Monday, April 6, 2020

Tuesday Tips Webinar Series: Dying Without a Will

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

With our shelter-in-place order and all of the recent developments surrounding COVID-19, Dr. Marsha Goetting wanted to be able to continue her estate planning programming in a virtual format.  As a result, MSU Extension has planned a series of 30-minute webinars on a variety of topics, called Tuesday Tips.  The first one starts tomorrow, April 7th, at 11 a.m. and is about dying without a will.

This series, hosted by Dr. Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension’s Family Economics Specialist, will focus on a variety of topics such as wills, beneficiaries, trusts, Montana medical savings accounts, and more.  Webinars will be broadcast every Tuesday at 11 a.m., beginning April 7th.  It is suggested that you log on 5 to 10 minutes early each week, so you have time to make sure your sound and video are working properly.

The schedule, including a list of topics, and links to join each webinar, can be found by googling MSU Extension Tuesday tips.  One week ahead of time, the link to join each webinar will be posted next to upcoming topic, along with a link to helpful resources, such as relevant MontGuides.  Once on the schedule page go to the webinar schedule link on the left side of the page and you will also find instructions for joining the webinars using a computer or a smart phone.  If you are unable to attend the live webinars, you can view the recorded versions on the Tuesday Tips website.  However, joining the webinars live will allow you to ask Dr. Goetting questions about the topic in real time.

Resources for the Dying Without a Will presentation include MontGuides such as a Glossary of Estate Planning Terms, Dying Without a Will in Montana, Montana Common Law Marriage and Estate Planning and Estate Planning in Montana: Getting Started.  All of these MontGuides can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website or can be found on Dr. Goettting’s Tuesday Tips website under the April 7th link in the Webinar Schedule tab.  

As a heads-up for next week, the topic on April 14th will be Beneficiaries 101.  It will answer questions like, what’s a POD?  What’s a TOD?  What beneficiary designations can be placed on U.S. Savings Bonds?  Are your beneficiary designations on life insurance, IRAs and other retirement accounts up-to-date?  How can you leave your real property to beneficiaries without it going through a costly probate?

Monday, March 30, 2020

MSU Extension COVID-19 Ag Resources

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

MSU Extension is a great resource for research-based, factual information.  One resource that has become vitally important over the past month has been a section that can be accessed from the website under a heading titled, “MSU COVID-19 Resources for You and Your Family.”  There are different subsections after you click on the link and I would like to share one resource about agriculture.

COVID-19 spreads through relatively close contact but doesn’t survive long outside of the host.  Contacting respiratory droplets from someone sneezing close to you or picking up the virus from handling a doorknob that is contaminated with mucus from an infected person, can spread the disease.  The good news is that coronaviruses can be killed by many disinfectants and normal handwashing procedures, as well as environmental exposure.

For agricultural producers, it’s important to note that there is no current evidence that this outbreak is affecting livestock or any species besides humans.  The recommendations that follow apply to general precautions against introducing or spreading disease on the farm or ranch, which are excellent practices to follow at all times.
Keeping barns and other farm buildings clean is one of the keys 
to reducing potential disease spread.

Be sure your farm and family biosecurity is strong.  Keep all visitors to your farm, wildlife and new livestock out of direct contact with your animals, as well as their feed and water.

Use good management to keep your family’s and your animals’ innate immunity strong.  Good nutrition, housing, ventilation, water and general hygiene will strengthen immune defenses and reduce the chance of serious disease of any kind.

Be a good observer.  Report serious illnesses to your veterinarian as appropriate.  It’s always good to discuss how to best address illnesses on the farm.  Usual occurrences of disease and losses will occur on farms but shouldn’t be confused with more serious disease.

Keep enough resources on hand to be able to manage if backups are needed.  You should have replacements for essential items at the farm, as well as at least two weeks’ worth of supplies.

So, what about cleaning and disinfecting?  The Centers for Disease Control suggests simple environmental cleaning and disinfecting if respiratory disease is present.  These reasonable steps for both in the home and on the farm include cleaning doorknobs, as well as kitchen and bathroom handles and surfaces.  Surfaces should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.  Diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.  Diluted household bleach solutions can be used if appropriate for the surface you are cleaning.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation.  Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date.  Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.  Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.  Prepare a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Antibiotic Use in Livestock - Does it Cause Antibiotic Resistance in People?

