP payments for an eligible livestock producer for grazing losses due to qualifying drought equal to 1, 3, 4 or 5 times the LFP monthly payment rate. Eligible livestock producers in qualifying counties will receive 60 percent of the monthly payment rate as calculated by the FSA.

Eligible livestock producers who sold or otherwise disposed of livestock because of drought conditions in one or both of the two previous production years immediately preceding the current production year will receive 80 percent of the monthly payment rate.

Eligible livestock producers who suffered losses because of a qualifying fire on Federally managed rangeland for which the producer is prohibited from grazing the normally permitted livestock will receive 50 percent of the monthly payment rate.

The following is a hypothetical payment calculation for an eligible rancher who owns and grazed 400 mature cows and 100 yearlings in a county with an exceptional drought rating for one week during each of the 2012 and 2013 summer grazing seasons.

Year Animals Type Rate % Payment Subtotal Months Total
2012 400 Cows $51.81 60% $12,434.40 4 $49,737.60
2012 100 Yearlings $38.86 60% $2,331.60 4 $9,326.40
2013 400 Cows $57.27 60% $13,744.80 4 $54,979.20
2013 100 Yearlings $42.96 60% $2,577.60 4 $10,310.40
Total $124,353.60

Producers are limited to $125,000 in payments per producer per year.  Also, producers are ineligible if their individual or entity’s average Adjusted Gross Income exceeds $900,000.

For complete LFP eligibility requirements, producers are encouraged to visit their county Farm Service Agency office. Additional risk management tools and programs are available through the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Visit the RMA website ( to find many useful tools, including premium calculators, extensive program descriptions, and a variety of educational materials.

Federal crop insurance program policies are sold and serviced by private crop insurance companies.  Custom Ag Solutions works with RMA and other partner organizations to educate Montana producers about risk management and Federal crop insurance programs.  To receive information by mail, call CAS at 877-227-8094.  USDA, RMA, and CAS are equal opportunity providers.