Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Take time for the $100/hour jobs, make plans to attend the Summer Beef Cow Profitability Seminar and Ranch Tour June 6 in Cut Bank
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension – Glacier County

This weekend as we sorted cows for, again, I began thinking about how much time do we
devote to doing the same activities, over and over?  When Dave Pratt from ‘Ranching for Profit’ spoke at the Next Generation Conference this winter, he talked about that in farming and ranching, we often spend most of our time doing the $10/hour jobs, that is those jobs that either we enjoy or are good at, such as checking cows or perhaps fixing fence.  While these activities must be done, we shouldn’t overlook the $100/hour or $1,000/hour jobs, that is taking time to learn about and make management decisions that can have large impacts on our operation’s profitability. 

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.  This ties directly into Pratt’s concept, that to get different results, we must take time to focus on the $100/hour jobs.  Would you like to add pounds to this fall’s calf crop or increase your herd’s profit?  If you’re ready to entertain new ideas to do so, I encourage you to attend our Summer Beef Cow Profitability Seminar and Ranch Tour on Tuesday, June 6. 

The seminar will be at the Glacier County Extension Office (1210 E. Main) here in Cut Bank, beginning at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and rolls available at 8.  We should be done before noon, and the event is free with no pre-registration is required.

Dr. Karla Jenkins, University of Nebraska – Lincoln Cow-Calf and Range Management specialist, will cover tools to improve ranch profitability.  Jenkins specializes in cow-calf, range management, and feedlot research out of Scottsbluff, NE and brings a great perspective of the entire beef production system.  Jenkins’s talk will focus on implanting calves, vaccinations and pre-conditioning for the nursing calf, and cull cow marketing options. 

Implants can add 15 to 30 pounds at weaning.  Jenkins will cover how implants impact calf gain, calf sale price, ranch profit, feedlot performance, and carcass quality.  There’s some new data available regarding implants that I think you’ll enjoy seeing.

Jenkins will also delve into how Montana ranchers can set their calves up for success in the feedlot to increase both the rancher’s sale price and to create repeat buyers.  Lastly, she will cover strategies to increase cull cow revenue.  Cull cows typically make up 15 to 30% of a herd’s revenue, and their impact on herd profitability should not be overlooked.

The seminar will conclude with a visit to the Meiwald ranch, west of Cut Bank.  Guy Meiwald has been using Management Intensive Grazing on his operation for a few years now, and will be sharing how the practice has impacted livestock production, fertilizer costs, and ranch profitability.  Meiwald was featured at the 2016 Next Generation conference, this will be a great chance to see the system in action during the growing season!

Please contact the Glacier County Extension office for more information at 873-2239, and I hope you’ll take a few hours on Tuesday, June 6 to join us for the Beef Cow Profitability Seminar and Ranch tour.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Yellow Starthistle

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Yellow starthistle rosette

The Extension offices recently received a revised MontGuide about the invasive weed, yellow starthistle.  While it has not taken hold in our area and we can still focus on eradication of the weed as it does pop up sporadically, I felt it was important that everyone knew a bit about it so that it is recognizable for each of us.
In eastern Washington, where I grew up, yellow starthistle was a part of life as it blanketed the hills of our out-ground.  It is an erect, branching plant that can grow from one to five feet tall.  As the name implies, its flowers are yellow.  When in bud, and during or after flowering, this plant is easy to recognize due to the long, sharp spines on the flower bracts.  These spines can be from ¾ to 1 inch long.  These spines make contact with the plant a sensitive issue and one that I personally try to avoid. 

Not only is yellow starthistle a pain to deal with, but it is also a prolific seed producer, with one plant potentially producing more than 150,000 seeds under ideal conditions.  There are two types of seed, plumed and plumeless.  By producing two different seed types that differ in how they disperse and when they disperse, or their ideal conditions for germination, the plants may increase their chances for new populations to establish.  Plumed seeds may not carry extremely far but long distance dispersion can be aided through human activities as seed heads are caught in vehicles, or carried in contaminated seed or soil.  Birds can also play a role in long distance dispersion as some birds such as pheasants, quail and finches feed heavily on the plant.

