MSU to host annual Celebrate Agriculture event Nov. 3-4

The Montana State University College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station will host its 18th annual Celebrate Agriculture event, set for Nov. 3-4 on the MSU campus. The event is held in honor of the state and university’s joint agricultural legacy and in celebration of current students, agriculture alumni, and MSU’s extended agricultural community across Montana.

MSU Vice President of Agriculture Charles Boyer said the event is a longstanding tradition at the university.

“Each year, we look forward to the weekend in November that’s dedicated to celebrating our university’s agricultural roots alongside a large portion of Montana’s agricultural community,” Boyer said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to see current students engage with alumni, producers and major stakeholders across the state. MSU agriculture wouldn’t be what it is today without the diverse agencies, alumni, businesses, and generations of families that support our programs and this is the weekend we get to honor our joint accomplishments.”

The two-day event will feature the MSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics’ annual Outlook Seminar, “Managing Land Resources in the Context of Variable Weather,” scheduled from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, in the MSU Procrastinator Theater. Several MSU agricultural economics faculty will present short talks on topics including climate and drought, peas and lentils, public lands and land valuations and rental rates, in addition to updates on Farm Bill 2018. Representatives from Triangle Communications, the Montana Cooperative Development Center and the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center will speak about current issues facing rural economies. Paul Jakus, Utah State University professor, will deliver the keynote M.L. Wilson Lecture, “Can States Afford a Federal Land Transfer?”

Registration for the outlook conference is $25 and can be found online at

Following the conference, the MSU Collegiate Stockgrowers will host a reception beginning at 4 the atrium of the Animal Biosciences Building.

On Saturday, Nov. 4, a free Harvest Brunch will be held from 10 -11:30 a.m., in the Shroyer Gym, where the college’s annual Outstanding Agricultural Leader and 2017 Homecoming awardees will be recognized. MSU President Waded Cruzado and Boyer will deliver remarks. At noon, Bobcat Football will play Kennesaw State University for the Ag Appreciation game at Bobcat Stadium.

Preceding the two-day event, the College of Agriculture Ambassadors will host an Ag Career Social at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in the atrium of the Animal Bioscience Building. The COA Ambassadors is a student-led advocacy group for the College of Agriculture and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. Current agricultural students are encouraged to attend for a casual professional networking event with prospective agribusiness employers representing finance, sales, production, marketing and public agencies.

A full schedule of events for the Celebrate Agriculture weekend can be found at

Contact: Susan Fraser,, 406-994-3681

MSU College of Ag seeks nominations for outstanding agricultural leader

The Montana State University College of Agriculture is seeking nominations for its outstanding agricultural leader award to honor during its 2017 Celebrate Agriculture event, set for Nov. 3-4 on the MSU campus.

The annual award honors those who have exhibited abundant leadership in Montana public service as an agricultural producer, industry advocate, agribusiness leader or as a friend of agriculture. The award is part of the college’s annual Celebrate Agriculture event, and awardees will be celebrated during the college’s Harvest Breakfast on Saturday, Nov. 4.

The award represents the important relationship between the land-grant mission and the agricultural community, according to MSU Vice President of Agriculture Charles Boyer.

“This award has a long and special history in the College of Agriculture, because it highlights the good work done by people who represent agricultural leadership in Montana,” Boyer said. “It’s also important for our students to see examples of the impact that agriculture, when combined with dedicated public service, can have.”

Successful award applicants will be: well respected in their agricultural community; actively involved in the agriculture industry with accomplishments that impact many; an industry leader or an upcoming, active and innovative producer; or have a lifetime of achievement in agriculture. Current MSU, state or federal employees will not be considered, except in the friend of agriculture category. Past MSU, state or federal employees need to have been retired for a minimum of two years and have shown service above and beyond their job requirements to be considered. Nominees who are not selected this year will be reconsidered the following year, but applications should be updated with current information.