Adriane Good

As I was scrolling through Facebook last week, I saw a very interesting article in the Canadian Cattlemen’s magazine. It was titled ‘Study finds Enterococcus bacteria resistance in people not related to antibiotic use in cattle’. This is a finding of huge importance to the livestock industry, so of course I had to read more.

Dr. Tim McAllister, a researcher at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research and Development Center in Lethbridge, is one of almost two dozen multi-disciplinary scientists in Canada involved in a series of research projects looking at whether antibiotic use in livestock is increasing antibiotic resistance in humans, and if so, what we can do about it. While this is a Canadian research initiative, antibiotic resistance is a global issue, so this research applies here too.

To back up a little bit, antibiotics are used in livestock production in a variety of methods. Livestock producers use antibiotics to treat illness in their animals. Nobody wants to see a sick calf, so ranchers treat those sick calves with antibiotics to bring them back to health, just like we do with people. The use of prophylactic antibiotics is lesser known. In some cases, livestock will be given a dose of antibiotics to prevent disease. This occurs when there is a high risk of animals getting sick. For example, a feedlot might give antibiotics to a group of new calves coming in if they’re looking especially stressed and a little sick. Stressed animals get sick much easier than animals that aren’t stressed, and mixing calves with other calves is a great way to spread disease. Sometimes with stressed cattle, the first sign of illness you see is death, so treating them before you see signs keeps them alive. One of the most commonly used antibiotics in livestock production are ionophores. These are used to treat coccidiosis and modulate the rumen environment in cattle. Altering the rumen environment not only increases feed efficiency, but also decreases the amount of methane cattle produce.

Antibiotics are classified into 4 categories – low importance to human health, medium importance, high importance, and very high importance. In all of livestock production, antibiotics that are of very high human importance are used less than 5% of the time, while they are used 30% of the time in human medicine. Antibiotics that are of low and medium importance to human health make up almost 80% of the antibiotic use in livestock but make up less than 10% of antibiotics used in human medicine. This shows that livestock production is using the lower importance antibiotics that human medicine doesn’t rely on.

Antibiotic use by category of importance. From

Dr. McAllister’s study focused on beef cattle and looked specifically at enterococcus bacteria species found in cattle and humans. They sequenced the genome of these bacteria and found that the species of bacteria that pose a threat to human health are not the same species found in cattle. They also discovered that the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance in the enterococcus bacteria in humans are associated with antibiotics that are not used in beef production. This suggests that antibiotic resistance in humans is caused by antibiotic use in humans, and antibiotic resistance in cattle is the result of antibiotic use in cattle.

Of course, we still can’t be too cautious. Antibiotics are a very important tool for human health, just as they are for livestock health. While this research is encouraging, it’s important that we use antibiotics responsibly in both human health and livestock health. For livestock producers, make sure you’re reading and following the label when giving antibiotics. Having a good veterinary client patient relationship will also help as your vet can help you make sure you have diagnosed problems properly and are treating them with the right product. It’s also a great idea to minimize stress on your animals, keep up to date on vaccinations, ensure adequate nutrition, and use biosecurity practices to minimize the chances of animals getting sick.  

For the original article in Canadian Cattleman's, check out:

For more information on antibiotic use in beef cattle and antibiotic resistance, go to:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Soil sampling for lawn or garden

Kari Lewis

With March here, we have more folks thinking of gardening and lawn work in the upcoming spring and now is the time to be potentially thinking of doing a soil test on that lawn or garden. Many homeowners do not soil test but use standard fertilizer rates which are given on fertilizer bags.  If this is your practice and your plants appear healthy, this is an appropriate fertilizer regimen to continue.  However, if your plants are not thriving or producing well or you suspect a potential nutrient deficiency or toxicity, soil sampling for the lawn or garden is recommended.  Gardens can have excessive nutrient levels due to high inputs of compost and/or fertilizer.  Excessive levels of fertilizer are not only a waste of money but can be harmful to your plants and the environment.
Now is a good time to collect a soil sample for the lawn or
garden if plants haven't been thriving or you suspect a
potential nutrient deficiency or toxicity.  