Yellow starthistle grows in many different locations but is most common in sunny, disturbed areas.  As it reduces wildlife habitat, land values, forage yield, rangelands and recreational areas, there needs to be methods to control its spread.  For us, a great option right now is prevention and eradication.  If isolated plants are found, hand pulling and herbicides are recommended.  There are other methods that can have differing degrees of success depending on circumstances, such as biological control agents and mechanical means of mowing and tilling.  Chemicals available for yellow starthistle control include the active ingredients clopyralid, aminopyralid, and picloram.  You might recognize them by their common names of Curtail, Milestone or Tordon, to name a few.  Whatever chemical is used, please be sure to read over and follow the pesticide label.

If you have further questions about yellow starthistle, or would like a copy of the MontGuide, I would encourage you to visit with your local county Extension office.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Setting Tomatoes

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

In my visits with people in the community there is a growing unrest to get out in the gardens more and plant.  With this express purpose in mind, I wanted to talk this week about growing tomatoes, specifically, setting the plants.  This information comes from an Extension MontGuide about growing tomatoes that is available through your local county Extension office.

Set tomatoes in the garden after the danger of frost has passed.  Hopefully we are past this point, but please check your weather forecast before planting.  Plants of determinate cultivars and staked indeterminate cultivars need about four square feet/plant to develop normally.

Late afternoon of a calm, cloudy, humid day is the best time to set out transplants.  Set the plants an inch deeper than they grew in the container and tamp the soil firmly about the roots.  Water the plants well with a starter solution to eliminate air pockets about the roots, to settle the soil, and to provide water and nutrients for rapid growth.  If the transplants are spindly and have long stems, lay the stems about an inch below the soil line, letting only the upper several inches of the stem protrude above the surface.  This is called trench planting.  Tomato stems will produce roots along their entire length and this will help the plant develop a larger root system and larger, healthier plants.

Right after transplanting you can take steps to protect the nascent plants by covering them with things like row tunnels. These protect the plants from hot, drying winds, increase the humidity within the canopy to decrease wilting, and warm the plants during the early season when air temperatures are often cool.  All of this helps the plants grow faster.  Plastic milk jugs and old tires don’t substantially speed plant growth, though they can protect against wind damage.
Another way to speed plant growth in our short season is to use plastic film mulch.  Organic mulches are okay in summer but they keep the soil cool in spring and slow plant growth.  Red film mulches speed soil warming and thus root growth, help control weeds, speed tomato fruit ripening and conserve soil moisture.  Black mulches conserve soil moisture and control weeds.  If you decide to use plastic, prepare the soil as you normally would, then roll out the plastic and cover the edges with stones and soil.  Punch holes where you decide to plant and set the transplants through the holes.  Irrigation water will get to the plants through those same planting holes.  Be sure the soil is moist before you lay the plastic.

Lastly, you can cover the plants with floating row covers.  These lay on the plants and hold heat in the plant canopy to speed growth.  They tend to blow away where there’s wind, however, unless you anchor them.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Outdoor Food Safety

 With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner I thought we should talk about outdoor food safety. Picnic and barbecue season offers lots of opportunities for outdoor fun with family and friends. But these warm weather events also present opportunities for foodborne bacteria to thrive. As food heats up in summer temperatures, bacteria multiply rapidly.

To protect yourself, your family, and friends from foodborne illness during warm-weather months, safe food handling when eating outdoors is critical. Let’s talk about some simple food safety guidelines for transporting, preparing and serving your food safely for outdoor outings.


Planning ahead is always the first step to insuring food safety while enjoying the outdoors. To avoid having to store leftovers, bring only the amount of food that can be eaten. When planning meals, think about using shelf-stable food to ensure food safety.  Wash fruits and vegetables before bringing them with you.  Bring biodegradable soap so hands and surfaces can be washed often.  If you are going somewhere where running water is not available, bring water with you if possible or use hand sanitizer.  If running water will not be available, bring bottled or tap water or always treat water collected from lakes and streams before drinking.


