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Storms easier to weather with accurate prediction and tracking tools

“We got three-tenths last night” said one. “Oh, really,” said the other, “We got 38-100ths.” This is a common exchange among the ranching and farming community, and while rain gauges are a mighty important real-time tool for determining weather, other resources exist to calculate future conditions and see current conditions throughout the nation. 

Mesonet is a network of automated weather and environmental monitoring stations. It updates data every five minutes from information transmitted from stations situated around each state in the region. The 30 stations in South Dakota relay current air temperature, humidity, and wind as well as precipitation, though not all gauges are heated, so rain fall levels are more accurate than snow fall.  

“We plan to have at least one in every county, if not multiple,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension state climatologist. “We have been chipping away at it, piece by piece.” 

Mesonet also supplies soil moisture and temperature and thaw and frost depths. Users may also travel back in the archives as far as 2015 for weather conditions on a particular date. 

South Dakota’s website can be found at mesonet.SDState.edu. 

Edwards also recommends National Weather Service’s mobile-friendly website, mobile.weather.gov. She said that apps can be handy, but the National Weather Service is more accurate, updating conditions at least twice per day. The website can keep track of past locations users have searched. The site also contains the official watches and warnings. 

CoCoRaHS, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, is a group of folks throughout the nation who have at least a simple rain and snow gauge that track daily precipitation and post conditions based on their location. 

The network began in 1998 with a few observers along Colorado’s front range and has spread to up-to-date coverage through 20,000 volunteers in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas. 

For those wishing to keep a running record of weather events elsewhere than a wall calendar, CoCoRaHS allows observers to make note of more than just rainfall, and access their own records for years to come. Observers names and information aren’t publicly listed, rather a location is posted for those posting. 

“As a state climatologist, I will look at it and say, ‘Hey, this place has been getting a lot of snow; there is potential for flooding in the spring,’” Edwards said. “Or this location is in a drought.” 

She has been an observer for CoCoRaHS since 2008, when she was living in Nevada, and she is now a state coordinator for the group. 

CoCoRaHS weather information is available through the website cocorahs.org or in app stores, and anyone may sign up to be an observer. The only requirement is a clear rain/snow gauge that can be purchased for about $50 from weatheryourway.com. 

The other app that Edwards recommends, and the only one she uses, is Radar Scope. The $9.99 app can be too technical for the average user, she said, but is a thorough resource in terms of weather. 

Each state’s Department of Transportation also provides current road conditions at camera locations around the state, and conditions are available online and through apps. 

“Once you get familiar with the app, it is so much easier than calling or looking online,” said Rich Zacher, the South Dakota Custer area engineer, covering the southwestern part of the state including Custer, Fall River, Oglala Lakota, and part of Pennington counties. “You can also save particular areas that you check often, and they will appear at the top.” 

Within the last five years, the installation of cameras across the state has increased. The initial cameras, in place by the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, were funded by grants, but the majority of the 87 cameras statewide were installed with a winter maintenance management system funded by the state of South Dakota. 

The cameras upload a new photo every minute, offering the most current available information, and for the 69 cameras that offer weather, they also update the temperature and wind speed and direction. 

The bird’s eye view may also be found online at SafeTravelUSA.com, however, viewing online doesn’t offer current weather conditions as the free app does. For solely acquiring weather conditions, call 511. 

If a Mesonet or DOT station isn’t near enough or the National Weather Service isn’t quite accurate enough, at-home weather stations are always an option. Edwards recommends Davis Instruments. Their Vantage Pro2 weather stations are customizable and allow users to get data from remote sites with cell coverage. 

The website states the weather station can “use growing degree days to accurately forecast harvest dates…prevent catastrophic frost damage. ..and track chilling requirements during crop dormancy.” 

Davis weather stations are available on www.davisinstruments.com and start at $395. 

Rodeo logistics changing landscape of tech

AUSTIN, TEXAS— In comparison to other sports and business industries- rodeo is starving for technology upgrades in current processes industry wide. Today, Rodeo Logistics publicly launches offering the world’s leading technology to the entire rodeo ecosystem.

“We saw an industry hungry for innovation,” said Rodeo Logistics COO Jeff Hermon. “Rodeo Logistics is devoted to transforming current processes in the rodeo world through the implementation of technology. We are leading the future of rodeo innovation and will continue to release new software tools to advance the entire industry.”

Prior to taking the reins at Rodeo Logistics, Hermon has been dedicated to assisting companies in achieving their business development goals through technical solutions. With more than 20 years under his belt, he has vast experience in the areas of software engineering, technical solution development, software development, and project management.

