Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fall Home Projects

Kari Lewis

Fall is a great time to knock out some projects before winter hits, and it’s even better if those projects   Here’s some projects you may want to tackle in the next couple of months:
will help save on your upcoming utility bills!
·         Yard and Lawn care – For a medium maintenance lawn, we recommend a fertilizer application at Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.  These fall applications really help with early spring green up.  Of course, be sure to clean flower beds and gardens out as well to prevent any pests or diseases from overwintering.  You can also spread mulch around any perennials to help insulate them this winter. 
·         Replacing windows – Upgrading to more efficient windows can help reduce that winter utility bill big time.
·         Exterior painting – A fresh coat of paint helps protect buildings from the weather and sooner is better than later to start painting.  Many paints aren’t recommended to be applied if temperatures are less than 45 to 50 degrees, so be sure to get on those painting projects soon!
·         Roof repair – Any leaks should be repaired now, and it’s also a good time to make sure gutters are cleaned and can drain easily. 
·         Seal gaps and add insulation – It may be time to replace the weather-stripping around your doors or windows, install a new exterior door to help prevent drafts, or even seal up gaps in the foundation to help weather-proof your home and ensure no mice are able to move in for winter. 
·         Furnace tune up – Changing filters on a furnace and/or a regular tune up this fall may help prevent issues this winter when it’s 30 below.  Take a few minutes now to make sure everything is in working order and filters and changed out.
·         Install a programmable thermostat – Programmable thermostats are a great cost saving tool that keeps energy usage down while you’re away from home.  If you turn the heat down 5 degrees at night and 10 degrees during the day when no one is home, your energy bill can easily be cut by 5 to 20%. 
·         Winterize faucets and sprinklers – If you have an underground sprinkler system, it will need to be blown out before winter to ensure it remains in good condition for next year.

So, with a long 3-day weekend coming up, there just may be a few of these projects to knock out now that you’ll be grateful to have done come winter! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Don't overlook water quality and quantity!

Kari Lewis
Of all the nutrients livestock require, what is the most important, but often an overlooked nutrient? 
Water is the most important nutrient for livestock production.
Photo by Kari Lewis.
Water!  Water needs are influenced by environmental temperature, class of livestock, and weight.  As temperature increases, so do water needs.  Lactating livestock require more water than nonlactating livestock and larger animals require more water as well.

On a day like today when the temperatures hit 90 degrees, a growing animal or lactating cow needs 2 gallons of water per 100 pounds of body weight.  So, that 1,400-pound cow will need 28 gallons of water/day, while her 500-pound calf will need 10 gallons, meaning that cow/calf pair needs close to 40 gallons of water today! 
This time of year, water can become stagnant in ponds and reservoirs, providing an ideal environment for the growth of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, which can be toxic to livestock.  Symptoms of blue-green algae poisoning are diarrhea, vomiting, lack of coordination, labored breathing, seizures, convulsions, and possibly death.  Other water quality issues can include high or low pH, excessive levels of sulfates which can cause a reduction in copper availability to livestock, hydrogen sulfide, iron, or magnesium which can cause an ‘off flavor’ and reduce water consumption.  Water with high nitrate concentrations can also be toxic, especially if consumed with foraged with high nitrate concentrations. 
Ideal drinking water temperature for livestock is between 40- and 65-degrees F.  In a research study, steers that had access to cool drinking water gained .3 to .4 pounds more per day than those drinking warm water. 
Research has also found that cattle prefer drinking out of a tank versus a pond or reservoir.  This is likely due to clean water from a tank versus the sediment that is churned up when they wade out into the water for a drink.  Research in Alberta showed a 23% increase in weight gains for yearling steers over 71 days whose drinking water was well water versus the steers who drank out of dugout.  A follow up study also confirmed the impact on cows, and a lesser impact on calves. 
If you suspect an issue with water quality, please stop by your local extension office for a water test kit.  Water can be collected and then sent to a lab for analysis.  If your ponds or reservoirs are low, it may be time to consider alternative water sources.  Remember, water is the most important nutrient for livestock production and is needed for regulation of body temperature, growth, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, joint lubrication, excretion, etc.  It’s critical to maintain a clean, fresh water supply to maintain health and performance of livestock. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Black Henbane, Beware!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Last week I received a phone call here at the Extension office about a weed identification question.  The plant turned out to be black henbane.  As I’m learning about black henbane and recognizing that MSU Extension has a MontGuide publication on it, I thought I would share some information on it this week so if it crops up in other areas, people might recognize it.

Black henbane is a native to Europe and northern Africa.  It has been reported in Montana since 1881 and as of 2010 had been reported in at least 42 counties, being listed as a county noxious weed in multiple counties.  It grows well in a variety of conditions and soils.  The plant itself is an annual or biennial and grows from 1 to 6 feet tall.  The plants I saw north of town were probably in the 4-foot range.  The stems of the mature plant are erect, leafy and thick and branch out widely.  The leaves can be large, up to six inches wide and eight inches long and the foliage is covered in fine, sticky hairs.  The plants, when flowering, exhibit a brownish-yellow flower.  After flowering, two rows of inch long, pineapple-shaped fruit appear.  Each of these fruit capsules contain black, pitted seeds, to the tune of 10,000 to 500,000 seeds per plant. 
Photo courtesy of Utah State University Extension
Photo courtesy of Montana State University Extension
All parts of black henbane are poisonous to humans and livestock.  Livestock will generally avoid it because of its foul odor and bitter taste.  So, what can be done to control it?  However you manage it, the objective should be to prevent seed production.  Black henbane seeds can remain viable in the soil for a period of five years though, so careful attention needs to be paid to keeping plants under control for several consecutive growing seasons. 

The most effect method of control is prevention.  If it does become established, persistent management using a combination of control measures will give the best control.  Cultivation prior to seed production or pulling or digging isolated plants or small infestations prior to seed production can be effective means of controlling the plant.  These methods may have to be repeated over several years to control plants emerging from the existing seed bank. 
There are several herbicides that are listed for providing control of black henbane, including those with the active ingredients dicamba, picloram, metsulfuron or a metsulfuron and chlorsulfuron mixture.  Please remember to read and follow label instructions and continue to monitor the area after applications for any regrowth or new plants coming up.