Packing food safely is always a must when traveling with perishable food. Use a cooler with ice or freezer packs. Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked foods or foods meant to be eaten raw.  Pack foods in tight, waterproof containers to prevent juices from the raw product from dripping on other foods. Packing frozen meat and poultry will help them stay colder longer.  A full cooler maintains its cold temperature longer than a partially filled one. Keep the temperature inside the cooler at 40 degrees or cooler.


Following good personal hygiene guidelines while preparing food outdoors. Wash your hands before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets. Keep all food prep surfaces clean and sanitized. Don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry.  Harmful germs present in raw meat and poultry can be easily spread to other foods by juices dripping from packages, hands, or utensils.


Remember to keep hot food hot and cold foods cold.  Fresh and frozen raw meat, poultry, and fish should be cooked hot enough to kill any harmful germs that may be in the product. Use an accurate food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to and held at safe temperatures.  Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness.  Only cook food that will be eaten right way to avoid leftovers.  Discard any food that has been left out for more than 2 hours.  Keep the cooler in a shady spot or covered with a light-colored blanket.  Avoid opening the cooler repeatedly so that food stays colder longer.  Use a separate cooler for drinks.


This is Alice Burchak for the Extension Minute reminding you to keep food safety in mind as you prepare for the summer outdoor season.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Youth Horse Camp Schedule

Pondera County Extension, the Marias Fair Horse Committee, and other volunteers will be hosting an overnight horse camp June 10th and 11th for youth between the ages of 9 and 18. The cost is just $20 per child with a max of $30 per family! Got 3 kids? still only $30! Most meals will be provided although we are asking participants to pack their own lunch for Saturday. 

The camp will be held at the Marias Fairgrounds in Shelby beginning Saturday at 9 a.m. Featured workshops include equine first aid, horsemanship, equine nutrition, equitation, trail work, an on-the-ground roping clinic, crafts and more! Saturday night we will be playing games, having a pizza and ice cream party and wrapping up the evening by showing a “horse” movie on the big screen before lights out. 

Participants have the option to camp out in the exhibit building, or in a tent outside if they wish to bring one. Sunday, we will ride until noon and then have lunch, after which the camp will conclude. However, if you are enrolled in the 4H Horse Project and need to complete your assessment and get a tack check, you’re welcome to stay and have that done Sunday afternoon. If this event sounds like fun but you just don’t have a horse, you’re still welcome to attend Saturday evening and join horse-less activities! The fee to attend the movie night is $10. While the camp is a 4H sponsored event, you need not be enrolled in 4H to attend. You do, however, need to pre-register! Call the Pondera County Extension office at 271-4054 or email 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MSU Extension offers disease diagnosis, plant, weed, and insect identification

MSU Extension offers disease diagnosis, plant, weed, and insect identificationKari Lewis

As summer approaches, the number of plant and insect samples that we receive for identification and disease diagnosis increases tremendously.  I wanted to take a few minutes today to review the proper procedure for submitting a sample to your local Extension office, so that we can best provide a timely and accurate identification or diagnosis, regardless if you are a farmer, rancher, or gardener. 

MSU Extension can assist with disease diagnosis and
plant identification, but samples need to properly collected
and packaged for best results.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
Through in office resources and the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman, we can assist with identifying potential diseases or abiotic issues and identifying unknown plants.  When bringing in a plant sample, there are a few key things that are needed.  First, provide sufficient plant material, including roots of the plant.  The sample should be packaged with sufficient plant material that would allow the plant to be re-potted and continue to grow.  There should be soil kept around the root ball, and then a plastic bag wrapped around the root ball and rubber banded, to prevent soil from damaging leaves during shipping.  Ideally, please collect samples with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms, as well as a healthy plant to provide a comparison.  Samples should be kept as fresh as possible, which can be done through refrigeration until you are able to bring the sample to our office.  Do not add water to the sample or wrap the sample in wet paper towels; doing so can create additional issues that weren’t even the original disease.