Unbeknownst to many, Rodeo Logistics has already proven themselves to the rodeo industry over the last 18 months. As the tech developer of the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier (VRQ) for the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA), the firm and its software has successfully managed tens of thousands of rodeo athlete nominations worldwide. In addition, Rodeo Logistics developed and launched the WCRA VRQ Entry Tool which has processed several thousand rodeo entries for all WCRA semi-finals and major rodeos, including the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo.

“As an independent rodeo in 2018, we took our entries for our invitational athletes internally while the tool was used for qualifiers,” said Days of ’47 Cowboys Games and Rodeo General Manager Tommy Joe Lucia. “After seeing the ease and performance of Rodeo Logistics’ entry tool last year, we decided to have them take all of our entries for the 2019 event and the entire process has been very efficient.”

The Austin, Texas based company is taking a different approach to the rodeo industry. Historically, the orchestration of rodeo was led by organizing bodies developing processes for their own business needs independently. Uniquely, Rodeo Logistics is developing its software with the enormous capacity to serve every level of rodeo competition and everyone in the ecosystem including; organizers, athletes, secretaries, committees, producers, promoters and contractors.

For all inquiring about Rodeo Logistics, please visit www.rodeologistics.co or call 888-343-1123.


Producers Traceability Council looks for a path for E-ID

In late April, following a meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, USDA released a Factsheet that included the bombshell: the metal bangs tag and other official metal livestock identification tags are to be phased out and replaced by electronic identification. The timeline is aggressive. By 2021, no new metal tags will be allowed. By 2023, even older breeding animals with metal tags in place must bear a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag.

South Dakota Stockgrowers Association Executive Director James Halverson, who took part in the Cattle Traceability Working Group meeting held during the event, revealed in a follow up news release that a new “hand-picked” group, consisting only of those supporting an electronic identification mandate had been formed.

Indeed, the Producers Traceability Council, comprised of a few individuals and commercial businesses, announced in May that it was focused “specifically on ways to increase the number of cattle identified with electronic identification devices, increase the number of sightings of identified cattle, identify methods of data storage, and suggest cost sharing scenarios, while taking into consideration and minimizing negative effects on producers.”

Joe Leathers, manager of the 6666 Ranch in Texas, and Chuck Adami with Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Assn. are the organization’s co-chairs.

Leathers says members of the group felt like there wasn’t enough “getting accomplished” with the approximately 40-member Cattle Traceabilty Working Group. “There wasn’t enough producer representation. The group was too large,” he said.

“We felt like we were going in circles and spinning our wheels, and it got to the point where some were wanting to drop out,” so the new Producers Traceability Council was born, at the request of the NIAA.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) spokesperson Joelle R. Hayden said the Producer Traceabilty Council is an industry led group, and not part of USDA, although there is a USDA serves as a liason according to the group’s latest news release. “They do not have regulatory authority. They do not represent all of the cattle industry, but speak for the industry members that are part of their group,” said Hayden.

Leathers echoed these thoughts. “Just because the Producer Council comes up with points they think will work, that isn’t necessarily where the industry will end up.”

The group is independent and is working toward formulating a recommendation to the industry as a whole, said Leathers.

The group’s members – Chuck Adami, Equity Cooperative Livestock, Mike Bumgarner, United Producers, Ken Griner, Usher Land & Timber, Inc., Joe Leathers, 6666 Ranch, Jim Lovell, Green Plains Cattle Company LLC, Mr. Bob Scherer, Tyson. Dr. Justin Smith, Kansas State Veterinarian, Keith York, Wisconsin Livestock ID Consortium, Jarold Callahan, Express Ranches, Cody James, International Livestock Identification Assoc.Dr. Sarah Tomlinson (DVM), Government Liaison, USDA, APHIS, VS, a non-voting member of the Council – pay their own travel expenses and are not beholden to any groups such as USDA, NIAA or NCBA, he said.

“My goal is to get something realistic done,” he said. The group is focused on the “least intrusive as possible” pathway forward for the mandatory electronic identification USDA has announced it will enforce for breeding cattle that cross state lines. “We have to meet the needs of cow-calf, stocker, salebarns, feedlots and packers,” he said.

“Some people don’t feel we need any kind of change and some think we don’t need foreign trade, and that is where our disease comes from,” said Leathers.

But he said he’s been told by packers that if BSE enters the U.S., the cattle market will drop about $300 per head. Leathers thinks the new technology will make disease traceback faster.

He compares electronic identification for livestock to a more popular technology. “Handwritten letters and snail mail, that is the metal bangs tag. If you move up to cell phones – flip phones would be like the low frequency tags, and the smart phones would be like the high frequency tags,” he said. “Why would we want to start a new system of traceability with older technology?”

But some think mandatory electronic tags are an unnecessary expense at best and an infringement of private property rights and at worst, an open door for anti-agriculturalists to gain traction.

