MSU Extension offers farm management workshops

BOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension will offer farm management workshops in five communities, including Lewiston, Ronan, Choteau, Great Falls and Glasgow, from January to March 2018.

MSU Extension will offer farm management workshops in five communities, including Lewiston, Ronan, Choteau, Great Falls and Glasgow, from January to March 2018.

Extension economists George Haynes, Kate Fuller and Joel Schumacher will lead the workshops. Other contributing faculty members will include Anton Bekkerman, Joseph Janzen, Gary Brester and Eric Belasco, agricultural economists; Marsha Goetting, family economist; Mary Burrows, plant pathologist; Kent McVay, cropping systems specialist; and Rachel Endecott, beef cattle specialist.

Workshops are scheduled for two days. Topics will include financial analysis and enterprise budgeting, risk management, marketing of grain and cattle, disaster assistance and tax considerations, agricultural policy issues, estate planning and crop and livestock production.

An optional pre-workshop course, introduction to Quicken, will be offered from noon to 5 p.m. the day before the farm management workshop in all locations. The number of participants is limited to 12 individuals for each of the introduction to Quicken courses.

The 2018 farm management workshop locations and dates are as follows:

Lewistown, Jan. 4-5, Yogo Inn, Snowy Room, 211 NE Main St.

Ronan, Feb. 8-9, Ronan Community Center, 300 3rd Ave.

Choteau, Feb. 13-14, Stage Stop Inn, 1005 Main Ave. N.

Great Falls, Feb. 21-22, Cascade County Extension Office, 3300 3rd Street NE, #9

Glasgow, March 8-9, Cottonwood Inn and Suites, 54250 US Highway 2

Participation in this workshop will satisfy the requirements for Farm Service Agency production and financial management training.

There is no cost for the workshop or pre-workshop, but registration is required.

To register, contact Keri Hayes at 406-994-3511 or khayes@montana.edu, or George Haynes at 406-994-5012 or haynes@montana.edu.

Record Keeping and Culling Strategies

By Megan Van Emon, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are beginning to change, the weather is cooler, and weaning is happening across Montana.  Not only is this a stressful time of year for the calves, but also for producers.  Critical decisions are being made in herds to prepare for the future and the hardest part is making that cull list.  However, a cull list shouldn’t be made without first discussing and analyzing records.

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records is essential to making decisions for your herd.  These records become even more important during the weaning season as calves and cows are marketed.  Examples of records sheets can be found on the MSU Beef Cattle Extension Website at http://animalrangeextension.montana.edu/beef/records.html.  The records available pertain to beef cattle production, grazing, hay, treatment, supplementation, etc.  They are made to fit in a three-ring binder.  Keeping written and/or electronic records can ease the decision-making process.  Maintaining your records in a single location allows for easy access and comparison of your historical records.

No matter how detailed your records are, culling livestock is still a difficult decision.  A few things need to be considered prior to making culling decisions.

1. What are your short-, medium-, and long-term herd production goals?

2. Did your herd meet your production goals for the year (short-term)?

3. Are you progressing towards your medium- and long-term goals?

Writing your goals in your record keeping notebook is an excellent way to assess your herd at the end of each year.  With each year you write your goals, you can compare your goals across years to determine how you are progressing towards your medium- and long-term goals.  Keeping and maintaining accurate records of your herd will aid you in critically assessing your herd each year to determine if your goals were met.

Determining if your goals were met will aid you in determining which animals to cull and which animals to keep.  Some cull decisions are more easily made than others, such as animals with bad feet and legs, a bad udder, are open, have a bad disposition, old, bad teeth, and health issues.  Record this information as it is observed in the herd to easily sort those animals when needed.

If additional culling is needed, the decisions become more difficult.  These additional culling decisions can be made by assessing your herd goals.  A couple of examples to additional culling include genetics or efficiency.  If culling based on genetics, additional information should be assessed.  Your young cows and heifers should be some of the best genetics in your herd, but they require additional inputs for growth and maintenance.  Your older cows have established herd genetics and require little inputs.  If utilizing efficiency to make your additional culling decisions, first efficiency needs to be defined.  Efficiency can be defined in multiple ways, for example feed efficiency (pounds of feed per pound of gain) or pounds of calf weaned per pound of cow.  These are just a few ways of determining additional culling decisions and will need to be assessed based on your herd goals.

Nitrate Toxicity in Beef Cattle

Written by Megan Van Emon, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, Montana State University

Elevated nitrate concentrations can be found in forages that have been grown under stress, such as severe drought conditions.  Nitrate toxicity is caused by animal consuming feeds and water that have elevated levels of nitrate or nitrite.  Care should be taken when feeding cattle cereal grains/hay, corn stalks, orchardgrass, and other feeds known to contain high nitrate levels.