Photographs illustrating the issue, throughout the field, lawn, or garden and up close, are especially helpful along with background information regarding the concern.  Background information includes the plant and variety, the location where the sample is from, the irrigation practice used, the history of the plant, and information on any pesticides, fertilizers, or amendments used.  Also, information on recent weather conditions, the pattern of symptoms in the field and on the plant, and if there’s been previous problems in that location help us determine what the issue is.

If submitting a sample to the Extension office, samples should arrive by 3 p.m. to allow time to enter the sample in the database and be mailed out if it does need to go to Bozeman.  Samples should not be submitted on Fridays, as they may rot over the weekend. 

Insect samples should be packaged in a crush proof container with a tight-fitting lid.  We’ll need to know where the insect was found, if it was damaging a plant or tree and if so, which parts of that plant or tree and what the damage was. 

If you have any questions on submitting a sample to your local Extension Office and/or the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman, please contact your local office.  

Don't leave dollars on the table, implant calves now for increased fall pay weight

Don't leave dollars on the table, implant calves now for increased fall pay weight
Kari Lewis 

When it comes to branding time, vaccinations for the calves, pre-breeding shots for the cows, and a great lunch for the crew are standard.  Nearly 70% of US producers, however, miss a golden opportunity that could be done at branding time that could potentially increase calf pay weight in the fall by 40 pounds per calf.  This opportunity I’m referring to is implanting suckling calves.  

Growth implants have been approved since the 1950s, and involve implanting a small pellet in the
Research has shown implanting suckling calves increases gains by four to
six percent, and has no impact on sale price.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
mid-ear site that slowly releases growth hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, throughout the growing phase.
  The growth hormones consequently increase muscle growth and delay fat deposition, which results in a larger framed calf, allowing for more pounds to be added to the same animal. 

The benefit of using implants on suckling calves is clear.  Studies have shown that implanted calves gain an additional four to six percent, compared to non-implanted calves.  Those increased pounds can add an additional 15 to 30 pounds at weaning time to each calf.  If each pound of gain is worth $1.50/pound, that can add an additional $20 to $40/calf, easily paying for the $1.50 cost of the implant.  Research has shown that implanted steer calves will gain an additional 0.1 lb/day, while implanted heifer calves will gain an additional 0.12 to 0.14 lb/day from implanting until weaning.  Only heifer calves that will be marketed as feeder calves should be implanted, potential replacement heifers should not be implanted. 

There are a couple common misconceptions related to using implants that I will address.  One myth is that calves who have been implanted are discounted when they are sold.  However, a 2015 analysis by Rogers et al. examined nearly 2.5 million calves sold over a four-year period in 92 video auctions, and found that implant status had no impact on sale price in any of the years.  The study noted that nonimplanted calves typically weigh less at weaning, therefore, nonimplanted calves would need to bring a substantial price premium to offset the decreased number of pounds sold. 

Another misconception is that implanted cattle have reduced carcass quality compared to non-implanted cattle.  If cattle are fed to a common fat thickness, there is no negative impact of implants on carcass quality.  Implanted cattle typically need to be fed an additional week or two during the finishing phase to reach the same fatness as non-implanted cattle, and at that point have a similar quality grade compared to non-implanted cattle, and have a greater pay weight.

As you plan your spring calf work, don’t overlook the opportunity to utilize growth implants in your calves.
  They are a safe, proven technology that can increase gain four to six percent; don’t leave pounds (and dollars on the table) come fall!

Pea Leaf Weevils

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension Agent

As our growing season progresses, different insect pests and diseases may begin to pop up.  One of those pests to be scouting for would be the pea leaf weevil.  If you are wondering what to do about potential pea leaf weevil damage I have some information to share with you this week about the pest and potential control measures. 
The adult weevils feed on the leaves, chewing a halfmoon-shaped notch in the leaf edge.  Defoliation typically does not cause economic damage since the crop usually compensates and recovers.  However, when weevil populations are high and the plants have only recently emerged, adult feeding can cause considerable damage.  Yield loss is believed to occur because of larval feeding on the nitrogen-fixing root nodules.  High pea leaf weevil populations may destroy up to 90% of the root nodules.  While adult weevils can feed on a wide variety of legume plants, the larvae only survive to adulthood on the root nodules of field pea.
Pea leaf weevil is not to be confused with pea weevil, which is a different pest of peas that has a similar common name.  Pea weevil lays its eggs on the developing pea pod and the larvae consume the peas inside, and the adults are very different in appearance. 