In 2016, Jim Hagenbarth of Hagenbarth Livestock in Dillon won the award.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, Aug. 29, and forms should be received at 202 Linfield Hall, MSU, Bozeman, MT, 59717, by that date. Nomination forms may be downloaded at:

Celebrate Agriculture is an opportunity to celebrate the heritage of Montana agriculture and the impact that the land-grant tradition has on communities across the state of Montana, the nation and the world. The event includes a dinner hosting the college’s student scholarship award winners, a public breakfast and current agricultural-related research highlights. All events are free and open to the public. The MSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics will also host an outlook conference on Friday, Nov. 3. Details for the event are forthcoming.

Time to Survey for Alfalfa Weevil

Written by Kevin Wanner and Emily Glunk

Alfalfa weevil is the key insect pest of alfalfa, causing variable levels of economic damage across Montana each growing season. After mating the female weevils lay their eggs in alfalfa stems, and newly emerged larvae crawl up to the developing terminal buds where they chew small “pin” holes in the leaves. The larvae develop through four instar stages (Figure 1); the larger 3rd and 4th instar larvae feed openly on unfurled leaves and cause the largest economic loss. Severe feeding damage will give the field a “frosted” appearance. Mature larvae develop into the next generation of adults that leave the alfalfa field to find overwintering sites. In Montana there is one generation per year. The majority of crop damage occurs prior to the first cutting as a result of feeding by larger larvae. Management decisions are based on surveying the number of weevils to determine if their population will exceed the economic threshold, the point that warrants action to be taken.

Alfalfa weevil sampling should begin in the spring when the stand is about 8 to 10 inches tall. Weevil populations can be estimated using sweep nets (net with a 15 inch diameter, can be purchased online) or by shaking alfalfa plants in a bucket. An average of 20 alfalfa weevil larvae per sweep meets the economic threshold for action. Ten sweeps are taken at each of 3-5 five sites in a field (30-50 sweeps per field) and the total number of weevil larvae counted to determine the average per sweep. An alternative is to cut 10 stems from each of 3-5 different sites in a field (30-50 stems per field) and shake the stems in a bucket to collect the larvae. An average of 1.5 – 2.0 larvae per stem meets the economic threshold for action. To get an accurate average more samples are required for larger fields. A minimum of three samples are recommended for fields up to 20 acres, four samples for fields up to 30 acres and five samples for larger fields. Based on historical weather data, sampling for alfalfa weevil in Montana typically begins between May 24 and June 16, depending on the location and the seasonal weather.

Typical dates that alfalfa weevil monitoring begins in Montana:

Sidney – May 24.    Glasgow – May 29.   Lewistown – June 13.   Kalispell – June 7.   Dillon – June 10.   Bozeman – June 8.   Red Lodge June 16.

When the economic threshold has been met (more than an average of 20 larvae per sweep or 1.5-2.0 larvae per stem) action is required to preserve yield. If stand growth is sufficient early harvesting is the most effective and economic action. If early harvesting is not an option then an insecticide can be used to reduce weevil populations below economically damaging levels. Additional management information including insecticide options is listed online in the High plains IPM guide:

Additional video resources:

MSU alum Norm Asbjornson donates $2 million to MSU’s Montana Plant Sciences Chair

BOZEMAN – Montana State University and the MSU Alumni Foundation announced today that longtime university supporter Norm Asbjornson has given $2 million in support of the Montana Plant Sciences Chair, the first endowed chair in the MSU College of Agriculture. The chair will formally be named the Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair in honor of Asbjornson’s hometown of Winifred, where he grew up during the Depression.

Asbjornson’s gift brings the university to within $200,000 of its $5 million goal for the endowment. The gift also marks the beginning of the fourth year of the endowment’s five-year fundraising plan. MSU plans to meet the remaining $200,000 through private development, according to Kevin Brown, senior director of development with the MSU Alumni Foundation.

The Montana Plant Sciences Chair was conceived five years ago, when theMontana Grains Foundation and dozens of other Montana farmers rallied together to invest $1 million from their own pockets for grains-focused research at MSU. In the following two years, an additional $1.8 million was raised from Montana producers and agribusiness.

“The investment from Montana producers in this chair has been remarkable,” said Charles Boyer, MSU vice president of agriculture.

