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In June 2017, I wrote an article about establishment of birdsfoot trefoil. In that article, I discussed the effects of planting method and cutting frequency on growth, yield and nutritive value of birdsfoot trefoil. Birdsfoot trefoil can be established successfully under Wyoming conditions if appropriate management practices are in place.

Recently, I received several calls about birdsfoot trefoils, especially about varieties.

Birdsfoot trefoil has about 200 varieties that are distributed throughout the world. In U.S. and Canada, about 25 varieties are available for cultivation. Based on growth habit, there are two types of birdsfoot trefoil – Empire and European. Both Empire and European are referred to as “broadleaf” trefoils.

Empire-type birdsfoot trefoils are better adapted for grazing. They have fine stems, prostrate growth and an indeterminate growth habit. Compared to European-type, they have slower growth during establishment and slower regrowth after harvest.

European-type birdsfoot trefoils are better adapted for hay production. They have erect growth, faster establishment and faster regrowth after harvest compared to Empire.

For example, Viking, a European-type trefoil, has traditionally been high yielding when produced for hay. Newer varieties of European include Fergus, Norcen and Tretana. They have similar production ability to Viking and persist better under extensive harvest management.

The Leo variety is more winter hardy compared to Empire-types and Viking.

Another relatively newer variety is Bruce. It has better spring growth, vigor and yield than Leo.

The Bruce variety has very good seedling vigor, good re-growth vigor after grazing, very good winter hardiness and better morphological characteristics, as compared to other varieties, and it has superior spring growth and can produce higher yield in the first cut compared to Leo.

In recent field trials conducted in Lingle and Torrington, Leo, Norcen and Bruce performed very well, exhibiting superior forage quality in southeast Wyoming’s environments.

In some years, yield and forage quality of birdsfoot trefoils were comparable to alfalfa, showing its potential to be used both for grazing and as a hay crop. Additionally, birdsfoot trefoils can be grazed without fear of bloat because of their non-bloating properties.

Anowar Islam is an associate professor and the University of Wyoming Extension forage specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He can be reached at 307-766-4151 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It’s the time of year when we all start comparing our calf prices to our neighbors. Some of you are probably happy, while others are wondering where things went wrong this year.

A recent survey by Colorado State University shows that the majority of producers are still selling their calves through a local market, but evidence suggests more people are starting to explore alternative marketing outlets, such as direct marketing and video auctions. Each of these options has pros and cons, and I would encourage everyone to evaluate all options. 

Often, we get stuck in a rut and sell our calves through the same venue at the same time each year because it’s easy. It may be that the local sale is the best option for you, but unless you compare what you are doing to what you could be doing, you don’t know if you’re leaving money on the table or not.

University of Wyoming Extension just published a fact sheet titled “Which Market Gives me the Best Price for My Cattle?” You can find it at wyoextension.org/agpubs/pubs/B-1303.pdf or by visiting the general UW Extension publication page at wyoextension.org/publications and search for publication B-1303. There are a lot of other good resources to be found there, as well. 

The new marketing publication shows how to compare both the costs and benefits of alternative markets. 

The example includes a local sale barn and two different video auctions.

It is important to understand that price is not the only consideration when comparing alternative markets. 

Selling costs can impact overall revenues associated with each outlet. For example, trucking costs need to be include when sending calves to a sale barn, but often video auctions result in sale at the ranch, so trucking costs are incurred by the buyer. However, often, calves do not weigh what they were sold for in the video auction, so understanding the implications of the price slide are also important. 

Shrink is also an important consideration. Cattle shipped to a sale barn will inevitably experience some weight loss. However, they should gain some of that weight back once they reach the sale barn. But remember, you are also likely paying for feed once they get there. 

Video auctions tend to use a pencil shrink, an agreed upon measure without an actual measurement.  However, the amount of pencil shrink can vary by company, so make sure you understand what that amount will be before signing a contract. 

I’ve included the table to the right from the new fact sheet for comparison. In this example, each option ended up with different weights for calves due to the timing of when buyers picked up the calves. The local sale barn did end up with the best price before accounting for all the associated costs. However, given the distance to the sale barn in our example, trucking costs to get the calves to market and increased shrink resulted in the net price being lower. 

The take home point is that the outlet with the highest price may not be the best option after considering all of the associated costs. While the fact sheet uses some hypothetical markets, it does explain how to make these comparisons for your ranch.