Back to the pea leaf weevil now.  Pea leaf weevil adults primarily overwinter in surrounding roadsides, shelterbelts and perennial legume crops such as alfalfa.  Feeding damage to the leaves is often first noted on the field edges.  Migration into the crop may last for several months and is influenced by spring temperatures.  After a period of feeding, female weevils mate and scatter eggs over the soil.

Preventive insecticidal seed treatments protect the root nodules from larval feeding and the foliage from adult feeding.  However, the decision to treat seed should be based on the history of weevil damage in previous years, since planting occurs before pest activity can be monitored.  Foliar sprays can be applied before the 6th node growth stage.  The economic threshold for spraying is reached when ¼ to ⅓ of the plants have feeding notches on the clam leaf (the most recently emerging leaves that are still folded together).  A row of 10-20 seedlings should be examined at several locations, including the interior of the field, to establish an average number of plants with feeding damage.  Foliar sprays must control the female weevils before they lay eggs to prevent yield loss caused by the larvae.  Some results suggest that seed treatments provide better control compared to foliar sprays, since sprays may not always control the adult females before egg laying occurs.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Registration open for June 9 Mental Health First Aid Training

Registration open for the June 9 Mental Health First Aid Training
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County
Mental Health First Aid logoMSU Extension will be hosting a Mental Health First Aid training on Friday, June 9, 2017, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cut Bank Voting Center (913 Railroad St., Cut Bank, MT).  Mental Health First Aid is a peer-reviewed, research based course which will be taught locally by trained MSU Extension instructors, Alice Burchak and Jackie Sutton. 

Mental Health First Aid is an international program which is listed in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Program and Practices.  Peer-reviewed studies show that individuals trained in the program increase their knowledge of signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental illness and addiction.  Further, course participants show increased mental wellness themselves and increase their confidence in and likelihood to help an individual in distress.  USA Today has called Mental Health First Aid an essential effort to reduce the veteran suicide rate. 

The Mental Health First Aid course teaches participants how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders.  In addition, participants learn the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance abuse problem or experiencing a crisis.  Lastly, participants learn through the course the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of mental illnesses and addictions. 

The training is open to anyone, but will be especially beneficial for those who work with the public frequently and/or in crisis situations (EMS, fire departments, law enforcement, school staff, health professionals, etc.)  For more information on the course specifics, please visit

There is no cost for the course, and participants are on their own for lunch.  Class will be limited to the first 30 registrants.  To register for the course, please call the MSU Extension – Glacier County office 873-2239 or e-mail  
Mental Health First Aid training has taught the officer to ask his charges, "What happened?" instead of, "What's wrong with you?" -Officer Orlando Singleton.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Seeing Nutrient Deficiencies in Your Crops?

Jesse Fulbright, Liberty County Extension Agent

According to a recent Montana Ag Alert, the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at M.S.U. is seeing a lot of nutrient deficiencies.  With most of Montana being cooler than normal in April, the release of nutrients has been slower from organic matter, the movement of immobile nutrients (like phosphorus and iron) has been reduced, and cold stress has resulted.  Both phosphorus deficiency and cold stress can cause purpling in plant tissue.  In addition, our rainy stretch several weeks back could result in root rot, further decreasing nutrient uptake, and often resulting in deficiencies of nitrogen (yellowing from bottom) and iron (interveinal chlorosis).
As temperatures warm, cold stress symptoms will likely disappear quickly, but recovery from compromised root systems from root rot and excess moisture stress may continue to be a challenge.  With low commodity prices, it's hard to think about a fertilizer rescue treatment, but some of the crops may need just that.

