Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Branding Time Vaccination Reminders

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

With April right around the corner, I know many folks will be thinking of branding calves or have
already begun doing their spring cattle work.  With that in mind, today we’ll review a few Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines for vaccinating calves. 

First, develop a complete herd health vaccination protocol.  Each producer should have a working relationship with a veterinarian who can recommend the correct products for your herd.

Before administering vaccinations, it’s critical to read and follow the label in terms of dosage, timing of the vaccination and route of administration.  Last weekend as I doctored a sick bull, I commented to my husband that I hadn’t previously realized that the antibiotic required that it warm to room temperature before being administered.  Kaleb looked at me and asked, ‘You read the label, didn’t you?’  Yes, I did!

It’s also important to read the label to know on modified live vaccinations how much time you have before it needs to be used up.  Therefore, you don’t want to mix more vaccine than you can use within that time period.  When mixing vaccine, use transfer needles if a product is to be reconstituted, and roll the bottle to mix, versus shaking the bottle.  Rolling the bottle reduces the amount of bubbles that are formed during the mixing process, compared to shaking the bottle. 

When giving multiple injections, vaccinations should be administered at least 4 inches apart to get the best response.  10 cc is the maximum amount that should be administered into any one site.  If you have multiple folks giving vaccines, make sure they have a system to know the location on the calf where the vaccines are going, or if you’ll be using chalk paint to mark where shots have already been given.  All vaccinations should be given in the neck region to ensure that there is not an impact on future meat quality or tenderness. 

Needles should be changed every 10 to 20 animals.  At a minimum, needles should be changed before refilling the vaccine gun to avoid contaminating the vaccine bottle. 

Make sure to keep vaccines out of direct sunlight or extreme temperature as this can reduce the efficacy of the vaccine.  This can be as simple as creating some shade with a coat or cooler.

Lastly, make sure that everyone on your crew is trained to apply these Beef Quality Assurance practices.  Once you’ve spent the money on purchasing vaccine, you want maximum efficacy through following the label, proper procedures, and using a trained crew that has attention to detail.  Finally, make sure to also record the vaccines given, who administered them, the route, etc. for future reference.

Graphic courtesy of Michigan State Extension, by D. Buskirk

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Seed Potatoes and Late Blight

Jesse Fulbright, Liberty County Extension

Earlier this month orders went in through the M.S.U. Potato Lab about bulk orders of seed potatoes for our communities.  Sometimes this is handled through the Extension office, other times through your local garden center.  Either way, the time is approaching when people will be planting potatoes. 

Montana is one of the top five seed-potato producing states.  The state’s seed potatoes are prized because growing areas are somewhat isolated from airborne spores of diseases such as late blight.  To protect the industry, Montana only allows potatoes that originate in Montana to be grown as certified seed, and requires all seed potatoes to be inspected at a shipping point.  As seed potatoes are an important crop in Montana, it takes everyone, including the home gardener to help keep diseases, such as late blight in potato, in check.

Late blight infection is characterized by brown to purplish slightly depressed regions on the skins.  Upon peeling back the skins, reddish-brown to dark brown granular tissue is apparent.  On very young leaves, irregular water-soaked lesions appear.  Lesions are dark brown to black and can appear small at first.  A light green halo often appears around the lesion.

Even though this year’s home gardener hasn’t planted their potatoes yet, it is important that people go into the season with their eyes open to potential diseases such as late blight.  No potato varieties have resistance to all late blight strains, but some have resistance individual strains.  Good soil drainage and proper plant spacing for optimal air movement are desirable.  Destroy suspect potatoes, but not by composting.  Deep hilling, or bringing loose soil up around the vines and lower leaves where the potatoes will form can be used to protect tubers from blight spores.  Make sure watering occurs at a time of day so the leaves dry during the day.  Avoid excessive fertilization.  Fungicides are also an important part.  Use a labeled dose at recommended intervals. 

