By Sharla Sackman
Prairie County MSU Extension Agent
As ranchers and farmers switch gears from winter work to spring work, I thought I’d highlight some of the services Extension has to offer as we head into the growing season.
For livestock producers, assistance with balancing feed rations is available. Extension works with labs to test feeds to provide accurate nutrient analysis, but also has resources available to estimate the quality of your feed. The Extension Office has a software program thatis used to work with producers to determine if what you are feeding meets requirements of your calves or cows.
Checking rations heading to calving time is critical as that is when a cow’s nutrient requirements peak, ultimately affecting subsequent breed-back. We have a hay probe for loan from the Extension Office to collect representative forage samples and also have a portable livestock scale that producers can borrow to weigh calves or cows to determine individual animal weights.
Extension is also connected with labs that can test water for livestock suitability. Here in our local office, I can also test for nitrate in water, pH, and total dissolved solids (TDS) to give you an initial read on water quality. Small grain and sorghum/sudangrass forages can contain high levels of nitrate that could be toxic to livestock. We can perform a Nitrate Quick Tests here at the office to determine the presence of nitrate to help decide whether a sample needs to be sent to a lab for further testing.
In my last column, I touched on the importance of rotating early spring pasture use. I can help you set up a monitoring system to help track long-term changes in range condition. Assistance is also available in determining stocking rates and pasture rotations.
On the crop side of things, water and soil testing services are available. We have a soil moisture probe and also a soil core sampling probe to assist you in collecting soil samples. Soil test results can be used to determine fertilization needs for individual crops. Once crops are growing, Extension can help with diagnosis of disease, insect, and weed problems. If you are interested in growing a new crop, we can provide you with crop production information as well as variety selection assistance.
I am an inspector for the Montana Noxious Weed Seed Free Forage Program. If you want your hay or straw certified through this program, I can do that field inspection. Please note that the inspection must be done prior to cutting the hay or grain crop. Please feel free to contact me for more details on this program.
I think one of the best parts about my job as Extension Agent is the opportunity to interact with people and learn what needs you have and connect you with the information you need to make a good decision. I am also more than happy to travel out to your place and take a look at fields, pastures, or livestock. This is just a brief synopsis of some of the services we offer through Extension. Please feel free to give me a call or stop by the Extension Office with any questions or ideas you have.
Published March 14, 2012