Nitrate is not toxic to animals unless consumed in excessive levels.  When nitrate is consumed in excessive levels, nitrite poisoning can occur.  Normally, forage nitrate is broken down in the rumen to nitrite by microbes, and then to ammonia.  The ammonia is used by rumen microbes for protein.  However, when nitrate is consumed in elevated levels, nitrite accumulates within the rumen faster than it can be converted to ammonia.  The nitrite then enters the small intestine and is absorbed into the bloodstream.  The high levels of nitrite in the bloodstream convert hemoglobin to methemoglobin, which cannot carry oxygen, ultimately limiting the body’s oxygen supply.

Acute nitrite poisoning is caused by animals consuming a large amount of high nitrate forage over a short period of time.  Chronic nitrite poisoning occurs when animals consume small amounts of high nitrate forage over a long period of time.  Chronic nitrate poisoning is only treated by eliminating the consumption of the high nitrate feed or by diluting the high nitrate feed with low nitrate feeds.  Acute nitrite poisoning can occur rapidly after consuming high nitrate feeds, in these severe cases, an immediate intravenous injection of methylene blue by a veterinarian may save the affected animal.  However, due to the rapid onset of acute poisoning, treatment may not be the best option.

Testing forages to ensure safe levels of nitrates (Table 1) is the most effective way to minimize the potential of nitrite poisoning in livestock.

Table 1. Effect of nitrate concentration on livestock (100% DM basis).
NO3 – N (ppm) NO3 (ppm) Comments
<350 <1,500 Generally safe
350-1,130 1,500-5,000 Generally safe for nonpregnant livestock. Potential for early-term abortions or decreased breeding performance. Limit feed to 50% of ration for pregnant animals.
1,130-2,260 5,000-10,000 Limit feed to 25-50% of ration for nonpregnant animals.  DO NOT FEED TO PREGNANT ANIMALS.
>2,260 >10,000 DO NOT FEED.
Hibbard et al., 1998
0.1% NO3-N = 0.44% NO3 (0.1 x 4.4)
0.44% NO3 = 0.1% NO3-N (0.44 x 0.23)
0.1% = 1000 ppm

 

Diluting high nitrate feeds with low nitrate feeds can reduce the potential for nitrite poisoning by using the following equation (Glunk et al., 2015; MT200205AG):

WL = (WH)*(%H – %B) / (%B – %L)

WL = weight of low nitrate hay required

WH = weight of high nitrate hay

%H = nitrate concentration of high nitrate hay

%B = nitrate concentration needed in final blend

%L = nitrate concentration of low nitrate hay

 

For nitrate testing, contact your local extension agent.  You can also find additional information in the MontGuide, “Nitrate Toxicity of Montana Forages.”

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: http://wiki.bugwood.org/HPIPM:Alfalfa_Weevil

Additional video resources:

Tips When Considering Cull Cows

Written by Dr. Megan Van Emon, MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

One area of the beef cattle market that is easily overlooked is the cull cow market. Most cows are culled because they do not re-breed or produce a small calf at weaning. It is important to remember that cull cows have potential to provide an additional source of income for the ranch. Here are a few tips to consider when culling your cows.

  1.  Cull Cow Market. The cull cow market varies throughout the year, with the lowest prices occurring between September and December. This occurs as many producers are weaning during this time period and flooding the market with cull cows. If it is economically viable, selling cull cows early in the summer or hold them over winter and selling in the early spring may improve cull cow prices.
  2. Feeding Cull Cows. Feeding cull cows after weaning can improve body weight, body condition, and quality grade. Determining feed costs and cost of gain for cull cows will determine if it is economically viable to keep cull cows to receive a better market price in the early spring.
    1.  Feed Sources. Cows should be adapted to a high energy diet over a 2 to 3-week period. Additional feedstuffs can be used, such as crop residues and additional pasture space.
    2. Length of Feeding. Type of diet has a significant impact on fat color of beef cattle. A high forage diet leads to yellow fat, which is not as desirable as white fat. Some research suggests that feeding a high concentrate diet for a little as 56 days can change yellow fat to white. Feeding thin cows to a moderate condition, will take time, and determining average daily gain will aid in determining how long it will take a body condition score 3 cow to move up to a body condition score 5.
  3. Second Pregnancy Check. When retaining cull cows after weaning, it may be beneficial to conduct a second pregnancy check. It is not uncommon for “open” cull cows to be carrying a calf, which can be retained to calve with the herd or sold immediately as a bred cow.
  4. Implants. Cull cows being fed to improve body condition and weight after weaning may benefit from an implant. The cost of implants should be considered when determining if they will be used and how they will impact weight gain and feed efficiency, and the potential to reducing days on feed.

These are several tips to consider when feeding cull cows, but the most important is economic viability. Deciding to sell or feed cull cows is a decision each producer must determine and how will that decision impact potential profits.