For all the details about late blight, contact your local county Extension office for a copy of the MontGuide titled, “Late Blight in Garden Potatoes.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

4-H Happenings in Toole County

Today I thought I’d share some news and happenings of our 4-H Program. As you may know 4-H is the largest out of school program in the United States. Youth may select from a multitude of projects to gain life skills.

Sunday was the Toole County 4-H Public Presentation Contest. Youth from around the county came together to present on topics from Beading to Rockets. The youth gained experience and skills in presenting to an audience. Our top award winner was Shane Samsal from the West Butte Club.
Shane did a wonderful demonstration on how to show a chicken. Shane brought his favorite hen along for the event.

This Thursday will be the first meeting of the Toole County 4-H Poultry Program. This is a new program that provide town kids with the opportunity to raise an animal and show it at fair. 4-H members and non 4-H members are welcome to join this project. The group will be raising chicks and learning about poultry until it’s time to show their chickens at the fair in July. If your child is interested in the Poultry Project give us a call at 424-8350 to sign them up.

Also this spring the Blazing Saddles 4-H Club has been partnering with the RECCS AfterSchool Program for an aerospace project. In the last couple of months the 4-H Club has provided the youth with experiences that included drones and stomp rockets. In April we will be building and launching model rockets at the afterschool program.

Toole County 4-H youth are busy learning and working on projects that will be showcased at the Marias Fair in July. I would like to invite everyone to take an opportunity to visit the fair and see some of the wonderful work this members will display.

Alice Burchak
Toole County Extension

Friday, March 24, 2017

Making Feed Supplement Decisions

Shaelyn Meyer - Pondera County 

It looks like spring is finally here. The birds are so happy they’re even singing about it and I would too if I thought anyone actually wanted to hear that! On a more serious note (pun intended), considering the long, cold winter we’ve had, some producers might be looking at dwindling feed supplies and be tempted to back off their winter-feeding regime a little early this year. There are a few things to keep in mind when making these feeding decisions and it’s going to involve doing some research, grabbing a pencil and calculator and crunching some numbers. 

A good plan of action this spring is to assess the current average body condition score of your herd. A BCS of 5 or 6 is ideal. Cows with a BCS score under 5 can take longer to re-breed or not re-breed at all, resulting in a longer calving period and fewer calves to ship.  Calves born later in the calving season will likely be lighter at weaning than calves born early in the calving season. A general rule of thumb is that for every 21-day delay in calving, calves will be approximately 35 lbs lighter than calves born in the first 3 weeks of the calving season.

Another thing to consider is the feeding costs involved in increasing the body condition score in your herd. On average, one BCS point = 80 lbs. If you can quantify the amount of feed it will take you to put that much weight on your cows with the feed sources you have available, then compare those costs to the increased revenue from the increase in pregnancy rates, the shorter calving period you may have plus any increase in calf weights at shipping time; you might find that it pays to supplement your herd through the spring. You might also find that it doesn’t pay at all, but you have to make the analysis to know for sure. This is why record-keeping is so important!

The thing that separates good producers from great producers is their understanding of the costs and returns within their operation. If your goal is to take your pregnancy rates from 90% to 95%, you should consider the costs of feeding the first 90% the extra feed that they didn’t require, just to get that last 5% to produce another calf for you. The most cost-effective balance is going to be different for every operation, so if you think your neighbors look pretty successful and copying whatever they do is going to ensure your success, think again! Successful businessmen and women don’t make decisions that way.

Below are some links to more information that might be helpful. If you would like any help in finding the lowest cost/greatest return scenario for you, don't forget about your local extension agent. We're here to help you! 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Private Pesticide Applicator Training

Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Montana ExpoPark’s Paddock Club
Great Falls, MT
RSVP to the MSU Cascade County Extension Office by April 25, 2017 at (406) 454-6980.
For a list of other trainings across the state, go to Montana Initial Pesticide Applicator Trainings

8:30 a.m. Registration

9:00 a.m. Private Applicator License; Kari Lewis, MSU Glacier County Extension
Applicators will learn what pesticides are and the difference between general use and restricted use
pesticides. Kari will inform applicators on the importance of license number and how to keep certified. She will also describe where pesticide fees go and what applicators can do with their licenses.