Applying nutrients that may already be in the soil but aren’t being taken up because of the cold, would be waste.  If you’ve fertilized with adequate nitrogen this winter or spring, and applied both potassium and sulfur with your seed, that’s likely the case.  However, if you’ve seen higher than normal stored moisture, and obvious nitrogen deficiency, a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer (15-25 lb. N/acre) may be needed if nitrogen was applied last fall and has moved below the seedling root zone, or if nitrogen hasn't been applied this spring.  Nitrate can also be lost to the air as nitrogen gas when soil is close to saturated.  Similarly, if you did not apply potassium chloride or sulfur, then a chloride or sulfur rescue treatment may be warranted.  A rescue treatment for sulfur is to apply 3-5 units of granular ammonium sulfate or a liquid sulfur formulation.  A rescue treatment for chloride deficiency is approximately 5 lb. chloride/acre as a liquid or granular potash.

Soil testing and tissue testing for suspected limiting nutrients, focusing on the mobile nutrients of nitrogen, sulfur, chloride, would provide the information to know if a rescue treatment would be useful.  If a nutrient is low in both soil and tissue, then contact your local Extension office as fertilizer options can be discussed.  Make sure to use a lab that can deliver a fast turnaround AND provide nutrient sufficiency ranges for your current crop’s growth stage.  Your local Extension office has a list of laboratories in the region as well.
With continued high wheat protein discounts and higher yield potentials in the wetter areas of the state, it may be the perfect year to consider a 2nd nitrogen application to avoid a double blow at the elevator.  Nitrogen applied before stem elongation can increase yields, while nitrogen applied near flowering can boost wheat protein.  In the drier areas, it's best to see if April's rainfall patterns are going to persist into May before considering any additional fertilization. 

Chloride deficient durum

Nitrogen deficient from "drowning"

Likely Iron deficient winter wheat

Sulfur deficient peas

Phosphorus deficient canola

Friday, May 5, 2017

We have an overnight horse camp coming up June 10th and 11th at the fair-grounds in Shelby!!! This 2 day camp is hosted by the MSU Extension and the Marias 4H Horse Committee but it is open to all youth (not just 4H’ers!) between the ages of 9 and 18! The cost is just $20 per child with a max of $30 per family! Got 3 kids? still only $30! Most meals will be provided although we are asking participants to pack their own lunch for Saturday. Saturday evening after a full day of riding we will have a “horseless” evening of games, a pizza and ice cream party, a horse themed movie night on a big screen in the exhibit building and a campout! You do not have to have a horse to participate in the Saturday evening activities, it’s open to everyone, even if you’re not in 4H. Sunday we will ride until lunch after which the camp will be over, but 4Hers who need assessments and tack checks completed can get those done at that time. Over the 2 days, riders will learn about equine first aid, equitation, horsemanship, trail work and how to groom your horse for a show. We’ll also learn some roping fundamentals on the ground, we’ll go over equine nutrition, do some crafts and play games and we’ll even have a tack care workshop where you will get your saddle all cleaned and oiled and clean your saddle pad as well. If you would like to register for this camp or just get more information, contact the Pondera County Extension Office at 271-4054 or email

You might be wondering how we offer such great activities for youth at such a low price. Well, it comes down to lots of help from volunteers and fundraising. One such fundraiser will be happening Monday night, May 8th! Pizza Hut has generously partnered with us and will be donating 20% of all sales on Monday night to the Marias Fair Horse Committee! You’ve never had a better excuse to eat pizza! Come down to Pizza Hut in Shelby between 5pm and 9pm on Monday May 8th and order pizza to eat in the restaurant, for takeout or delivery. That’s all you have to do to help us raise money to put on more of these awesome programs!
Email us if you'd like the printable coupons! Follow us on Facebook!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Teton County Ag Update

