June 29, 2022

Thursday June 23, the Northern Ag Research Center held their annual field day. This consists of allowing the community to come out and learn about the agricultural advancements that our research center is currently working towards. After having the choice to go on one of three tours with different speakers at each stop, the community is given a free steak dinner that is sponsored and provided by many incredible businesses in Havre. Some of this year’s big sponsors included CHS Big Sky, Clausen and Sons, Duchscher-Kapperud Insurance, Tilleman Equipment, MSU Extension, and 37 others.

After speaking with Dr. Darrin Boss, I was able to learn a little bit more about what they do. When I asked him about the data they gathered and where it is compared to, he stated: “We take information provided throughout the nation, but most of our comparative research comes from other areas in Montana.” Montana has so many diverse ecosystems, however, it may be hard to get the same results depending upon where you are when you first receive the information. One experiment may work on the East side of the state, but when moved to the West side, the results are completely different and may not work at all.

The tours that are included in this program are Tour A: Ground squirrel control, Acidic Soils, Cover Crops containing pulses and their impacts on future pulse crop diseases, canola production in Montana including herbicide residual and scouting for insects, Grasshopper scouting and control options, and industrial hemp plant population and nitrogen fertility rate. Tour B: Spring barley variety evaluations variety development and damage caused by wheat stem sawfly, Winter wheat variety evaluations variety development and improved traits for herbicide or insect resistance, Montana State foundation seed production and marketing, Winifred Asbjorson plant sciences endowed chair, and Pulse variety evaluations new variety development and control options of insects and disease. Tour C: Livestock precision agriculture technology, Selective culling and early weaning in a drought, Forage insect and weed control, Renovating exotic cool season grass plantings to functional CRP, Beef cattle cow lifetime productivity, and Using Cover Crops to increase the grazing period.

I was able to attend Tour C this year and I listened to many people who are activley working towards new technological advancements when it comes to livestock production as well as individuals who are looking to take our grasslands back from invasive species. The first topic presented was on Livestock precision technology that is being developed to understand how animals are reacting to their living environments. This subject was presented by Dr. Sam Wyffels. Dr. Wyffels presented technologies such as thermal cameras that are helping us to understand nutrition and how the animals are reacting to their environment through internal and external views of their body temperatures. He also presented a GPS collar that is essentially a Fitbit for cows. They can monitor an animal’s activity and feeding, they can also begin recording at anytime from anywhere so they can understand more about what and where the animals are eating. The GPS collars are also able to work with other technologies such as trailers that will only let certain animals in to eat grain. Projects like this allow researchers to understand better how animals are truly utilizing the land in winter. If they are unable to reach the grain in the trailers, they are then forced to rely on the land to survive.

The second speaker was Dr. Megan Van Emon. She spoke about drought and how selective culling and early weaning may be beneficial in a drought year. Selective culling can be especially difficult because if you do not have any “bad” cows or calves to get rid of it is difficult to determine who should be let go. Do you risk getting rid of a new heifer who might have become one of your best calvers, or do you risk getting rid of an older cow who has already proven she is a valued member of the team, but is getting up there in age? Another idea she spoke about is early weaning, she stated the very earliest you can possibly wean is around 45 days, but that comes with issues such as not fully understanding how real eating works. She personally recommends the absolute earliest is 80 days and you will still have some of those same issues, but they may not be as pronounced. The best time to early wean is 100-120 days, this is because the muscles and understanding of how to eat is fully developed, however, you may still have problems such as escapees and extra grain costs.

The third speaker was Hayes Goosey. He spoke about insect control and weed control on forage grounds. His main point presented in this speech was that many of the insects we are spraying against are growing an immunity to many of the pesticides due to not rotating which pesticides we use. We can fight back against many of the insects by simply rotating our pesticides yearly, so they are unable to grow an immunity.

The fourth speakers were Dr. Jane Mangold and Mr. Peter Bugoni. They spoke about revamping our grazing lands and getting rid of some of the invasive cool season grasses such as smooth brome or crested wheat grass.

The fifth and sixth speakers were Dr. Tim DelCurto and Dr. Darrin Boss, they both spoke on grazing periods and cattle lifetime productivity. Both of which are consistently being further researched to better understand. As we are coming out of a drought we should be utilizing the grasses that are given and giving our livestock the best nutrition we can provide.

After the tour two awards were given out to Mrs. Barbra Cowan and Mr. Ted Solomon, two local ranchers who continue to support our community and work towards better land and livestock management. Overall, the night was a success and many community members were able to learn and understand more of what the Northern Ag Research Center does.


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