Farmers across the state continue to battle pests like the wheat stem sawfly and other abiotic stressors that damage wheat yields and threaten a sustainable agricultural economy, and Montana wheat producers must be vigilant in keeping their crops healthy and viable, Boyer added.

MSU – the state’s oldest and largest land-grant institution – joined the grassroots call to bring a world-renowned scientist to the university who would help Montana grain growers remain competitive and sustainable through research tailored specifically for Montana’s current and future challenges in production agriculture. Together, Montana’s agricultural community and MSU challenged themselves to raise $5 million dollars in five years to bring a permanent endowed plant science chair to MSU.

The chair has since grown into a vision for expanding statewide support for Montana’s grain growers with the help of MSU faculty and the Montana Grains Foundation, Montana Wheat and Barley Committee, Montana Grain Growers Association and a multitude of agribusinesses and grain producers.

Asbjornson, a 1960 mechanical engineering graduate from the MSU College of Engineering, said the future of food is in the hands of farmers. With that, he added, comes responsibility.

“We have a responsibility to support and invest in programs that can have enormous economic (impact) for Montana’s agricultural economy,” he said. “MSU understands how integral producers are to applied research for the state, and I’m excited to join the Montana agricultural community in support of this endowment.”

Asbjornson added that climatic, water, disease and pest threats will continue to stress Montana’s top crop, and that funds must be invested in technological research that produces top-quality wheat genetics for Montana growers.

Boyer said the endowment will allow the current Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair, Hikmet Budak, MSU professor of plant sciences and plant pathology, to remain competitive in an integrative research program for Montana grains and find ways to strengthen the vitality of Montana wheat. Budak, who works closely with national and international advisory councils comprised of Montana farmers, agribusinesses, non-profit organizations and grower representative groups, said Asbjornson’s recent investment marks an important step for the chair’s future.

“The enormous generosity of Mr. Asbjornson will ultimately transform the ability of Montana grain growers to remain sustainable and profitable, from research provided by the state’s cornerstone land-grant institution, because it is led by and has partnered with Montana producers,” Budak said. “On behalf of MSU and our important partnership with Montana producers and Mr. Asbjornson, we’re honored to name this cooperative chair after the agricultural legacy that Mr. Asbjornson will undoubtedly leave. I’m honored to serve as the first Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair and look forward to meaningful successes alongside all who have given to this program.”

Budak’s lab focuses on innovative wheat genetics and genomics in response to pests and abiotic stress while adding nutrient value to wheat. Most recently, Budak, along with a team of 14 international scientists, successfully sequenced and mapped the genome – or complete genetic code – of durum wheat. Budak`s team is currently working on sequencing DNA and RNA code of a Montana winter wheat cultivar, Yellowstone, with an international consortium. Budak said the data is the first step to understanding which genes are present in the local wheat genome. Harnessing this knowledge to produce higher-quality Montana durum and bread wheat lines will also increase resistance to pests, environmental stress and disease, he added.

Research advancements have major implications for Montana wheat farmers, according to Lola Raska, executive vice-president of Montana Grains Foundation (MGF). Raska said the endowment is a lifetime commitment to Montana grain producers.

“MGF has worked hard over the last four years to take a vision to a reality,” Raska said. “This has been a collaborative effort by our farmers, their organizations and supporting businesses, and it’s inspiring we’re so close to full endowment, thanks to Mr. Asbjornson’s investment and confidence in Montana agriculture.”

Dale Schuler, MGF president, said the endowment’s success was always meant to benefit the industry by way of being anchored to Montana farmers.

“For our donors, this project has been about investing in Montana agriculture,” said Schuler. “We know that the collaborative nature of the endowment is an advantage for Montana farmers, and MSU has proven adept at connecting research to our at-large society.”

Gary Broyles, owner of Broyles Farms, Inc. in Rapelje, said he believes the chair’s research impact will transfer to other areas of food production.

“What’s wonderful about a program like this is that it has every potential to transcend beyond grains research,” Broyles said. “When you have the building blocks at the genome-sequencing level, it provides a pathway to other areas like nutrition and producing protein for a global food supply, so that the foundational programs in agriculture are in tandem with another.”