Teton County Ag Update
Lawn fertilizing, pine trees, and weeds

Spring is off and running in Teton County and that means everyone is trying to get five things done at once.  Calving and lambing is winding down, brandings are a weekly event, spring seeding is well underway, gardens are being tilled and lawns are starting to grow.  Just remember if you didn’t store your summer gas powered equipment either dry or with a fuel stabilizer, you may want to swap out the fuel before you try and start things up.  After the long winter, most homeowners are really looking forward to having a nice, lush summer lawn.  To achieve that, apply 2 to 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn per year.  Make two to three applications so that no more than 1½ pounds of available nitrogen per 1000 square feet are applied at one time.  The precise times for fertilizing lawns vary across the state, but fertilizing around Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day (after the last mowing but about four weeks before the soil freezes) are good rules of thumb.
I’ve seen or heard of several more cases of fungal infection of Ponderosa pine trees in windbreaks called Dothistroma Needle Blight.  You may have noticed on some of your trees over the past two summers that the outside half of the needle turns reddish brown mid-summer, while the base of the needles remain green.  Successive years of severe infection of this little known disease can result in decreased growth and death.  Fungicides can be applied for preventative control of Dothistroma needle blight.  New needles are resistant, but become susceptible by mid-summer.  Older needles are susceptible throughout the growing season.  Some experts recommend an application of a copper containing fungicide in early spring and again once the new needles are fully expanded.  A second application seven to ten days later may be helpful especially if weather is cool or rainy.  Generally, fungicide applications are not needed in the summer, since hot and dry conditions are unfavorable for the disease.  Thorough coverage is essential and hiring a tree care professional to treat large trees is advised.  If the disease is severe, several years of meticulous treatment may be required to control Dothistroma needle blight.  Keep up with all the current disease, weed and insect outbreaks facing Montana farmers and gardeners by following the Schutter Diagnostic Lab on Facebook. 
                From the looks of things, it will be a bumper year for weeds.  I’ve had several calls already on the little yellow weed covering driveways and on the roadside.  This one is Alyssum desertorum and should be fairly easy to chemically control.  I would seed some low maintenance grass back into that areas, as it doesn’t like competition.  If you are spraying your yard, driveway, or garden, make sure you have your sprayer calibrated correctly.  There is a simple shortcut method you can use and we have pocket guides at the Extension Office for you to pick up.  I remember trying to calibrate a sprayer several years ago and after several frustrating pages of scribbled calculations, I was completely confused.  To use the shortcut method for hand or backpack sprayers, simply mark off an area 18 ½ feet by 18 ½ feet.  Record how many seconds it takes you to spray that area.  Spray into a measuring cup for the same number of seconds and that number is the gallons per acre output you use in your calculations.  We also have a pocket guide that can be used on anything from a slide in sprayer with broadjets to the largest self-propelled sprayers.  As we move into spray season, let’s be conscientious of our neighbors and watch our drift.  Whether it is your neighbor’s tomatoes or a field of chickpeas, please watch your nozzle type, pressure, time of day, chemical formulation, and wind speed and direction.  Whether you are spraying one acre or a thousand, take time to read the label.  The label gives you the application rate, protective clothing required, and replanting interval for those of you rotating pulses.  Teton County Weed Coordinator, Mark Korte, recommends you also register your pulse or sensitive crops on DriftWatch.  He downloads the county maps weekly and distributes them to his crew, so they can minimize spraying adjacent to those areas. 

                Finally, the biggest driver of profitability in the cow-calf business is getting the cow rebred every year.  That sounds really simple, but the beef business (like almost every other commodity) has been in a down cycle and many operators are facing a cash flow crunch.  However, keeping good feed in front of those young cows so they keep condition up is imperative for rebreeding.  This short, high moisture, high protein, early spring grass provides some nutrients, but in reality, just gives her a good bit of exercise while she chases it.  Producers need to keep a good energy source available for these young cows.  If you think the livestock business is unprofitable with low prices, you should try it with a seventy percent conception rate.  As we approach turnout, keep lactating cows on a good high magnesium mineral package.  These wet, cold, cloudy days could trigger some grass tetany, if you take lactating cows or sheep from a full hay diet and turn them unprepared on lush pasture too quickly.  