Leathers said that in 2011, his ranch was forced to move cattle out of state because of a drought. “We moved over 4,000 cows over a few months period. It took time with days getting long and hot, stress on cattle.” He said that with the introduction of low frequency electronic tags, the process was simplified and overhead was reduced.”

Belvidere, South Dakota rancher Kenny Fox serves as the Animal ID committee chairman for both the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association and R-CALF USA.

Fox said that his organizations have no problem with private individuals or businesses utilizing any kind of tagging system they choose, but they don’t support a government-mandated electronic id program.

Fox believes USDA is outside of its authority to even require the use of electronic identification.

In fact, numerous attorneys also question whether USDA can move forward with the significant industry requirement without a rule change and public comment period, and R-CALF USA is considering a lawsuit against USDA to stop the implementation of the mandatory electronic identification program.

USDA is “getting the cart before the horse” in implementing a program without the infrastructure to record, interpret or manage the data, said Fox.

Hayden said that the data in most cases will be managed by the states, in the same way health records and bangs tag numbers are currently kept.

Hayden said USDA heard comments in their 2018 listening sessions that included “considerable support” from industry and state officials to move to electronic identification. “They also asked for USDA to share the cost for transitioning to EID. In September 2018, Under Secretary Ibach presented four overarching goals to advance traceability. The goals incorporated input from both industry and state Officials to protect the cattle industry by rapidly tracing cattle infected and exposed to high impact diseases like TB, Brucellosis, and in worst case, foot and mouth disease. Successfully implementing them requires substantially increased use of EID,” said Hayden. She did not mention whether producers or feeders voiced support for the concept.

Fox said he and other members of R-CALF and SDSGA attended the listening sessions, and that the comments included significant opposition to mandatory electronic identification from producers.

“They act like they are so afraid that something will happen that they can’t sell their tags. They are in a big rush to get this in there and they are going to worry about how to make it work after they get the tag in the cow,” said Fox.

Fox said disease prevention is the better strategy. “I don’t like the fact that they want to manage a disease like foot and mouth disease after it gets here. “It’s all about money and not about what works.”

See sidebar for USDA’s published timeline for implementation of the electronic identification program.

MSU researchers collaborate with one-room schoolhouses to collect bee data

Declining bee populations have been widely discussed by scientists and the public over the past decade. But while colony collapse disorder and diseases impacting European honey bees are well known, native bee populations are frequently overlooked. A team of researchers in Montana State University’s Montana Entomology Collection (MTEC) are working to fill that knowledge gap and learn more about Montana’s wild bees.

“We are in year two of a 15-year project to document the 500 to 1,000 species of native bees in Montana,” said Michael Ivie, an associate professor of entomology in the Department of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology in MSU’s College of Agriculture and the MTEC’s curator. “Montana is a huge area, and our knowledge is so limited that we don’t have a more accurate estimate of how many species are here.”

The project started when one of Ivie’s graduate students did a study of the bumble bees of Montana in 2016, and it became obvious how many holes there were in the knowledge of Montana’s native bee diversity. Ivie secured funding from the Montana Department of Agriculture in 2017 for the “(Wild) Bees of Montana Project,” to create a complete collection of samples and determine just how many species of native bees the state has. He and Casey Delphia, the project’s chief taxonomist, recruited a graduate student and volunteers to help. But to examine all 147,000 square miles of the state would require more manpower than they could muster, and to fill that need, an unlikely partnership was created.

“One of the ideas I had in proposing the project was to capitalize on two facts about one-room schoolhouses,” said Ivie. “They are located in remote places where we need samples, and few curriculum projects are specifically aimed at them. So, this project was born.”

This May, graduate student Zoe Pritchard and volunteer Cheryl Fimbel, a retired wildlife ecologist who studied wild bees in western Washington before moving to Bozeman, put together boxes that included curriculum and bee-sampling tools and sent them to one-room schoolhouses across the state. Seven schools, from Conrad to Glendive, responded by sending bee samples back to Marsh Lab. It gave the students a chance to become citizen scientists, said Pritchard.

To collect samples, students placed “bee bowls” – colorful plastic bowls filled with soapy water that look to bees like giant flowers – on the edges of their schoolyards among grass and wildflowers. After a day, they came back and collected the bees, packaged the samples in special equipment that Pritchard and Fimbel included in the kits, and mailed them back to Bozeman.

“It’s a simple collecting process, but it teaches them a little bit about the scientific method that they might not have seen before,” said Pritchard, who received her undergraduate degree at Iowa State University before moving to Bozeman this January to join Ivie and Delphia’s team. She and Fimbel got to see the success of the schoolhouse partnership firsthand, visiting students this spring to help teach them about the project. Both students and teachers greeted the opportunity enthusiastically.

