How to handle donated hay

Written by Tim Fine, Extension Agent

Growing up, I heard the expression “you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” on more than one occasion and I try to abide by those words of wisdom. 

For those of you not familiar with the term, in a round-about way, it means that if someone is willing to give you something, be gracious and accept it. I usually try to abide by this principle and it is generally a good principle to adopt, but there are those times that, even though the giver may have the best of intentions, the gift may be more than you bargained for.

Case in point is all of the hay that is being shipped into our state from more-than-generous people from all over the country. We all know that this is much needed and greatly appreciated but what is potentially coming with the hay we may be dealing with for some time. I am specifically referring to weeds and knowing that this could cause future weed problems, the Montana Department of Ag, USDA NRCS, and Montana DNRC put together a fact sheet. The entire fact sheet can be found online but I thought I would give the highlights.  The factsheet gives these suggestions for handling donated hay:

• Use donated hay in an area that can be easily monitored for new weed species. 

• Document where new weed species are located, then follow-up with weed control and monitoring; monitor for several years. 

• Treat weeds before they produce seed. 

• Remove and dispose of weed seed that becomes established. 

• Defer moving livestock through an area with a new weed species until it is removed or contained. 

• Ask where the hay was grown/donated from, if possible. View distribution maps of weeds in Montana and the West to get an idea of potential weed threats from donated hay.

• Use certified weed-free forage, if available. 

• Collect unknown plants for identification (collect the entire plant and roots). For help with identification, take the plant to your county weed district, Natural Resources Conservation Service office, Extension agent, Montana Range Partnership, or submit a sample to Montana State University Schutter Diagnostic Lab for identification. This is a free service for Montana residents. Find contact information, submission instructions, fee information, and forms online at Insect pests and plant diseases can also be sent to the Schutter Diagnostic Lab for identification. 

• Identify Montana Noxious Weeds. See this guide to Montana Noxious Weeds as a reference.

As I said above, in a year like we have had it is hard to turn down a donation of hay and hopefully, with the above tips, should you find yourself in this predicament you can at least have a game plan for dealing with the potential for weeds to come. So maybe you do look that gift horse in the mouth but decide before looking that, regardless of what it looks like in there, you have a plan to deal with it.

As always, should you have questions, you are welcome to give me a call at 433-1026 or send an email to

Source: Sidney Herald

Over $1.6 Million Awarded to Combat Noxious Weeds in Montana

Every county and tribal reservation is eligible for $7,500 in funds

The Montana Department of Agriculture announced the award of over $1.6 million for the development and implementation of noxious weed management programs. 

The Noxious Weed Management Advisory Council reviewed 86 Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant applications requesting over $2 million and recommended awarding over $1.6 million for education, research, and cooperative noxious weed management projects.

The advisory council met the first week of March to review applications and make selections to assist counties, local communities, tribes, researchers and educators in efforts to combat noxious weed problems in Montana.  In total, 83 grant proposals were awarded funding, including 60 local cooperative projects, 13 research projects, and 10 education projects.  In addition to the $1.6 million awarded, each of the 56 counties and 7 reservations in the state are eligible to receive $7,500 per year.

The Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant program was established by the Montana Legislature in 1985.  The advisory council reviews applications, hears applicant testimony, and provides funding recommendations to the director for final approval. Funding is typically passed through a governmental organization, local weed district, conservation district, extension office, or university. 

A compiled list of award recipients is available at

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 Montana Department of Agriculture, visit



Dave Burch

Weed Program Manager
Montana Department of Agriculture
302 N Roberts
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 444-3140
Fax: (406) 444-9493

Source: Montana Department of Agriculture

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:

Any questions or comments, or requests for survey results, should be addressed to Kate Fuller at or Jane Mangold at  Kate and Jane thank you very much for your time!