Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Montana Farm & Ranch News

Ag experts warn of fires HELENA - Agricultural producers should be extra careful with equipment and other potential fire causes during the existing hot, dry and often windy conditions in Montana, says Ralph Peck, director of the Montana Department of Agriculture.

"We have already lost tens of thousands of rangeland acres to wildfires, and conditions are ripe for much bigger losses if people aren't extra careful and we don't get a break in the weather soon," Peck said.

The Montana Department of Agriculture is working with the Governor, through the state Disaster and Emergency Services office, and with the Montana congressional delegation and the federal Farm Service Agency to determine what assistance might be available for farms and ranches that lose crops and land improvements to wildfires.

Several of the largest fires burning in Montana now apparently were caused by lightning, Peck said, but blazes during the disastrous fire season of 2000 had many causes, including farm equipment and vehicle mufflers igniting dry plant material.

Heat could boost nitrate in hay BOZEMAN - Haying of cereal grains and other annual forages has already begun, and in many areas, drought-stricken spring wheat or barley crops are being considered for pasture or hay crops.

These crops are grown on several hundred thousand acres in Montana. Cereal forages have good production and forage quality, and have helped ranchers overcome pasture and hay shortages during drought conditions since 1999.

However, one of the major drawbacks of cereal forages is that under stress conditions (heat, drought, frost, nutrient, etc.), these crops can accumulate levels of nitrate (NO3) that are toxic to livestock. During normal plant growth, nitrate is rapidly converted into grain protein as the crop heads and matures. However, if normal plant growth is disrupted, nitrate can accumulate in the stems. A number of chronic symptoms of nitrate poisoning occur in livestock, but in severe cases abortions and deaths are common.

High-nitrate levels have been prevalent across Montana during the past three years. Widespread hot and dry conditions throughout Montana have again set us up for high nitrate levels in annual forages crops such as barley, wheat, millet, corn, sudangrass and common weeds such as kochia and lambsquarters.

MSU considering extension candidates BOZEMAN - Montana State University has invited three candidates to interview for the position of vice provost and director of the MSU Extension Service. Each will also present a public one-hour seminar on "Challenges and Opportunities for Extension in Montana" followed by questions and answers.

Mary McPhail Gray is associate director for programs and professor of human development and family studies in the college of applied human studies at Colorado State University. Gray's public seminar will be held Tuesday from 10-11 a.m. in 102 Culbertson Hall, on the north side of the MSU campus.

Russell C. King is northeast district Extension director for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. King's public seminar will be Friday from 10 to 11 a.m. in 102 Culbertson Hall.

Susan Holder is state program leader, 4-H youth development, and Extension professor at Mississippi State University Extension Service. Holder's public seminar will be held Aug. 5 from 9:30-10:30 a.m. in 102 Culbertson Hall.

Resumes for all three candidates are available on the MSU Extension Web site at Click on "director applicants."

State ag council to meet in Sidney HELENA - The Montana Agriculture Development Council will meet in Sidney on Aug. 12-13, to review Growth Through Agriculture program applications and to conduct site visits of GTA-financed projects in northeastern Montana.

GTA provides funding through investments and loans that assist Montana agri-businesses to develop agricultural ventures and market value-added agricultural products.

The Montana Agriculture Development council oversees the GTA program. The five-member council is comprised of farmers, ranchers and agricultural business people, as well as the directors of the Montana Department of Agriculture and the Montana Department of Commerce.

The council's quarterly meetings are held in different locations around the state. The next GTA project application deadline is October 31, 2003. For more information please contact the Montana Department of Agriculture at (406) 444-2402 or by email at