Asbjornson, who grew up in a one-room, 800-square-foot house, is the founder and CEO of AAON, a NASDAQ-traded heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) manufacturer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with annual revenues of $400 million and more than 1,800 employees. In 2004, he received an honorary doctorate in engineering from MSU and the Montana Board of Regents.

Asbjornson has funded five endowments with the MSU Alumni Foundation, four of which are scholarship endowments and one that focuses on rural education initiatives through the Winifred Asbjornson Rural Education Initiatives Fund.

In addition to Asbjornson, names of the supporters of the Winifred Asbjornson Plant Sciences Chair can be found at

Contact: Kevin Brown, senior development director, MSU Alumni Foundation, or (406) 994-4815

MSGA member, Cooper Hereford Ranch, recognized as one of Montana’s top family-owned businesses

In Montana agriculture few names are as readily recognized as the Cooper Hereford Ranch, a pioneer in the production of purebred Hereford cattle. Over a hundred years in the making, the business was recognized as one of Montana’s top family-owned businesses in the Old Business Category of the 2016 Montana Family Business Awards presented by the Montana State University’s Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. State Farm Insurance sponsors the awards and Montana Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual awards luncheon in Bozeman.

The Cooper Ranch, located near Willow Creek, Montana, is currently passing into the hands of a fourth generation, having been first established in 1914 as a homestead called the Silver Brook Farm by their great grandfather, Frank Oscar Cooper. Establishing and holding onto his 480 acre enterprise was no easy matter. Frank raised farm animals and harvested a large garden before losing the land during the Great Depression. He was able to repurchase the farm, after getting a Land Bank loan for $200. In 1946, Frank’s son Jack bought the land and continued to run a general farming operation for several years. The ranch grew to its current 4,500 acres.

Jack and his wife, Phyllis, launched the legacy of the family business as one of the first producers of the Hereford Line One foundation stock in 1947. Following the recommendation of his brother-in-law Dr. Ray Woodard, a Line One Project Leader at the Experiment Station in Miles City, Montana, Jack bought his first foundation stock – 15 Line One females – from the U.S. Range Livestock Experiment Station.
By the time the Montana Beef Performance Association was formed in 1957, with Jack as a charter member, he had ten years of experience with Line One Herefords and performance testing. Jack later joined the American Hereford Association’s “Total Performance Records” program in 1960.

In 1977, after studying Ag-Production at Montana State University, Jack’s son Mark returned to Willow Creek to assist with the ranching and farming operations. He and his wife, Cristy, managed the ranch where they also raised four daughters. Two of those daughters, Kelsy and Katie, and son-in-law Dave Hanson, are also involved with the ranch operations. They believe that bigger is not always better and have focused their efforts on land improvements rather than acquisitions. The family displays acts of land stewardship through implementing weed and rodent control, water conservation, and innovative farming and ranching practices into their business plan. Land improvements made during the last two years include a large river restoration project along the Jefferson River, maintenance and grading to roads throughout the property, and the planting of numerous tree belts and natural windbreaks along with the design of irrigation systems to properly water both.

The fourth generation has transitioned the business from traditional record keeping to an online data system. They maintain their website in-house and create their annual sale catalog and many advertisements in-house as well.

A big Congratulations to Cooper Hereford Ranch, the award is well deserved!



Report highlights best practices in Montana ‘Beef to School’ partnerships

A team of Montana State University researchers, stakeholders and community partners known as the Montana Beef to School Project has written a case study report to help Montana beef producers, meat processors, schools and communities explore what factors make beef to school programs successful and encourage the use of local beef in every Montana school. The report was released online this week to coincide with National Farm to School Month in October.

‘Farm to school’ efforts are increasing nationwide and, as beef is one of Montana’s top agricultural products, ‘beef to school’ efforts are increasing in Montana, according to Carmen Byker Shanks, assistant professor in the MSU Department of Health and Human Development and principal investigator of the USDA Western SARE-funded Montana Beef to School Project.