“The students and I were amazed at the quantity and variety of insects in the bowls,” said Kristi Borge, teacher at Polaris School northwest of Dillon. Borge’s students collected and examined both bees and other insects before sending them to MSU, and the experience sparked lasting curiosity for the kids. “We look forward to learning about the species in our area.”

Students at Cooke City School, who helped collect bee samples for MSU’s “(Wild) Bees of Montana,” project, sent a thank you note to the research team in the College of Agriculture who sent curriculum and supplies to rural schools across the state.

Back in Bozeman, the scientists worked to identify any new varieties and add them to the 399 species currently documented in the state.

“One of the most important things for us to do to protect bees is getting distribution information, because you can’t help something if you don’t know where it is,” said Fimbel. “Having baseline information, especially from a place that has no data, is a starting point for managing any kind of species.”

While students across the state helped collect bee samples this spring, Pritchard and Fimbel were also driving all over Montana to find as many species as they could. Pritchard’s graduate studies are focused on the genus Megachile, a native group often known as leafcutter bees. As of right now, about 30 species of Megachile are known to be native to Montana, but Pritchard predicts that number will increase once the whole state has been canvassed. Previous graduate students in the department have worked on other types of bees, and those who follow Pritchard will continue until 2032.

“We’re building our reference collection in Montana here, and it’ll be a great resource,” Pritchard said.

And in the meantime, students in rural schools across the state are getting to learn a little more about the world around them and contribute to a project that connects them to the rest of Montana’s extreme diversity – the reason Pritchard moved from the Midwest in the first place.

“It’s really interesting coming here because we have so much native bee diversity, but we have this big knowledge gap due to lack of sampling in these remote areas,” she said. “It’s this giant puzzle that you’re going through, but that’s why we’re building this collection: so that future scientists can build on our work.”

Thanks to the team’s unique partnership with Montana’s rural schools, they may have just met and inspired some of those future scientists.

Contact Michael Ivie: 406-994-4610; mivie@montana.edu

–Montana State University

Work-Study: Students study ag topics in high school biology

Several Nebraska youth are getting a taste of the agricultural research world. 

Students at Central City, Nebraska, in Mrs. Chelle Gillan’s advanced biology and anatomy and physiology classes are required to do a research project of their choice, and some of those students choose topics in the ag world. 

Mrs. Gillan’s sophomores in biology each do a simple experiment, then those students who take an advanced science class are required to do a more intensive research project. 

The projects are of the student’s choosing, and range from the effectiveness of biochar on seed corn, to the propensity for cavities, the effect of antibiotics on small water crustaceans called daphnia, and using switchgrass for biofuels.  

This year, senior Chesney Reeves is studying the efficiency of cattle dewormers. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s research feedlot in Mead, she took 200 rectal fecal samples from incoming calves just off the truck. Twelve days later, after the calves were treated for dewormers, she returned to the feedyard to take another sample from the same calves. The samples were sent for testing to a lab in Lawrence, Kansas. Seventy-two percent of the calves had stomach worms before treatment. After treatment, only two of 200 calves had worms.  

The research projects reap bountiful rewards for students, Gillan says. Students learn how to read and digest research projects, approach university professors to ask for advice, and how to present, among others. She has seen the effect the work has on the students. “I’ve seen success story after success story, and I’ve seen students’ lives change. Their confidence, their skills, there’s no way to put it into words how it affects students.”  

The projects require from thirty to forty hours outside of class time. As students read research papers written on their topic, they reach out to the writers of those papers, who often include professors. Gillan has had students working with professors from UNL, the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Colorado State and even a professor in Massachusetts.  

As a junior, Reeves’ research project was testing for the prevalence of coccidia in feedyard cattle. She brainstormed her project with David Lee, DVM, to find a relevant project, one that was a problem in the industry.  

She took twenty fecal samples from each of six different pens at Christensen Feedyards in Central City and Fullerton and sent the samples to a lab at UNL. All six of the pens were positive for coccidia, and at least fifty percent of the samples were positive, showing that the disease is prevalent in feedyards.  

Gillan’s students take their projects to the Nebraska Junior Academy of Science and the State FFA Agri-Science Fair. The top ten projects at the state level qualify for the American Junior Academy of Science National Conference. In each of the last seven years, at least one person from Gillan’s classes has gone on to the American Junior Academy conference.  

Last year, Reeves won top honors at the Nebraska State FFA Agri-Science Fair in her division, animal systems, and also won the veterinary award at the Greater Nebraska Engineering Science Fair.  

The skills students gain from research are applicable in nearly all job settings, Gillan says. “The way we want education to be is for students to have skills that will transfer across subjects. Research is all-encompassing. They have to improve their writing and reading skills. They have to read science journal papers, which are difficult to read. They learn computer skills and how to analyze data. They learn organization and time management. And probably the most important things they learn are perseverance and grit, because science research never goes as planned.” 