9:30 a.m. Pertinent Pesticide Laws; Shaelyn Meyer, MSU Pondera County Extension
Shaelyn will talk about the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and
Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Montana Pesticides Act, Montana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, and other Montana laws and regulations. She will review the federal recordkeeping requirements and what key elements you need to record as well as how to use calibration formulas to help you keep accurate records.

10:30 a.m. Integrated Pest Management; Tyler Lane, MSU Chouteau County Extension
What is Integrated Pest Management and what are the benefits? Applicators will learn about economic thresholds and economic injury levels. The presentation will also cover monitoring techniques, pest identification, control methods (chemical, cultural, biocontrol, transgenic, and mechanical), and resistance management.

11:30 a.m. Lunch

12:00 p.m. Pesticide Safety; Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension
Pesticide safety covers acute and chronic toxicity, the four routes of exposure, pesticide formulations, applicator safety, liquid versus dry formulations, LD50, signal words, how the human body processes toxic substances, protection, personal protective equipment (PPE), laundering pesticide contaminated clothing, proper pesticide storage, triple rinse, disposal of empty pesticide containers and excess pesticides, and procedures for poisoning.

1:00 p.m. Reading the Pesticide Product Label; Kim Suta, MSU Toole County Extension
Kim will present different why the label is important. The presentation will go over active versus inert ingredients, signal words, restricted entry interval, product rates, pesticide storage, disposal information, and importance of crop and site locations.

2:00 p.m. Break

2:15 p.m. Calibration of Backpack, Boom, and Broadjet Sprayers; Cecil Tharp, MSU Extension Pesticide Education Specialist Cecil will help applicators determine output of sprayers (GPA) and nozzle output. Other topics will be how to read a nozzle specification sheet, understand the effects of speed and pressure, how many acres can you spray with a given volume, how much pesticide product to add to the tank, how much pesticide solution do you add to the tank, and using calibration formulas to help you keep pesticide records. He will wrap up his presentation with calibration exercises and useful conversions (pints to ounces, gallons to ounces, etc.).

3:15 p.m. Pesticides in the Environment: Movement and Degradation; Brent Roeder, MSU Teton County Extension Applicators will learn pesticide properties in regards to environmental contamination. They will also learn key words such as solubility, adsorption, drift, volatilization, and degradation. The presentation will also cover how pesticides behave in the soil (leaching, runoff, and groundwater contamination) and how nozzles and pressure contribute to drift. Other pest and pesticide related topics of local interest will be covered.

4:15 p.m. Montana Private Applicator Certification Review and Exam; Rose Malisani, MSU Cascade CountyExtension

4:45 p.m. Adjournment

MSU Extension is an ADA/EO/AA/Veteran’s Preference Employer and Provider of Educational Outreach. If you require accommodation for a disability to participate, please notify your local extension office.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pruning Trees and Other Perennials

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I looked out our large picture window to the south the other day and realized it is that time of year again.  It is time to start outside yard work, specifically, pruning and getting trees and perennials in shape for the coming season.  Many of us know we need to prune but we don’t know why. 

According to the Montana Master Gardener Handbook, pruning can make a barren tree fruitful, bring overgrown plants back into bounds and can make a flowering plant bloom more profusely.  However, the catch is, it needs to be done properly.  Pruning is the removal of plant parts with a specific purpose in mind of changing the direction and amount of new plant growth, ultimately affecting the shape the plant.

For trees, pruning can best be explained by looking at what needs to be taken off first.  Look for signs such as water sprouts, those tiny branches coming out of the trunk or branches straight out.  Look for suckers near the base of the tree, crossed branches that will rub and injure the tree, dead branches, stubs of branches that weren’t properly trimmed before, and double leaders.  Double leaders are those branches that come to a fork and are more or less equally growing and forming two main stems.  You only want one main leader.  You never want to prune any more than about 1/4 to 1/3 of the tree’s canopy in one year, otherwise you take away its ability to capture nutrients.  Topping, hatracking, rounding or any other practice that decimates a tree, leaving it denuded is never an accepted tree pruning practice.  If your tree is like this, its life has been severely shortened and you might as well take the tree out for the bad that has occurred.

