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REAL Montana Explores Sugar Beet and Malt Barley Production in Yellowstone County

by Tara Becken, Program Coordinator, REAL Montana REAL Montana (Resource Education and Agriculture Leadership) recently held an alumni tour in the Billings and Huntley areas focusing on the sugar beet and malt barley industries.  Participants included current REAL Montana class members, alumni, and several guests from the Northern Ag Network.  The group started at the MillerCoors elevator in Huntley to learn about malt barley production. They also traveled to Swartz Farms and Michaels Farms for a first-hand look at sugar beet harvest, and then on to the Western Sugar factory in Billings. REAL Montana is a two-year program that features eight in-state seminars; a four-day national study tour in Washington D.C.; and a ten-day trip to Colombia in January 2017. Seminars include training in natural resource development, agriculture institutions and agencies, public speaking/media, economics, state and federal policy, international trade, urban/rural relationships, water issues, and other current industry topics. REAL Montana is funded through a partnership with Montana State University Extension and private industry.  Oversight is provided by an advisory board of industry leaders.  The program will start accepting applications for Class III in the spring of 2017. Complete program information is available at or by contacting Janelle Booth, program director, at (406) 994-6480, .    Photo Caption: REAL Montana tours MillerCoors elevator in Huntley. (L to R): Tara Becken, Jami Howell, Augie Aga, Belinda Holloway, Taylor Brown, Darcia Patten, Jill Herold, Fritz Schneider, Tom Hougen, Mike Killen, Casey Hoskins

Producers in 14 Montana Counties Eligible for 2016 Livestock Forage Disaster Program

Livestock producers in 14 Montana counties have until Jan. 30, 2017 to enroll in the 2016 Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP)  Eligible 2016 LFP counties include Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers in qualifying counties for drought on dryland pasture. Eligible livestock producers must own or lease dryland pasture physically located in a qualifying county and eligible livestock must use this ground during the normal grazing period for the county. The following 14 counties have met the qualifying drought criteria for 2016 in Montana: Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton.   Livestock eligible for LFP include alpacas, beef cattle over 500 lbs, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, poultry, reindeer, sheep or swine that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland during the county’s grazing period.   Eligible land includes dryland native pasture, improved pasture, and small grains, annual ryegrass and forage sorghum planted specifically for grazing.   Irrigated acres used for grazing or aftermath grazing are not eligible under this program.    If all eligibility requirements are met, livestock producers in Carter County will receive for four monthly payments; livestock producers in the following 13 counties will receive one monthly payment: Big Horn, Carbon, Fallon, Flathead, Granite, Lewis and Clark, Missoula, Park, Powder River, Powell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass and Teton.   Livestock producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office with any questions regarding eligibility. Producers must complete an application and provide supporting documentation for 2016 losses by Jan. 30, 2017. Please contact the local FSA office ASAP to schedule an appointment to begin the application process and for questions on FSA programs.  For more information, visit Montana FSA online at and . LFP Factsheet (pdf)   Source:  Montana FSA

Adding Value to Crops & Cattle by Backgrounding

by Warren Rusche, SDSU Extension Beef Feedlot Management Associate   Describing the current market prices for both cattle and feedstuffs as poor would be a colossal understatement; dismal would be closer to the truth. Although there is little that an individual producer can do to change market prices, feeding cheaper feeds to add value to calves may be an opportunity to improve the overall bottom line this year. Potential Margins Tables 1 & 2 show the potential margins for various cattle prices and costs of gain. These figures clearly demonstrate just how important a role the buy/sell margin and total cost of gain play in the profit or loss of a backgrounding enterprise. Table 1. Backgrounding Profit or Loss ($ per head) at Different Purchase and Sale Prices. Bottom Line Considerations Deciding whether or not to background calves should be part of an over business strategy. Feeders can make money selling their feed through cattle, taking advantage of superior genetics or health status of their calves, or some combination of both, but there needs to be a plan in place in order to capture those efficiencies. There is also the possibility of improved cattle prices between when the calves go on feed and their sale date. However, attempting to time or predict the cattle market can be challenging, even more so in a down-trending market similar to this year. As these examples show, just because calves and feed are both less expensive, does not mean that one still can’t lose money. Implementing a risk management strategy to at least minimize the likelihood of crippling losses should be considered. These could include Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) insurance products or futures or options contracts. Finally, match the diet and ADG target to the cattle type. Feeding smaller-framed calves to gain 2.5 to 3.0 pounds a day usually results in fleshy calves that will have lighter carcasses. Consequently, they are usually discriminated against in the market place when sold as feeders. On the other hand, “slowing down” calves with greater growth potential can result in a greater than optimum cost of gain and reduce their ultimate marbling potential. For more information on backgrounding, contact Warren Rusche 605.688.5452.     Source:  iGrow, SDSU Extension   Pixabay photo:    CC0 Public Domain