Montana has just over one million residents, approximately 2.5 million cattle, thousands of beef producers, approximately 20 state and federally inspected beef processors and about 145,000 students across 821 schools, Byker Shanks noted.

“Beef is a natural component of farm to school efforts in Montana,” she said.

At the same time, schools, processors and ranchers are facing successes and challenges when attempting to make beef to school programs viable, Byker Shanks noted. Between 2015 and 2018, the Montana Beef to School Project is developing an operational framework and toolkit to decrease barriers and increase opportunities for Montana beef to school efforts. The case study report is one output of that work.

“These case studies provide lessons learned for producers, processors and schools when entering beef to school partnerships,” Byker Shanks said. “We want this report to contribute to understanding how to make farm to school generally more feasible in Montana. Farm to school programs are one way to ensure that students are connected with their state’s local agriculture and that meals provided at lunch are high in nutrients for optimum growth and development.”

Joel Schumacher, co-principal investigator of the Montana Beef to School Project and MSU Extension economics specialist, said the case studies are designed to highlight the needs of all key stakeholders in the beef to school process and inform strategies to make it easier to offer local beef to Montana schools. The partnerships represented in the case study span six school districts (Dillon, Hinsdale, Kalispell, Livingston, Somers Lakeside, Whitefish) that include 28 schools and 11,149 students, two producers (Lazy SR Ranch and Muddy Creek Ranch), two processors (Lower Valley Processing and Ranchland Packing) and one integrated producer and processor (Bear Paw Meats).

“Producers and processors seem very open to working with schools and expressed pride in the quality of products and services they could offer,” said Tommy Bass, co-principal investigator of the Montana Beef to School Project and MSU Extension livestock environment associate specialist. “While a variety of local beef supply chain models were documented in the case study, all included community values, trust and economic potential as key to beef to school partnerships.”

The Montana Beef to School Project is a three-year collaborative project between several Montana beef producers and processors, schools and many stakeholders represented in the Montana Beef to School Coalition. It is funded by a $220,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

The case study report was authored by Byker Shanks and Janet Gamble at MSU Food and Health Lab in the College of Education, Health and Human Development’s Department of Health and Human Development, Bass and Schumacher of MSU Extension, Aubree Roth of Montana Farm to School, and Demetrius Fassas and Mallory Stefan of National Center for Appropriate Technology. An additional list of report reviewers and contributors is listed on page two of the case study report.

The report, “Moooooving Forward Together: Strategies for Montana Beef to School,” can be downloaded at

For more information, contact Byker Shanks at

Contact: Carmen Byker Shanks, (406) 994-1952 or

Source: MSU News Service

MSU to honor Jim Hagenbarth as Outstanding Agricultural Leader

BOZEMAN — Jim Hagenbarth of Hagenbarth Livestock in Dillon has been named the 2016 Outstanding Agricultural Leader on behalf of Montana State University’s College of Agriculture and Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. The public is invited to congratulate Hagenbarth at a Montana-made breakfast to be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, in MSU’s South Gym of the Marga Hosaeus Fitness Center during the college’s annual Celebrate Agriculture event scheduled for Nov. 11-12 at MSU.

MSU Vice President of Agriculture Charles Boyer said Hagenbarth is a successful and respected agriculture leader for Montana and a great example for current university agriculture students.

“Jim Hagenbarth represents some of the very best of Montana agriculture: commitment to the stewardship of land, resources and people and an impressive dedication to public service,” Boyer said. “We’re pleased to honor Jim with this award, not only for his family’s successful livestock and ranching business, but because he has worked tirelessly to engage in difficult conversations and processes at local and national levels, to find common ground among diverse voices and agendas. In agriculture, that is not easy.”

The award is given annually to individuals or couples who are engaged and well-respected in the state’s agricultural community. Recipients are those who have impacted many with their accomplishments, have a lifetime of achievement in agriculture, are industry leaders or innovative producers and are actively involved in the agricultural community.