When thinking of pruning perennial shrubs or other plants in your yard and garden, you prune to promote plant health.  Eliminate dead, dying or diseased wood now before new growth occurs.  This is two-fold in purpose.  First, it is much easier to eliminate old tissue when you don’t have to trim around new tissue.  Secondly, if you have old, dead or diseased tissue, you want plant nutrients going to new tissue for vibrant and productive growth as well as disease suppression.  Pruning a thicker plant, such as a hedge also allows light to penetrate through the plant. 

If you have any questions about pruning, or feel hesitant about what to prune I would encourage you to contact your local county Extension office.

Monday, March 20, 2017

National Ag Day

Happy First Day of Spring! I know you all are getting spring fever and getting ready to start being outside more to work on your lawns and gardens! I just want to let you know that if you have any questions, please feel free to come by the office and we can sure help with any questions!
Tomorrow, March 21st is National Agriculture Day. A day that is held near and dear to my heart because I grew up on a wheat farm in the Golden Triangle, I attended Montana State University to study Agriculture, and I have started my career as an Agricultural Extension Agent for the State of Montana, which biggest industry is Agriculture. Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis. Imagine where we would be without farmers and ranchers in our lives
Tomorrow will be the 44th anniversary of the creation of Ag Days by the Agriculture Council of America. National Ag Day is a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and to remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us.
The National Ag Day program encourages every American to, understand how food and fiber products are produced, appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products, value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry

So please help me celebrate National Ag Day tomorrow by remembering where your three meals a day come from and thank a farmer and a rancher because every day is National Ag Day for them!
By Kim Suta
Toole County Extension

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Now is the Time for Shrub Pruning

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

Even though it hasn’t felt like spring much yet, the calendar says spring is right around the corner.  Now is the ideal time to prune many trees and shrubs as we commonly think of the late dormant season being when severe cold has passed, but new growth has not yet begun.  This dormant season pruning typically enhances the plant’s vigor, and will stimulate new growth.  In addition, pruning now will provide the trees and shrubs the entire growing season to recover.  This blog will focus on pruning shrubs, with information from the Montana Master Gardener Handbook.  

When a shrub flowers determines when is an appropriate time to prune that shrub.  Shrubs that bloom on current season’s growth which would be ok to prune now include Peegee hydrangea, potentilla, shrub rose, snowberry, and Hills of Snow bushes. 

One exception to pruning shrubs this time of year includes shrubs grown primarily for their flowers that that bloom in the spring.  Spring flowering shrubs are any shrubs that bloom at the same time or before the lilacs bloom.  These spring flowering shrubs bloom on LAST year’s growth, so should be pruned right after flowering.  Examples of these would be honeysuckle, rhododendron, lilac, and rambling rose bushes. 

Photo courtesy of Texas A&M Extension,
available at
If you are wanting to prune shrubs into a hedge, small shrubs that are 1 to 3 years old should be cut back to about 3 to 5 inches above the ground to encourage growth of new shoots at the base.  If you have older shrubs that you would like to transition into a hedge, cut back one-third from their tops and sides to help develop a full, bushy hedge. 

The main thing to remember when pruning a hedge is that the ideal hedge is wider at the base than the top.  A hedge should look like a truncated cone shape. 

Often, I will see the exact opposite of this, that is, the top of the hedge is wider than the base.  This leads to thin, weak growth, as the wider top portion of the hedge shades the lower portion and without adequate sunlight to the lower portion of the hedge, it becomes less vigorous. 

Formal hedges should have one-third to one-fourth of their oldest branches near the ground cut back each year.  Upper branches of the hedge can also be cut back to their main parent stem to encourage fresh, new growth. 