To obtain meaningful and accurate soil test results, it is important to correctly collect soil samples from multiple locations within your yard and garden. A minimum of ten samples should be collected and mixed from your garden, or from each 1,000 square feet (sq ft) of lawn to obtain a representative sample. Be sure to remove any mulch or lawn thatch before collecting your soil samples. If there is a visual or textural difference from one side of your garden or lawn to the other, submit separate samples.

Soil samples are best collected using hand probes or augers, available from your local Extension Office. An alternative tool to collect a 0 to 6-inch soil sample is a bulb planter (available at most gardening stores). Tools should be cleaned between each garden or area sampled and stored away from fertilizers to prevent contamination. Soil samples are generally a 6-inch-deep core from the soil surface.  Samples may be submitted moist or dry. They should be enclosed in a Ziploc bag, sealed, and labeled with your information.

You should schedule soil sampling to allow adequate time for soil analysis (~one to two weeks) and fertilizer application, if needed, prior to seeding or planting time. Also, soil tests are representative of current nutrient levels and do not necessarily reflect future conditions. Therefore, soils are ideally sampled yearly in the spring to best estimate growing season nutrient availability.

The MSU Extension publication, “Home Garden Soil Testing& Fertilizer Guidelines” available free online or from your local Extension Office, includes a list of labs where you can send your soil sample for analysis.  By communicating to the lab any concerns and what you plan to grow in the soil, for example squash, potatoes, and carrots, they can provide specific recommendations for your scenario in terms of nutrient needs.  Tests can range from $20 - $50 and typically take one to two weeks to receive results back. 

This material was taken from the MSU Extension MontGuide "Home Garden Soil Testing & Fertilizer Guidelines."

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Financial Basics and the Tax Refund

Kari Lewis

I recently had the opportunity to present a basic financial class and thought I would share some of that information today.  For many folks, it’s Tax Refund time, but we want to be strategic in how that money is potentially spent.  Whenever money comes in, we have three options – Save it, spend it, or Give it away. 

We want to first put any extra money towards any necessities (not wants) that we need, such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities. 

MSU Extension Credit Card sliders provide
a great visual for the real cost of credit cards.  
The tax refund is a great place to sock away some savings for future expenses.  In the workshop we looked at John and Sally who have four kids and when August rolls around the school supplies, school clothes, and sports fees pile on so they put the $2,000 in “unexpected expenses” on their credit card.  They will end up paying a total of $3,654 for that $2,000 charge due to the $1,654 in interest charges and will be making minimum payments for 11 years!  This illustrates how critical it is to save for purchases instead of using credit cards. 

According to research, 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  Building up a $1,000 emergency fund is a critical piece of a basic financial plan.  An emergency fund should be saved for anything that is truly an emergency.  If you receive a tax refund, be sure to save at least $1,000 for a starter emergency fund.  This should be placed somewhere where you’re not tempted to use it for anything other than a true emergency.

After building the $1,000 emergency fund, any debt should be attacked.  Make a list of all debts, smallest to largest and begin throwing as much as possible towards the smallest debt while continuing to make the minimum payments on the other debts.  Once the smallest debt is paid off, move to the next debt, throwing as much money as possible at it, this is called the ‘Debt Snowball Method.’ 

Lastly, if considering making a purchase, think about any potential upcoming expenses that should be saved for such as summer daycare, camp for the kids, graduation or wedding gifts, back to school supplies, etc.  These dollars can be stretched by purchasing at thrift stores, on the online yard sale, at cash and carry sales, etc. 

Any purchases should have a long-term benefit.  For example, this may be the time to purchase an upright freezer to take advantage of frozen fruit and vegetable sales, purchasing a used vehicle if needed, a washer and dryer versus using the laundromat, etc. 

In the class, we looked at two couples who both received a $2,000 tax refund.  The first couple purchased new smartphones, a new flat screen TV, some PS4 games, and enjoyed a weekend in Great Falls at a hotel, eating out, and doing a little shopping.  The second couple put $1,000 towards an emergency fund, purchased a 7 cubic foot chest freezer and filled it with a processed hog they bought.  They then set aside the remaining funds for summer swim lessons for the kids, a family summer swimming pass, back to school supplies and clothes.  Both couples received the same amount of money, but one family chose to make long lasting decisions while the other family’s tax refund was gone within a weekend. 