Hagenbarth exhibits outstanding leadership in agricultural and public service to Montana and MSU, according to members of the selection committee. The Montana Stockgrowers Association and the MSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences nominated Hagenbarth for the award. Letters of support for his nomination were received from the United States Department of Agriculture, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Department of Natural Resource Conservation and a host of Montana ranchers.

Nominators said Hagenbarth is well-respected among livestock ranchers, wildlife and fisheries biologists, government agencies, special interest groups and watershed groups. They add that he has been an exemplary, composed leader in contentious and high-stakes natural resource discussions and as a farm and ranch policy advocate for Montana producers. He has also successfully forged private and public partnerships in species management protection and for natural resources at state and national levels.

Perhaps Hagenbarth’s most notable influence, according to support letters, is his work with the Montana citizens working group for the Interagency Bison Management Plan, a cooperative, multi-agency effort that guides the management of bison and brucellosis in and around Yellowstone National Park. His work with this effort led him to testify before the U.S. Congress regarding Montana’s cattle and bison interactions, particularly surrounding the brucellosis disease. Additionally, Hagenbarth has lobbied in Washington, D.C. for the Big Hole Watershed Committee, of which he was a founding member and currently serves as vice president. His dedication to the Upper Snake Sage-Grouse Local Working Group resulted in a 38-page plan drafted between citizen ranchers and state and federal agencies to increase sage-grouse populations in the upper Snake River region of Idaho. He has also been an invited speaker to numerous national conventions, including National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the First National Bison Symposium.

Hagenbarth is a volunteer on the Montana Board of Livestock, National Cattlemen’s Association and the USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research lab in Logan, Utah. He has served as a research advisory council member of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and is active in the Knights of Columbus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Montana Stockgrowers Association and the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

Hagenbarth’s family history in Montana’s sheep and cattle industries dates back to statehood, when Hagenbarth’ s grandfather managed 150,000 sheep and 500,000 cattle on nearly two million acres of range. Hagenbarth’s family still owns and manages the 120 year-old cattle ranch today.

Hagenbarth received a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Notre Dame before returning to work on his family’s ranch.

Hagenbarth and his wife, Laurie, have three adult children: Mark, John and Kate.

The selection committee for the Outstanding Agricultural Leader award is comprised of three Montana agriculture representatives, a College of Agriculture faculty member and an MSU student. MSU’s College of Agriculture has presented Outstanding Agricultural Leader awards since 1999.

Contact: Susan Fraser, 994-3601,

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

REEF Announces winner of scholarship

MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation announces winner of Educational Heritage Scholarship

Amanda Williams has been chosen as the recipient of the $1000 Scholarship. Amanda is from Miles City, Montana where she grew up on the family ranch, 2DO Ranch. She is currently attending Montana State University where she is majoring in Animal Science with a minor in Rangeland Management and Ecology.


Though she is only finishing her second year at MSU, she is already at a junior status. She plans to become a county extension agent after graduation following in the steps of her father, grandfather and grandmother. Amanda believes this will be an excellent career for her because she will be able to work with not only the children of the community but also the adults and producers. Some of her fondest memories have been with members of the community through my jobs and helping people work cattle or working with a group of extension agents.

Another goal for Amanda is to return to the family ranch and try to expand it. She hopes through her coursework at MSU and the many hands on experiences will make her better equipped to help out and expand the ranch. The ranch is one of her favorite places to be and there are few things she enjoys more than working on the ranch or helping someone work cattle.

Amanda is currently serving as the President of the MSU Collegiate Stockgrowers. She is also active in the Range Club, College of Ag Student Council, Collegiate Cattlewomen, Collegiate FFA, Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers, MSU Plant ID team, and the Undergraduate Range Management Exam team. She has been on the Dean’s List twice and the President’s List!

Amanda hopes to continue her education throughout her life, whether that is through college classes, work or life experience. Her education at MSU will be crucial in her career path of extension and expansion of the family ranch. Amanda plans to continue her education for years to come and help others, as well as remain involved in the cattle industry and Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Congratulations to Amanda, MSGA looks forward to seeing your future accomplishments!


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.

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,


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.”