If you prune any infected branches while pruning, make sure to clean your pruners with rubbing alcohol after each cut so that the pruners don’t transmit the disease to another portion of the hedge or to the tree you prune next. 

For questions on this topic, please contact Kari Lewis at  Image courtesy of  

Monday, March 13, 2017

It's OK to Be Ugly

Have you ever been shopping for fruit and vegetables in a grocery store and maybe passed over an apple or a potato because it didn’t have a certain look that apples or potatoes should have? I’m guilty of doing this too. We are always looking for the picture perfect fruit or vegetable when we are selecting food for our shopping carts.
I’m here to tell you that it’s OK to be ugly… well, it’s OK for your fruit and vegetables to be ugly. Contorted carrots, twisted peppers, and bent cucumbers are finding a new home in customer’s shopping carts because even though they don’t look beautiful they still have the same nutritional value as the pretty produce.
A few years ago, federal agencies began looking more closely at how much food was going to waste in the United States—decent food that could be helping to feed the hungry instead of landfills—and they were more than a little shocked. A 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that retailers and consumers here waste 35 million tons of food every year—including 6 billion pounds of produce that goes unharvested or unsold because it doesn’t meet quality shelf standards.
Wal-mart and other stores around the US have been embracing the unloved misshapen produces and have been marketing them as “Misfits” and selling them at a discount as a promotional way to help the farmers sell their whole crop and not just the pretty produce. For growers, it has proved to be a profitable situation because even if they are making 10 to 15 cents for their misshapen products, it’s still better than plowing the crop under and getting nothing or letting it go to waste when it could feed a struggling family.

Next time you’re shopping for produce, don’t skip over the mangled, misshapen vegetables because you might be helping out a farmer sell his or her “less than perfect” crop and you’re still getting the same nutritional value out of it. So remember, when it comes to vegetables, it is OK to be ugly!
This information was borrowed from this article from Growing Georgia at

Kim Suta
Toole County Extension Agent 

Growing Tomatoes

Liberty County Extension Facebook

Jesse Fulbright, Liberty County Extension

It’s not easy to grow tomatoes in Montana, or many garden vegetables for that matter.  It requires some extra caring, and in many cases a great deal of extra work.  This week, let’s cover tomatoes and what to do to get them going with enough time to see the fruits of our labors.

Our season here is too short in the Golden Triangle to direct-seed tomatoes into the garden.  Here in Chester we see our last average freeze in late May or early June.  You might want to check with your local county Extension office to see when your last frost date is, if you are unsure.  If you grow tomatoes yourself, allow about eight weeks to produce a good transplant, and be sure you have enough light.  Even windows that face south don’t have sufficient light in early spring for good plant growth.

Regarding soils, garden soil is seldom satisfactory for starting tomato plants.  Instead, use a sterilized or pasteurized commercial soil or soilless mixture.

Sow seeds into flats or individual containers.  If you sow them into flats, transplant them once or twice as they grow.  This can be time consuming, but it will force the plant to develop a more fibrous root system that will tolerate transplant shock somewhat better.  Limited research suggests that light-colored containers produce stockier plants than dark-colored containers.  This is probably due to greater light reflecting off the container. 

Keep the containers well-watered and the air temperature at about 65-70°F until the seedlings are up.  Then, let the surface of the media dry slightly to help control disease.  Never let the media dry to the point that the seedlings wilt.  Fertilize the plants once a week with a commercial starter solution, following directions on the package. 

If you have further questions about growing tomatoes, I would encourage you to visit your local county Extension office for a copy of this MontGuide.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Don't forget the herd bulls!

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

With calving picking up every day at our place, pastures near the house are in high demand. So, as I moved the herdbulls from their winter pasture to another pasture where they would be ‘out of the way,’ I started thinking about how the bulls often get put on the back burner during this time of year.  However, there’s a lot of money tied up in those herdbulls, and we need to make sure they will be ready to breed cows in a couple months. 