Before beginning to spend, consider where you want to be financially in 1, 5, and 20 years, and then make your decisions. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Livestock Brands as part of an estate plan

When we think about succession or estate planning, it might be family heirlooms that come to mind. 
Who's wearing your brand?  Reviewing brand ownership
is an important part of an estate plan.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
However, livestock owners also should consider Montana brand ownership laws as they pertain to estate planning.  MSU Extension has a great MontGuide resource, available free online or from your local extension office, ‘Livestock Brands in Montana: An Important Componentof an Estate Plan’ from which this information comes.

One scenario in the MontGuide relates to the Rocking R brand which has been a family brand for 50 years.  In 2014, after John’s marriage to his second wife, Kathy, he added her as co-owner of the brand.  John’s son, Rob, is actively engaged in the ranch and thus in John’s will, he stated the Rocking R brand was to go to his son, Rob.  However, upon John’s death, a dispute arose between Rob and John’s wife, Kathy, as to who was the rightful owner of the brand and the livestock bearing that brand.  Was it Kathy, listed as co-owner on the Brand Assignment form?  Or was it Rob, who was listed specifically in John’s will? 
Upon an owner’s death, who inherits the brand and who inherits the livestock bearing the brand is determined by information provided on the Application for Brand Recording form, Montana brand laws and regulations, decisions issued by the Montana Supreme Court interpreting and applying the brand laws and regulations and the Montana Uniform Probate Code.  Upon the death of a brand owner, a key factor in determining who receives the brand and the livestock bearing the brand depends upon if the brand is recorded as sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenants in common, in the name of a business entity, or in the name of an estate or trust. 

In the scenario of the Rocking R brand we started out with, John’s wife Kathy and son, Rob, both believed they were rightful owners of the brand and cattle and hired attorneys to defend their position in court.  Based on the Application for Brand Recording form on which John designated “joint tenancy” as the form of ownership between himself and wife, Kathy, the judge ruled Kathy owned the brand and the livestock on which it appears.  John’s decision to add his spouse as a joint tenant had unintended consequences which resulted in a significant and costly family disagreement between his wife and his son.  This could have been prevented by a premarital agreement between John and Kathy, conferring with professional estate planning advisors, recording the brand in joint tenancy with son Rob, or keeping the brand in sole ownership of John. 

If you are a brand owner, here are four questions you should know the answer to:
1.       Who are the owners of your brands?
2.       If the brand is owned by more than one person, are the co-owner’s joint tenants with right of survivorship or tenants in common?  The use of the words ‘and’ or ‘or’ here are key.
3.       Whom do you want to own the brand upon your death?
4.       When you transfer a brand by gift or will, do you want to distinguish between ownership of the brand and ownership of the livestock bearing the brand?  If so, you will need to make your intent clear and likely should seek the advice of an attorney.

For more information on this topic of livestock brands as part of an estate plan, check out the MontGuide publication.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dr. Steven Hjartarson, Northern Veterinary Clinic in Cut Bank,
will be a workshop presenter February 1.

"Will it matter if I go with the cheaper scours vaccine?"  "How long can I wait on that heifer to calve before I call the vet?" "We gave shots at branding, why are we fighting summer pneumonia?"  Ranchers have lots of animal health questions when it comes to their cowherd and rightfully so.  When margins are tight, its critical to get the most live calves on the ground possible with the most efficient use of the budget.  Dr. Steven Hjartarson of the Northern Veterinary Clinic in Cut Bank will cover two topics, “Vaccines and Immunology – An Introduction” and “Calving Time Management” at Montana’s Next Generation Conference on February 1 that ranchers will want to attend!  We’ll have 36 workshop topics throughout the day, and the following are some other great options as well:

Shane Ophus, owner of Ophus Auction Service, has 37 years’ experience selling farm and ranch auctions and nine years’ experience selling farm and ranch equipment retail for farm machinery dealers.  In addition, he’s been conducting certified appraisals for 17 years and has a strong farm and ranch background and remains active ranching today.  He has completed numerous auctioneering, personal property appraiser, and real-estate courses and will use his background for his Saturday workshop, “All Things Equipment Value.”  This will be a great workshop to learn how equipment is valued and appraised and ask questions of someone with decades of experience in the business. 

What is your biggest fear when thinking about your retirement years? For many, it is the idea of potentially multiple years in a nursing home that depletes the entire estate.  How can you prepare for health care costs now and be ready to address that through your succession plan? Kristin Juras and Sarah Hamlen will delve into this during her workshop.  Kristen Gustafson Juras is a fourth generation Montanan who has been an attorney since 1982, specializing in agricultural, business, and tax law.