Cow Sense Chronicle: Early Weaning As a Drought Management Strategy

From Cow Sense Chronicles by Rachel Endecott, Beef Cattle Specialist

I’ve been hearing from folks experiencing drought and fires throughout the state. Other regions are in good shape, but some are ready for winter to come to the rescue! This month, I’ll give a brief overview of early weaning as one drought management tool for ranchers.

The majority of spring‐born beef calves are weaned at 6 to 7 months of age, typically in October or November. This timeframe will vary based on calving season, location, and marketing scheme. As dry conditions result in limited forage availability, producers may consider early weaning to ease some of the demand. By the time a calf is 6 to 7 months old, he or she consumes about half of the amount of forage that a mature cow consumes.

Weaning calves removes the lactation demand for nutrients. Cow requirements and intake will both decrease after weaning. A rule of thumb I use in my beef cattle management class is that for every day calves are weaned earlier than normal, 0.6 grazing days worth of forage are saved. This incorporates both the decrease in calf consumption of forage and the lower intake of a non‐lactating cow. This thumb rule was developed with a 1300‐lb cow weaning a 600‐lb calf at 7 months of age. If for‐ age is of adequate quantity and quality, we expect cow body condition to improve post‐weaning, which can pay dividends for the next breeding season. Weaning earlier gives the cow more time during mid‐gestation when her requirements are the lowest to put on weight going into winter and next year’s calving season.

Early weaning does come with some challenges. What are you going to do with the early weaned calves? In a drought situation, you might not have forage available to wean them on pasture. Do you have harvested feedstuffs you can feed to them? Can you send them to your buyer early? Will they stay in pens built for larger calves? Are you prepared to deal with calf health issues that may arise? Do you have the resources to have them backgrounded on‐ranch or elsewhere?

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to early weaning. “Traditional” early weaning might be August or September instead of October or November for many spring calving herds, like what I’ve described on the previous page. Research has shown improvements in cow condition that could make a positive difference in reproductive performance next year. If, however, we are in a bad enough drought situation that we feel we need to make a positive difference in reproductive performance THIS year, calves need to be weaned before the breeding season. Cows will increase body condition and breed up well in this system. The disadvantage is that you now have a bunch of 80‐day‐old calves to manage, and that’s not for the faint‐hearted.

Don’t forget the upcoming Veterinary Feed Directive short courses around the state. We’d love to see you and visit about the implications the new rule has for livestock producers, so RSVP to the appropriate local county Extension office listed below. All meetings start at 1 pm.

VFD Short Course Schedule Summer 2016

August 3 Miles City – Fort Keogh – 406-874-3370

August 4 Billings – County Courthouse – 406-256-2828

August 9 Glasgow Cottonwood Inn – 406-228-6241

August 10 Havre – MSU NARC – 406-231-5150

August 11 Lewistown – Eagles – 406-535-3919

August 16 Sidney – Extension Office – 406-433-1206

August 24 Butte – Public Library – 406-723-0217

August 25 Missoula – Extension Office – 406-258-4200

September 12 Great Falls TBD 406-454-6980

September 21 Dillon UM-Western 406-683-3785

Veterinary Feed Directive Informational Meetings

The Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Program is holding Veterinary Feed Directive educational meetings throughout the state this summer. These courses are free to the public and will be a great way to learn more about the VFD. For more information about the courses please contact Megan Van Emon, Extension Beef Specialist at 406.874.8286 or megan.vanemon@montana.edu.

All Meeting Flyer (002)

Veterinary Feed Directive Impacts Feed-Grade Antibiotics

by Megan Van Emon, Ph.D. – MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

The new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule will change how medically important antibiotics are fed to livestock.  The rule does NOT include the use of injectable antibiotics.  Previously, feed-grade antibiotics have been labeled for control, treatment, prevention, growth promotion, and feed efficiency.  The VFD rule results in the removal of the statements and uses of feed-grade antibiotics for growth promotion and feed efficiency.

Guidance for Industry proposal #209 concerns the use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals.  Guidance for Industry proposal #213 focuses on the drug companies and recommending they voluntarily align their products with GFI #209.  Medically important antibiotics are those that are used in both human and animal medicine.

The two main proposals of GFI #209 are: 1. use of medically important antibiotics will be limited to therapeutic uses only; and 2. use of medically important antibiotics for food-producing animals will be limited to those that have veterinary oversight.  The main proposal of GFI #213 asks the drug companies producing medically important feed-grade antibiotics to voluntarily remove production (ie. growth promotion and feed efficiency) claims from the labels and moving the over-the-counter products to VFD or prescription status.