Adapting and modifying plans is good for students, Gillan said, especially the high ability students. “A lot of the kids doing this research have never had to fail. I would rather have them have little bumps in the road now in high school. They learn to pick themselves up and keep going when times get tough.”  

Reeves takes great satisfaction in her success at science fairs. “It’s a proud moment,” she said. “You know how much work went into it, and you see other people coming up and being interested in what you did, asking about your research and genuinely caring about it.” She recalls a moment when she was working alongside grad students at a feedyard as she collected data. They mistook her for another grad student. “It was really cool,” Reeves said. “They were UNL grad students and they helped me.”  

Gillan has seen it affect students’ career choices. Central City High graduate Sydnie Reeves (a distant relative to Chesney) wanted to be a veterinarian. Her high school research project, studying roundworms in raccoons, was published in The Journal of Emerging Investigators, and she narrowed her career choice to the area of parasitology.  

Gillan also knows that the research students do helps them no matter their career choice. “The skills they learn transfer to anything,” she said. “These are the types of things employers want: communication skills, problem solving skills, perseverance, time management, dependability. When things don’t go right, they have to say, how can I redesign this to make it work? These are all things that the employers are looking for.”  

Gillan is a strong advocate for her students, too. “With Mrs. Gillan, you can go as far as you want,” said Reeves. “She never says no.” Gillan encourages her students who are afraid they’ll get a negative answer. “Her statement is, ‘The worst they can do is say no,’” Reeves said.  

MSU researchers examine benefits of sheep grazing in vegetable farming

BOZEMAN – Farmers and ranchers have long been in search of ways to limit the need for tillage and chemical herbicides on farmland, and two researchers in Montana State University’s College of Agriculture are working on a project that may provide a solution.

With help from the Western Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education program, which is being hosted by MSU until 2023, Devon Ragen, a research associate in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences, and graduate student Trestin Benson have conducted two years of tests on local farms to see if grazing sheep on vegetable or cover crop plots can help improve soil health while reducing artificial inputs to the soil.

“We’re looking at differences in microbial communities in the soil and nutrient profiles,” said Ragen. “We use sheep for a pre-graze before seeding to clean up all the weeds instead of having to spray or till it up.”

Tillage, she said, is one of the biggest detriments to organic farmers. While useful for turning fertilizer and plant matter into the soil, it also promotes wind erosion by making the upper layers of earth easier to blow away. If incorporating sheep into a farming system results in less need for tillage, it would be a win for farmers. Ragen and Benson have partnered with Strike Farms in Bozeman, 13 Mile Lamb and Wool in Belgrade, and Black Cat Farm in Boulder, Colorado; all three farms volunteered to test out their theory and allow sheep to graze their vegetable fields.

Those tests have shown that when sheep were allowed on cropland to eat weeds and leave manure and urine — natural fertilizer — behind, it reduced the need for tillage 60 percent of the time. However, having animals in a vegetable field carries with it the concern of the sheep compacting the soil too much and interfering with seeding and growth. But fortunately, Ragen and Benson haven’t found it to be a problem in their farm tests, which is more good news for producers.

“We looked at these grazed organic fields and compared them to tilled organic and chemical fields, and we’re not really seeing a big difference in terms of compaction,” Ragen said. “From a farmer’s perspective, it’s not really a detriment to have sheep out there, and we’re actually seeing higher nitrogen in the soil after the sheep have grazed, so that’s less fertilizer they have to apply and less cost in actually purchasing the fertilizer.”

One of the upsides to the project is that it doesn’t require the producer partners to change anything in their systems — simply allow Ragen and Benson to take soil samples before and after sheep are allowed grazed on the plots. They do much of their work with a part of the MSU-owned flock of sheep that lives at Fort Ellis Research Farm. For Benson, who began working with Ragen in 2017 while finishing her undergraduate studies, the project has provided an opportunity to adapt based on farmer interests.

Trestin Benson, graduate student in animal and range science at Montana State University, left, and Devon Ragen, research associate in the College of Agriculture at MSU, have been studying integrating sheep into agriculture systems and examining the benefits or drawbacks to having the sheep graze before or after planting and harvest in crop cultivation. MSU Photo by Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez

“When it started out, we thought it was going to be a cropping systems project,” Benson said, but farmers were keen to test the ideas in the context of vegetable farming. “It’s evolved into something a little different and unique that way. It’s been fun working with the farmers and all their different systems, which gives an interesting perspective.”