You have 50 bushels of grain left in the bottom of the bin. It will surely fit on top of the rest of the load, right? Another bale stacked on the top of the load won’t be a problem, right? The truck has made it back and forth to town for 40 years, what do you mean it doesn’t meet DOT regulations??? Merlin Frydenlund, MT Dept. of Transportation, has graciously agreed to meet with the farmers and ranchers in Northern MT to go over the rules and regulations of trucking down the road.  This is a great time to ask questions from the comfort of a classroom and not the side of the road!
Brian Fladstol will share
equipment maintenance tips.

We put a lot of dollars and time in machines worth than many people’s homes. With this large of an investment, what can you do to ensure your machine lasts as long as possible? Brian Fladstol has been a mechanic and farmer all his life. February 1 he’ll share tips and tricks he has picked up over the years and how you can troubleshoot issues before calling the mechanic.

Saturday, February 1 there are 36 workshop options available at the Shelby High School on these topics and more crops, livestock, succession planning, business, marketing, or accounting topics.  There will be 5 pesticide points available at workshops throughout the day, so that’s a great opportunity as well.

Please call our office in Cut Bank with any questions at 406-873-2239, and check the website, for the complete schedule and workshop agenda and to register.  Remember, Montana’s Next Generation conference only comes once a year and registration closes Friday, don’t miss out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Early Bird Rate for Montana's Next Generation Conference ends Friday!

This Friday, January 17, is the Early Bird deadline for Montana’s Next Generation Conference!  Montana’s Next Generation Conference is coming up quickly, Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1, in Shelby.  All the details are available online at 
Friday, January 31, will kick off at 11 a.m. at the Coyote Club in Shelby with our keynote speaker,   Dan is an ag economist and author who served as a consultant to the U.S. Grains Council on a trade mission to China.  He was a top executive of one of the nation’s top four firms on market outlooks and price risk management, and he also defended the beef industry on national TV against Oprah Winfry.  He was recently named the “Ag Communicator of the Year” and will bring a great perspective and knowledge to the conference.  Friday he’ll be covering, “The Big Picture in Ag,” “Financial Management Skills and Business Planning,” and “Farming is a Blessing and not a Punishment.”  He’ll have something for everyone, and both farmers and ranchers should plan to attend the Friday session.  We’ll cap the evening off with a delicious roast beef dinner and some time for networking.
Dan Manternach.

Saturday, February 1 there are 36 workshop options available at the Shelby High School.  It is extremely rare that a conference has 6 options every hour that you can choose from, its up to you to decide if you want to pursue a crops, livestock, succession planning, business, marketing, or accounting related topic each hour.  There will be 5 pesticide points available at workshops throughout the day, so that’s a great opportunity!  Here’s just a FEW of the workshop highlights:
Reducing Inputs through Regenerative Ag by Korey Fauque
·         Oilseed and Pulse Crop Scouting by 406 Agronomy
·         Top Range Plants You Need to Know by Rick Caquelin of NRCS
·         Equipment Maintenance by Brian Fladstol
·         Valuing Equipment by Shane Ophus of Ophus Auction Service
·         Land Purchasing 101 by Tyler Tintzman and Wade McAlpine of Northwest Farm Credit
·         Fetal Programming and beef cattle nutrition by Carla Canford from MSU Extension
·         Livestock Marketing by Rocky Forseth
·         Planning for Health Care after Retirement by Kristin Juras
·         Dealing with Stress in Ag and Family Communication in Ag By Jane Wolery

Each workshop is 45 minutes with additional time for questions and answers, so Montana’s Next Generation Conference is a great way to get to get time with ag professionals, accountants, and lawyers for just $25/person/day or $40/couple/day.  And, that low price includes all the meals as well!

Babysitting is available on site, and both the Comfort Inn and Best Western Shelby Inn & Suites are offering discounted rates on their beautiful rooms during the conference, just be sure to say you’re with Montana’s Next Generation Conference.

Please call our office in Cut Bank with any questions at 406-873-2239, and check the website, for the complete schedule and workshop agenda and to register.  Remember, Early Bird Discount is in effect through Friday, so save some cash and register early!