Farmers can reduce extreme weather impacts, say extension educators

Field of yellow flowers with blue skies and clouds
Brassicas, such as this flowering rapeseed (brassica napus), can be used as cover crops. Shutterstock photo: Daniel Prudek

Farmers can’t change the weather, but two management practices can help buffer the effects of heavy rains, drought and other weather extremes, according to new guides from a team of extension educators at University of Wyoming, University of Nebraska and Montana State University.

“Minimizing Extreme Weather Impacts: Cover Crops 101” and “Using No-Till to Minimize Extreme Weather Impacts” are available free from UW Extension at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

Planting cover crops in rotation with primary agricultural crops can support soil quality and fertility, increase water infiltration and reduces erosion. A cover crop can be a single species crop or a mixed-species crop, such as legumes, grasses and brassicas (mustard family).

Other benefits may include reducing soil compaction, suppressing weeds, improving soil microorganism populations and providing habitat and food sources for birds, mammals and beneficial insects.

“Cover crops should be customized to the individual operation and objectives,” said Jerimiah Vardiman, lead author from UW Extension. He noted the potential exists for no benefits or even negative impacts, such as reduction in soil nitrogen, if cover crops are not managed correctly.

No-till farming is not new but is not widely used, said Tyler Williams of University of Nebraska Extension.

With a no-till approach, crops are grown with minimal soil disturbance, and the soil is kept covered with crop residue to conserve soil and water.

Advantages are soil moisture conservation, erosion control, reduced fuel and labor costs and benefits to soil structure and health. Disadvantages are increased dependence on herbicides, no incorporation of residue, manure or fertilizer and slow soil warming on poorly drained soils.

For more information, contact Vardiman at 307-754-8836 or jvardima@uwyo.edu.

These short introductions to field management systems are among the many guides, free courses and videos from UW Extension that help extend skills in cropping, small acreage management, irrigation, wildlife habitat and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

New extension bulletin explains why price slide important marketing factor

            Why price slides at livestock markets and in forward price contracts are important when making production and marketing decisions is explained in a new publication from the University of Wyoming Extension.

Price slide is the naturally occurring phenomenon that cattle prices tend to decrease as an animal’s weight increases.

What is the Price Slide?, B-1319, is available for viewing or free download by going to www.uwyo.edu/uwe and clicking on Find a Publication. Enter the title or number.

If making operational changes to increase weaning weights – for example, buying more expensive bulls or shifting calving dates – understanding how that decision affects calf values, not just weights, can be important, stated the authors. Understanding how price slide affects forward contracts can help producers decide whether or not to deliver calves that are under or over the agreed-upon weight.

Bulletin authors are UW Extension agricultural systems specialist John Ritten, extension livestock marketing specialist Bridger Feuz, beef cattle specialist Steve Paisley and extension educator Hudson Hill. For more information, contact Ritten at 307-766-3373 or john.ritten@uwyo.edu, or Feuz at 307-783-0570 or bmfeuz@uwyo.edu.

What is the Price Slide?” is among many free guides, courses and videos from UW Extension to help extend skills in ranching, irrigation, small acreage management, succession, legacy and estate planning and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”

UW bulletin highlights agriculture research across Wyoming

 The eighth annual Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) Field Days Bulletin features 95 reports highlighting an array of research projects across the state, including studies involving cattle, sheep, crops, weeds, wildlife, rangelands, forests and wildfire.

The Field Days Bulletin documents and makes publicly available the content of ongoing and completed research projects and activities conducted or funded by WAES, said Bret Hess, WAES director and interim dean in the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“This bulletin is a reflection of our commitment to document agricultural and other research at our four Research and Extension (R&E) centers in Laramie, Lingle, Powell and Sheridan, at UW and across the state,” Hess said.

Reports summarize dry bean, malting barley, sugarbeet and winter wheat variety trials, and also highlight studies relating to traditional and alternative crops, including alfalfa, grass hay, corn, table and wine grapes, chickpea, forage sorghum, camelina, as well as pulse and cover crops.

Other crop-related studies include irrigation practices, disease and insect control, fertilization, weed management and the use of compost in dryland winter wheat fields.

UW scientists, working in collaboration with others, also summarize a variety of research projects designed to help ranchers produce healthier and more efficient beef cattle and sheep.