Cold winter weather can affect a bull’s ability to service cows comes come spring.  Frostbite effects that bulls may have suffered this winter can require from two to twelve months of recovery, and severe frostbite can leave a bull infertile.   By providing windbreaks and straw for bedding, we can reduce the cold weather impacts on a bull’s fertility.

A Breeding Soundness Exam, or BSE, is essential in knowing if your bull is fertile and worth turning out this spring.  In addition, having Breeding Soundness Exams done now, helps you to know how many bulls you may need to purchase this spring. 

A Breeding Soundness Exam, done by your local veterinarian, needs to be done 6-8 weeks prior to bull turnout and determines if that bull is suitable for breeding demands.  In the event that a bull fails his exam, this will allow time for a re-test or to replace that bull.   In addition to a BSE, evaluate your bulls for a proper body condition score of a 5 to 6, and feet and leg condition. 

When determining your bull needs for this coming season, review your bull-to-cow ratio as well.  Pasture size, number of water holes, bull age, bulls/pasture, and if synchronization was used, all affect the service capability of bulls.  For young bulls, a standard is that the number of cows a bull can serve matches his age in months (15 cows for a 15 month old bull, for example), and older bulls are often figured for 25-30 cows. 

Even with calving is full swing for many producers, don’t forget about your herdbulls.  Make sure that young, growing bulls are receiving adequate protein, energy, and minerals, and that Breeding Soundness Exams are completed on all bulls you plan to use this coming season.
Calving is a busy time for many ranchers, but don't forget the herd bulls!  Ranchers should prioritize a Breeding Soundness Exam for each bull in their battery prior to spring turnout (and before heading to the bull sale!)

Thanks Kari  for your leadership on this.  Good start.  Pfister

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Evening Feeding to Increase Daytime Calving

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension – Glacier County 

Calving is in full swing for many producers!
With calving underway or on the horizon for many ranchers, it’s time to revisit how to increase the proportion of calves born during the daytime.  By using an evening feeding strategy, ranchers can increase the proportion of cows that calve during the day, a time when there’s likely increased observation of the herd and a greater ability to provide assistance if a calving difficulty occurs.  In addition, calves born during the day are born when its warmer and the heat from the sun can reduce cold stress, giving baby calves a better chance for early colostrum consumption and survival. 

This concept of feeding cows in the evening to encourage them to calve during the daytime is well documented scientifically.  For 15 years, one group of cows was fed between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. in the morning at calving time.  This data resulted in 1,210 observations which showed that there were nearly equal proportions of cows calving during the day and cows calving during the night.  Of the cows fed in the morning, 52% of the cows calved from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 48% of the cows calved from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Another group of cows was fed between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. which resulted in 537 data observations over five years.  In that group that was fed in the late afternoon, 85% of the cows calved between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and only 15% calved during the night. 

Research also shows that it doesn’t matter whether cows were started on the evening feeding program the week before calving started, or two to three weeks prior.  So even if producers have already begun calving, they can still adopt this strategy. 

If cows have free choice access to hay or grass during the day, they can still be impacted by when they calve by varying the time of day when supplement is fed.  An Oklahoma State University study showed that when cows had access to hay around the clock but were fed supplement in the late afternoon or early evening, 72% of the cows calved from 6 AM to 6 PM.  Prior to that, there had been nearly a 50/50 split between cows born in the morning and calves born during the night. 

If it is not feasible to feed the entire herd in the late afternoon or early evening, feeding the first calf heifers at this time is still encouraged.  The first calf heifers are most likely to need calving assistance, so will benefit the most from the increased observation that occurs with daytime calving. 

There are many factors, such as physical activity, variation in hormone secretion, ambient temperature, and day length that can impact what time of day a cow may calve.  However, the research shows that by consistently feeding cows in the evening, cows can be influenced to calve during daylight hours.  For additional information on this topic, please contact Kari Lewis, MSU Extension Agent in Glacier County at 873-2239 or and reference the CowSense Chronicle by Dr. Rachel Endecott, where much information for this post came from.