The SARE program, which focuses on supporting projects dedicated to furthering sustainable agriculture, is the nation’s top producer-led grant program in the field. MSU was selected in 2018 as the western regional host for the program, which will bring more than $27 million in grants and operational costs to MSU researchers and graduate students over the next five years. Ragen and Benson’s project received a SARE grant in 2017 and they will dedicate the final year of that funding to producing write-ups, tip sheets and videos for producers. They’ll also host a workshop at Towne’s Harvest Farm in Bozeman on July 25 from 9 a.m. to noon for anyone who wants to learn more about the project and its potential applications.

They hope that their research will offer farmers and ranchers an added level of comfort in pursuing livestock-cropland partnerships in a real-life context. The whole point of their work has been to test a practical option for Montana agriculturalists, refine the process and provide reliable information to communities around the state and beyond.

“As researchers I think it’s really important that we can do all the trials and let them know what works and what doesn’t so they can feel a little more comfortable going out there and trying it themselves,” said Ragen.

–Montana State University

Ag Research Service: Milestone for germplasm facility

When the sample of semen from the Duroc boar—a breed of domestic pig—arrived in Fort Collins, Colorado this spring, it went largely unnoticed. But the scientists and staff at the Agricultural Research Service’s National Animal Germplasm Collection knew they had reached a milestone. The boar semen was the one millionth sample of animal germplasm to arrive at the facility, which began operating in 1999. “It was a pretty big moment for us,” says geneticist Harvey Blackburn, who leads the ARS National Animal Germplasm Program, based in Fort Collins.

The ARS collection is the largest of its kind in the world and it’s designed to ensure that there is enough genetic diversity available for breeders to meet the changing needs of the farmers and ranchers who provide much of our food supply. Only with such a diverse collection of genetic stock, available for breeding, can farmers and ranchers address the potential threats posed by emerging diseases, invasive pests, illnesses and fertility problems. Producers and breeders also need to be able to respond to changing consumer demands.

The collection is made up of samples of sperm, embryos, and tissues (e.g., ovaries and blood) of 167 breeds (36 species) of domesticated animals, such as cattle, pigs, chickens and sheep, along with farmed aquatic species, such as catfish, trout, salmon, and oysters. It also includes less common domesticated species like bison, elk, and even yaks. The million samples have been sent to Fort Collins voluntarily over the years by approximately 3,500 animal breeders, universities and in some cases, private companies that market genetic resources for cattle, swine, poultry, and trout, Blackburn said. Most of the cattle semen samples come cryogenically preserved. Semen from pigs, rams, goats, and fish often arrives fresh and is packaged and cryopreserved at the laboratory.

Why build such a collection? It’s a valuable tool for exploring animal genomes and, when appropriate, it’s used to reintroduce livestock and aquatic species into living populations, Blackburn said. It’s also less expensive to store animal germplasm than to maintain live populations. The samples of semen and embryos, some of which predate the collection, have been stored in liquid nitrogen since the 1950s, at minus 300° F, a temperature cold enough to stop all biological processes, essentially putting them in “suspended animation,” Blackburn added.

Research scientists say the collection is vital to their work.”Our project would not have been possible without the collection,” said Chad Dechow, an associate professor of dairy cattle genetics at Penn State University. He used the collection to produce Holstein offspring from 1950 era bulls with genetic variability no longer found in the living populations.

Holsteins are critical to the nation’s dairy industry, but breeding for specific traits, such as milk production, that began in earnest in the 1950s have limited the breed’s genetic diversity, which makes it difficult to address more recent problems, such as infertility. Breeding Holsteins with DNA from older lines, that were stored in the collection, should replenish the genetic diversity of Holsteins and give breeders better genetic tools to address modern day challenges, Dechow said.

“When we started artificially inseminating cattle in the 1950s and 60s, certain traits didn’t appear to be valuable, but our selection goals will always change with time. The collection ensures that we have the genetic resources we need to meet those goals,” he said.

Blackburn estimates that he and his colleagues have sent out about 6,000 samples to scientists, researchers and breeders in the past 10 years. Along with Dechow’s Holstein project, scientists have used samples in a variety of efforts, including studying the meat quality in pigs and addressing a lethal genetic mutation that can cripple and kill Angus beef cattle.

There are 128 animal gene banks in the world, but the USDA collection is by far the largest, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Collections kept by the Dutch and French are the next closest in size, with each of them having about half a million animal germplasm samples.

“It’s a comprehensive resource and it provides a critical backup for the nation’s food security,” Blackburn added.

The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.

–Ag Research Service

A few thoughts by John Nalivka: Moving Economic Research Service to agriculture’s ground zero – Kansas City

A week ago, Secretary of Agriculture Perdue announced the relocation of the Economic Research Service (ERS) to Kansas City. I thought this was a great decision. Kansas City is in the heart of U.S. agriculture as well as a great area to live in. However, this was a pretty contentious issue when first announced last year. While I am not sure what the breakdown is on yeas and nays concerning the move, there was no lack of opinion on both sides. I read some of the comments including those from university professors, analytic firms doing what I do with Sterling Marketing, ERS current and former employees, politicians, and lobbyists, and others. It is the opinion of one of the politicians that inspired me to write this article.

