Connecting agricultural science with today’s farming practices was the theme of the 2018 Mid-Year Conference held June 6-7 in Bozeman. The event included tours of the MSU College of Agriculture, the Fort Ellis Research Farm, the American Simmental Association and Dry Hills Distillery. Member Cindy Palmer of Geyser attended the mid-year with her husband Walter. “I love Farmers Union primarily because to stay ahead of the curve you’ve got to be out there listening to new points of view, new technologies, and just new things to try. MFU is always there looking at what’s going on, what’s happening and then bringing that back to the members.”
The event kicked off Wednesday morning with a tour of the Regional Pulse Crop Diagnostic lab. Lab manager Bright Agindotan discussed the various seed borne pathogens of pulse crops and ways the crops are tested for pests. Agindotan recommends a minimum test package to producers which include tests for fungal pathogens.Following the tour of the pulse lab was a visit to the Montana Seed Testing Lab. Staff discussed the characteristics used to analyze abnormal seeds and rules and purposes for testing seeds. Among the variety of reasons to test a seed the two most common are to determine the dry seeds’ potential and to ensure consumer confidence through truth-in-labeling.
Next the group visited the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic lab which is the only accredited veterinary lab in the state. The lab provides support to veterinarians, ranchers, and the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Lab director Steven Smith talked about the variety of species the lab tests. According to Smith the most predominate test the lab performs is for Brucella. “The surveillance area is basically around the park [Yellowstone] and so that’s the area where Brucella is more of a concern at this point,” said Smith.
At lunch the group visited with MSU President Waded Cruzado, toured the American Simmental Association and learned about the distilling process with a stop at Dry Hills Distillery. Jeff and Erica Droge are the managing members of the distillery. All the products created there are sourced from the family farm. Currently the distillery is producing two vodkas, a gin made from potatoes and a wheat whiskey in production.
Thursday morning the group toured the Montana Wool Lab, one of two university owned labs in the United States. According to lab manager Devon Ragen the benefit of the university lab is to offer a lower price to consumers. The lab also supports producers, sheep extension and research and teaching efforts. Ragen also discussed some of the many uses for wool including a new trend of using the product in roadside reclamation projects. Following the wool lab tour the group learned about the testing process and variety of malt available for analysis at the Malt Quality Lab.
The event concluded with a visit to the Fort Ellis Research Farm. Director of Animal and Range Sciences Pat Hatfield provided an overview of the cropping systems and heifer project which examines diet and nutrition. Hatfield talked about a research project originally conducted in Argentina that MSU replicated using a mobile feedlot. “We had two diets, a traditional high grain diet and we also fed alfalfa pellets,” said Hatfield. “The nice thing is we got twice the manure output so we are interested in manure coming out a grain diet verses an alfalfa diet and what that does to soil health.”