May 11, 2012 Shelf cloud east of Fairfield.
Pairs on early spring pasture.

Dothistroma Needle Blight on a Ponderosa pine tree in eastern Teton County.

Cleaning Your Sprayer Equipment, Part 2

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension Agent

Last week I visited with everyone about rinsing and draining your sprayer equipment.  This week I would like to go more in depth regarding the actual cleaning of your equipment. 

After your sprayer has been rinsed and drained, it’s time to clean or decontaminate it.  Be sure to decontaminate both the inside and outside of the machine, running liquid through the boom and out the nozzles.  You don’t need to fill the sprayer, just use enough cleaning solution to completely fill the lines and provide enough agitation.  When you are scrubbing or washing the equipment, please wear your personal protective equipment because of splash-back potential.
You will need to select your cleaning agent based on the pesticide and its formulation.  Please note that not every pesticide asks for the same cleaning agent.  The best cleaning agent for different types of pesticides can be found in the Extension MontGuide titled, “Maintenance, Cleaning and Storage of Ground Sprayers” but do include ammonia, powder detergents, and activated charcoal to name a few.
Some tank cleaning agents and ammonia solutions raise the pH of the rinsate solution, making some products such as SU herbicides more water soluble and easier to remove from internal sprayer parts.
Chlorine bleach solutions hasten the breakdown of SU’s and some other herbicides into inactive compounds.  However, chlorine is less effective at dissolving and removing those SU residues from spray tanks than ammonia solutions.  Never add chlorine bleach to ammonia or liquid fertilizers containing ammonia as the two react to form toxic chlorine gas. 

Fuel oil or kerosene is effective for removing oil-soluble herbicides.  The fuel oil or kerosene should be followed by a detergent rinse to remove the oily residue.  Also, run cleaning solution throughout the sprayer, including the agitation system and the return lines.  Then rinse the system with clean water.  Open all the nozzles until they are spraying pure water.

I would encourage you to contact your local county Extension office for further questions about sprayer maintenance and cleaning.

Letter of Last Instruction

Recently I have been giving some thought to developing a Letter of Last Instruction. Even though I don’t planning on leaving this world soon you never know what tomorrow brings. I am single and have grown children. I know that if I completed a letter of last instruction for my children it would alleviate some of the stress that comes with a loved one passing away.

WHILE THINKING ABOUT DYING ISN’T SOMETHING any of us really want to dwell on….it’s a fact…all of us are going to die someday. Knowing that it is a question of “when” rather than “if” means we can plan ahead and make “things” easier for our survivors. By writing a letter of last instructions we can provide essential information needed to relieve our survivors   of needless hours of frustration and anguish as they search for needed important documents during a time of sadness and grief over our passing.

Let your loved ones know the location of your important documents, including your letter of last instructions, be specific. Describe whether they are “in the safe deposit box at XYZ bank,” “in the bottom left-hand drawer of the desk,” or “in the cardboard box on the top right-hand-side of the bedroom closet.” This kind of detail is helpful for family or friends who are faced with the task of sorting through all your papers to find information needed for the death certificate and to determine which assets in your estate must go through the probate process.

Once you have signed and dated your completed letter, you can decide what parts if any, you want to copy and share with family members or friends. Then make several additional copies and place in an easily accessible place. Give one copy to your attorney and another to your personal representative. A personal representative is the person you name in your will to carry out your plan for the settlement of your estate. If you do not name a personal representative in your will or if you die without writing a will, the district judge will appoint one based on the priority list provided in Montana statutes.

Review your letter annually or when there has been a change in your family situation. Marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or the death of a family member are a few examples. The updating task will be much easier and less time consuming if you save your letter of last instructions electronically. Your letter can also be handwritten.

If you would like more information on writing a last letter of instruction visit the MSU
Extension website or stop by your local extension office and ask for the MSU Extension MontGuide titled Letter of Last Instruction.

Alice Burchak
Toole County Extension - FCS Agent