In our local newspaper following the announcement, a headline quickly caught my eye – “Merkley slams Trump, U.S. Department of Ag on relocating NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture) and ERS.” It was a statement released from Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) office. In this statement, Senator Merkley indicated “this announcement is yet another unacceptable chapter in the Trump administration’s ongoing attack against science. NIFA and ERS’s work is critical to top-flight research on topics ranging from agricultural economics, nutritional assistance and the impact of climate chaos on our farmers and ranchers.” “This relocation has the potential to damage agricultural research for years to come.”

My simple response to Senator Merkley’s statement is that agricultural economic research is best accomplished at ground zero where agricultural production occurs. Living and working in the middle of where the majority of U.S. crop and livestock production occurs is important – not to mention top notch agriculture-based universities. Proximity is a big deal when analyzing the industry and I don’t mean proximity to the center of political power! I worked for ERS in Washington, D.C. and while I may have been educated in the politics as we analyzed the 1984 Farm Bill, it was my prior ranch experience combined with a sound master’s degree that provided a good foundation. Looking out the window onto 13th Avenue did not replace that ranch experience or growing up in a rural community defined by agriculture.

Senator Merkley, you speak about research on the “impact of climate chaos on farmers and ranchers.” Climate chaos on farmers and ranchers is the Oregon legislature’s Democrat majority’s attempt to pass Cap and Trade legislation in the state of Oregon with no regard for the truly negative impact on agricultural production in eastern Oregon. We need more ground-zero analysis of the impact of legislation on U.S. farmers and ranchers including from USDA. Moving ERS to Kansas City is the first step. Thank you Secretary Perdue!

SDSU’s West River Research Farm hosts field school

BROOKINGS, S.D. – South Dakota State University’s West River Research Farm will host the West River Field School on July 16, 2019 at the farm located at 13304 Alkali Rd. Sturgis, S.D. The field school begins at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m.

The farm is located approximately 10 miles east of Sturgis on Alkali Rd. directly north of the Sturgis Regional Airport.

The information presented will focus on the diverse nature of agriculture in central and western South Dakota and provide attendees with the opportunity to learn in a “hands on, in-field” environment from SDSU researchers and SDSU Extension specialists. The field school will focus on weeds, insects, plant diseases, and forages. State Climatologist, Laura Edwards, will be available to provide a climate update and the day will wrap up with a tour of the West River Research Farm. This event is geared for crop advisors but will also be beneficial to farmers. Five certified crop advisor educational credits are available during the day. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend.

Cost for this event is $50.00 on or before July 3rd and $65.00 from July 3rd forward. Lunch is included in the cost. Space is limited so register soon. To register go https://extension.sdstate.edu/event/2019-west-river-field-school or contact Patrick Wagner, SDSU Extension Entomology Field Specialist at 605.394.1722, Christopher Graham, SDSU Extension Agronomist at 605.394.2236, or Ruth Beck, SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist at 650.773.8120.

Tentative Schedule and Topics

8:30 AM – Registration

9:00 AM – Introduction

9:15 AM – Session 1: Identifying Herbicide Damage on Crops – Gared Shaffer, SDSU Extension Weeds Field Specialist. (1.0 CEU Pest Management), Pesticide Drift Avoidance – Nathan Edwards, SD Mesonet Director

10:30 AM – Session 2: Entomology – Adam Varenhorst, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Field Crop Entomologist; Patrick Wagner, SDSU Extension Entomology Field Specialist. (1.0 CEU Pest Management)

12:00 PM – Lunch

12:30 PM – Session 3: Climate Update – Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension State Climatologist. (0.5 Crop Management)

1:15 PM – Session 4: Getting Creative with Forages – Sara Bauder, SDSU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist. (1.0 CEU Crop Management)

2:30 PM – Session 5: Diseases – ID, Management, Prevention – Emmanuel Byamukama, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Plant Pathologist. (1.0 CEU Pest Management)

3:45 PM – Wrap up

4:00 PM – Farm tour (optional) – Chris Graham, SDSU Extension Agronomist, Farm Manager. (0.5 CEU Soil & Water)

View this release on our website.

Media Contacts:

Lora Berg

SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Director of Marketing and Communication

Phone: 605.688.6579

Email address: lora.berg@sdstate.edu

Sydney Meyer

SDSU College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Marketing and Communication Coordinator

Phone: 605.688.4389

Email address: sydney.meyer@sdstate.edu

Technology in trade

Growing hay is as ancient as the Bible, but the spectrum of systems to trade forage today rival the methods of making it.