Additionally, a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is required for veterinarians to issue a VFD.  A valid VCPR includes: 1. the veterinarian assumes the responsibility for medical judgements and animal health and the client agrees to follow veterinarian instructions; 2. the veterinarian has sufficient knowledge of the animal(s) to initiate medical treatment and makes timely visits; and 3. the veterinarian is available for follow-up care and evaluation.  If you currently do not have a valid VCPR, building this relationship prior to the VFD implementation may be a good idea.

A valid VFD consists of paperwork filled out by the veterinarian that contains the veterinarian information, clients information, description of animals and location, VFD drug information, why is the VFD being issued, level of VFD in the feed, duration of use, date, and withdrawal time.  All VFDs will require the statement: “Use of feed containing this veterinary feed directive drug in a manner other than as directed on the labeling (extra label use), is not permitted” and the veterinarian’s written or electronic signature.  The veterinarian is required to maintain the original VFD form with copies being provided to the feed distributor and producer.

 

As we move closer to the implementation of the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) rule, the MSU Extension Beef Cattle Program will be conducting educational meetings throughout the state this summer.

Date City Location
July 26 Kalispell Flathead Co. Fairgrounds
August 3 Miles City USDA-ARS Fort Keogh
August 4 Billings TBD
August 9 Glasgow Cottonwood Inn & Suites
August 10 Havre MSU-NARC
August 11 Lewistown Eagles
August 16 Sidney TBD
August 24 Butte TBD
August 25 Missoula TBD

 

 

To learn more about the VFD and the informational meetings please contact Megan Van Emon at 406.874.8286 or at megan.vanemon@montana.edu.

MSU Extension and MSGA announce 2015 Steer of Merit certifications

montana state extension logoMontana State University Extension and the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) distinguished 108 “Steers of Merit” out of 903 entries for 2015. Out of 589 steers entered in the Carcass Division, 70 were deemed Steers of Merit. In the Ultrasound Division, 38 out of 314 entries received the distinction.

The exhibitors and breeders of the top five steers in each category were honored at MSGA’s Annual Convention, Dec. 5 in Billings at the MetraPark Rimrock Auto Arena. The number of Steer of Merit certifications for 2015 decreased by 10 steers, with 27 fewer entries submitted compared to 2014.

The top five steer entries in the Carcass Division were:

  1. Isabelle Lowry, Lewis and Clark County (Isabelle Lowry, breeder);
  2. Haven Meged, Custer County (Bart Meged, breeder);
  3. Sam Kearney, Ravalli County (Troy Griffin, breeder);
  4. Cheyenne Hawbaker, Daniels County (Steve and Kristi Vorhees, breeder); and
  5. Trenton Braaten, Broadwater County (Butch Gillespie, breeder).

The top five steer entries in the Ultrasound Division were:

  1. Trey Nansel, Yellowstone County (Barry Kruger, breeder);
  2. Parker Cook, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown);
  3. Spencer Lepley, Yellowstone County (breeder unknown);
  4. Kallie Candee, Richland County (Asbeck Brothers, breeder); and
  5. Bill Bender, Yellowstone County (Northwest College, breeder).

Megan Van Emon Steer of MeritThe Montana Steer of Merit program was initiated in 1967 as a joint effort between the Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana State University Extension. The program was designed to measure, record, and improve carcass characteristics in beef cattle. Data from these carcasses has been summarized and analyzed statistically. Over time, significant increases have been made in quality grade and in yield grade, or cutability, indicating that cattle can be selected for leaner carcasses with higher cutability and still maintain high quality grade as reflected by marbling.

To be designated a Steer of Merit, carcasses are evaluated by a qualified individual using information that relates to yield of lean meat and eating quality. Beef carcasses must meet criteria set by the Steer of Merit Committee in the areas of hot carcass weight, dressing percent, fat thickness over 12th rib (back fat), total rib eye area, yield grade, percent cutability, and quality grade. Computer software programs help compile data and rank carcasses for state and county awards. Data is also analyzed periodically to track genetic and feed management progress. The minimum standards for Steer of Merit are reviewed each year and the program is updated to meet the changing industry standards.

For more information about the Steer of Merit program call Megan Van Emon, Montana State Extension Beef Cattle Specialist at (406) 874-8286.

Click here for more 2015 Annual Convention coverage from Montana Stockgrowers.

MSU Extension Survey on Noxious Weeds

montana state extension logoMontana State University Extension Specialists Drs. Jane Mangold and Kate Fuller are working on a survey to help gain a better understanding of how noxious weeds affect livestock producers on private rangeland in Montana. As a part of their project, they are surveying livestock operators.

Please take a few minutes to fill out their short survey, here: https://montana.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_efizQ3kCbk99map.

Any questions or comments, or requests for survey results, should be addressed to Kate Fuller at kate.fuller@montana.edu or Jane Mangold at jane.mangold@montana.edu.  Kate and Jane thank you very much for your time!