“We are highly committed to conducting research and extension activities that help solve issues for farmers, ranchers, agricultural organizations, the owners of small acreages, the managers of both public and private lands, and others,” said WAES associate director John Tanaka, who also directs the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture R&E Center (SAREC) in southeast Wyoming near Lingle.

“SAREC was formed to be a place where applied research will be conducted to help agricultural production in the region become more sustainable, and we’re working hard to achieve that mission,” Tanaka said.

Continue reading UW bulletin highlights agriculture research across Wyoming

Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) turns 20

Chris Carparelli makes sure the rain gauge is level at the Beaverhead Conservation District office in Dillon, Montana. UW Photo: David Keto

A deadly rainstorm on the west side of Fort Collins, Colorado, led to an international network of citizen weather observers you can join.

CoCoRaHS officially began on June 17, 1998, with a few observers along Colorado’s Front Range. Today, more than 20,000 observers are active in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and the Bahamas.

Volunteers include gardeners, rural landowners, teachers, students, youth in 4-H and after-school programs, and other volunteers. It takes about five minutes a day to measure and report precipitation using low-cost measurement tools and the interactive CoCoRaHS website or phone application.

The CoCoRaHS network provides valuable data for natural resource management, education and research. Meteorologists, flood plain managers, insurance adjusters, farmers, ranchers and recreationists use CoCoRaHS data to make decisions such as when to plan a trip or when to issue severe storm warnings.

To learn more, including how to volunteer, see the new fact sheet from University of Wyoming Extension at bit.ly/weathervolunteer and visit the CoCoRaHS website at www.cocorahs.org.

What has agriculture done for Wyoming lately?

Cows and calves on green rangeland with mountains in background
Of gross revenue from agriculture in 2014, 66 percent came from marketing livestock. UW Photo: Chavawn Kelley, Sims Cattle Company, McFadden, Wyoming

Wyoming’s farms and ranches account for approximately 30.4 million acres of land and $22 billion in investments in land, buildings, machinery and equipment.

Families, individuals, partnerships and family-held corporations account for 96 percent of the approximately 11,700 farms and ranches in the state.

Wyoming agricultural production generated gross income of $2.1 billion in 2014.

Grocery stores, feed stores, veterinarians, bulk fuel dealers, health care providers and restaurants benefit from the $2.1 billion in secondary impacts resulting from local spending by Wyoming agriculture.

These are some of the insights presented in “The Economic Importance of Wyoming Agricultural Production,” a new four-page report from University of Wyoming Extension and the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

The report is available free at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

Economists David “Tex” Taylor, Thomas Foulke and Roger Coupal, authors of the report, estimate the total economic impact of the agricultural industry is double the gross income from agricultural production, for a total contribution of $4.2 billion to the Wyoming economy.

“Agriculture plays an important role by bringing in outside revenue through export sales, and it provides economic diversity,” said Taylor.

Wyoming’s 2.4 million acres of cropland, 1.3 million cattle and calves, 355,000 sheep and lambs, 85,000 hogs and pigs, 72,000 horses, 27,000 chickens, 9,000 goats and 3 million pounds of honey also produce jobs.

Taylor, Foulke and Coupal report the $4.2 billion of economic activity associated with agriculture supported an estimated 33,000 jobs directly and in support industries, with total labor income of nearly a billion dollars.

From a government standpoint, Coupal found agriculture generates an estimated $77.5 million in tax revenue for Wyoming state and local governments yet costs only $0.54 in local government services for every $1.00 of revenue generated.

Open space from private agricultural lands provides landscapes, lifestyles, wildlife habitat, and other ecosystem services that have economic value to both residents and visitors.

A survey sponsored by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy and the Ruckelshaus Institute at the University of Wyoming found that nearly 80 percent of Wyoming residents feel they benefit from the presence of farms and ranches in Wyoming.

For more information, contact Taylor at 307-766-5682 or ttaylor@uwyo.edu.

“The Economic Importance of Wyoming Agricultural Production” is among the many free guides, courses and videos from UW Extension that help extend skills in ranching, irrigation, small acreage management, succession, legacy and estate planning and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include “Barnyards and Backyards,” “From the Ground Up” and “Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.”