From a verbal commitment to an auction gavel to an iPhone app – balers and feeders can meet with a wide spectrum of trade and price discovery options. Extreme weather situations of rainfall, floods, drought and wildfire situations in the past several years have put an increased level of urgency and necessity on hay trade to many producers.

Bob Sazama is a hay broker who for 25 years has made a living trading hay from across the west, mainly high quality alfalfa rounds and squares from Montana and North Dakota, and selling it to Minnesota dairies. As a broker, Sazama both buys and sells the hay personally, as well as provides transportation. He averages 90,000 miles a year. He bases his pricing on two large hay auctions in Minnesota, which set the regional market, noting that high quality dairy hay is normally sold on a base price plus a dollar per point for relative food value. Sazama says large square bales have a distinct advantage in inter-state trade, as they can be hauled without oversized load restrictions, and thus able to travel at night. He and his wife both drive semis, but also work on brokering back hauls of freight from Minnesota.

He notes that over the span of his career he has built up a strong clientele, but those customers are slowly retiring. “I have had to start a whole new chain,” he says. It was Sazama’s circle of hay sellers which brought Bob and his wife from their roots in Minnesota to Eastern Montana, where they live today. “We were staying with hay vendor friends near Fallon (Mont.) and saw there was a farm for sale nearby – it was a perfect location for what we do, close to a major road and not too muddy to get trucks in and out,” says Sazama. He and his family moved there in 2014.

Sazama has always operated on a cash basis: “When I buy hay I pay for it right away and when I sell hay I collect money before I unload,” he says. “In the hay business you don’t want to be in a position of dropping off a load of hay in a different state and having someone send you the check. Once it’s off the truck, it’s theirs. Possession is 9/10ths of the law.”

Even though he still takes precautions, Sazama says he has been blessed to never once have gotten in a bind with money. “I’ve gotten paid for every load I’ve ever delivered. The good Lord takes care of me,” he says.

Hay auctions are another traditional method of dispersing hay. Willy Groeneweg, along with his wife, JoAnn, owns and runs Dakota Hay Auction in Corsica, S.D. He started the auction in 2010 after working in the dairy industry in Iowa for years and witnessing the hay industry inside and out. They auction off about 1,100 loads of hay a year, most directly to cattle and sheep ranchers in about a 60-mile radius of their location. Groeneweg says normally fall and winter are their busy times, and summer slows down, but due to the high rates of winter kill and spring rains in major hay producing regions, he says hay demand is currently strong and they’re seeing some of the biggest runs of the year right now.

The Groenewegs sell hay the old fashioned way at their auction – by sight, smell and opinion. Hay racks line up at auction time, bids get placed, and the trucks roll out, usually within a 30 minute window each week. Sellers pays a $4.75/ton commission, and buyers are provided 10 miles of free transportation, with the balance of $4.50 per mile added to their ticket. The hay rarely gets unloaded and reloaded, although they do provide that option for a $50 fee.

Groeneweg says some buyers will bring their own moisture probe, but as an auction they don’t make any guarantees and all hay is sold at the buyers’ discretion. He says that although livestock auctions sometimes will also sell hay, hay auctions are specialized and are price-setters for the region. Their sale has their own USDA report and a tremendous amount of hits on their website which reports hay prices.

Online hay marketplaces are gaining traction in the hay market, with site leaders like HayMap.com facilitating trade nationwide.

Shaun Baker started HayMap.com, an online hay and forage marketplace, in 2015 after bucking bales and running a hay company for years in his home area near Houston, and looking for a better way to trade his product. He noted that while many government and university websites offered hay hotlines, there was no aggregate site with funds and time devoted to maintaining a current database. After taking some software classes, he developed the iPhone marketplace app that has grown from a small, self-funded startup to one of the leading websites for Google hits for hay sales. Baker says it has literally been a bootstrap effort – in the beginning he hand-delivered flyers to auction barns, horse shows and extension offices to populate the site with hay sellers and buyers. Today the site has facilitated thousands of trades across the nation and during peak seasons sees more than 100 new listings appear daily.

Baker says he is most amazed at the variety of demographics of users of HayMap. “I thought initially we would be popular among the 25-50 year olds, but we have users up to 75, 80 years old who say, ‘Just tell me what to do so I can sign up,’” he says.

A true entrepreneur who sees a need and then creates a solution, Baker also has plans for an escrow and credit service, an Android version of the app, membership discounts from a variety of hay equipment, input and services vendors, and an opt-in price reporting system.

“Over the years we have seen everything from people putting signs ‘Hay for Sale’ on fence posts and gates, flyers posted at businesses, classified ads, even Craigslist listings. We are just looking for a way to create a secure marketplace that brings hay buyers and seller together on one platform and helps people in agriculture, especially in times of drought or extreme weather, get a product sold or bought.”