So, when you are looking at your friends and neighbors’ prices this fall, remember, reported prices are not always an accurate depiction of net revenue.  While the price is what we usually think about when comparing how we did, marketing costs can reduce the actual price by five to 15 percent. Up to 80 or 90 percent of these marketing costs come from transportation, shrink and commission. 

So, understanding how different venues affect these costs is important when considering marketing alternatives. If you want to explore different marketing outlets for next year, now is a good time to start exploring your options, so you can get a good feel for differences in costs and net prices across the alternatives.

Near normal temperatures prevailed across Wyoming for September, with well-above normal precipitation throughout much of the state. In contrast, both temperatures and precipitation have been below normal throughout most of the state in October.

The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) map from Oct. 24 shows abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions continue to persist in the northeast part of the state. Abnormally dry conditions are also present in much of Sweetwater, Carbon, Goshen and Platte counties. Drought conditions persist in adjacent states including the majority of Montana, North and South Dakota, as well. Southwestern Nebraska is experiencing abnormally dry conditions with some moderate drought – abnormally dry conditions are also present in the northern tier of Cherry County, Nebraska.

View the current USDM maps at weather.gov/riw/drought.

Looking ahead

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) eight- to 14-day forecast for Nov. 7-13, made Oct. 30, indicates below-normal temperatures throughout Wyoming with the greatest chance in the northwestern corner of the state.

The precipitation forecast for the same timeframe is below normal for all of Wyoming except the very northwest corner, which precipitation is expected to be normal.

The odds of La Niña developing between November and February have increased to 55 to 65 percent. As noted in the last Connecting Ag to Climate column, the effects of La Niña are hard to determine, especially for Wyoming – and more recent La Niñas have had a lot of variability in temperature and precipitation.

See the map below, produced by NOAA, to understand potential winter patterns associated with La Niña.

Ag considerations

The short- and long-term forecasts provided above are a reminder that we need to think about and prepare for what is to come this winter – snowstorms, cold and wind. We want to ensure livestock have the best protection to weather what lies ahead and to reach spring in good body condition for calving.

One way you can prepare is to manage for wind to reduce the stress of cold temperatures to your livestock. If your livestock can access trees or creek bottoms these act as natural windbreaks.

Alternatively, you can create windbreaks by stacking hay or tires or purchase moveable windbreaks made of wood or metal. Consider assessing your set-up soon, so you can provide necessary windbreaks before the snow accumulates.

Featured resources

There are a number of resources available to better understand the effects of cold stress on livestock and for additional tips to help your livestock weather the winter.

“Understanding the Effects of Cold Stress on Beef Cows” is a South Dakota State University Extension publication that can be found at goo.gl/j83Lvq.

Colorado State University Extension also published “Severe Cold Weather Rangeland and Livestock Considerations,” which is available at goo.gl/h61Uj3.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry highlighted “Cold Weather Adjustments for Cows – Frequently Asked Questions” at goo.gl/yqMdu9.

Finally Beef Magazine offers, “Four tips for managing cold stress in cattle this winter” at goo.gl/p5LTZF.

Remember to plan, monitor, know your alternatives and adapt as needed.

This article was written by University of Wyoming Extension and USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub Regional Extension Program Coordinator Windy Kelley. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-2205. The column was reviewed by Wyoming Water Resources Data System Deputy Director Tony Bergantino and Justin Derner of USDA Agricultural Research Service. Dannelle Peck of USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub also reviewed the article.

Harvest season has largely wrapped up as I write this.

Combines spent the fall threshing grains, beans and forage seed. Beet diggers steadily worked through the fields, piling sugarbeets into transport trucks, while hay equipment knocked down and bailed the last cuttings of the year.

This time of year can always bring perspective into view, especially in how much progress the agriculture industry has made in harvest equipment. Most harvesting was done by human hands, such as digging sugarbeets with forks, not that long ago.

This is especially true for hay production in the Cowboy State. Some ranches still have relics of beaver slides and other hay stacking equipment from the early 20th century. The history of haying can be traced back into the middle 1800s and the beginning of Wyoming’s cattle industry. According to the Wyoming State Historical Society, Seth Ward left cattle out on the open range north of Cheyenne along Chugwater Creek in the winter of 1852-53 and were found the next spring thriving.

During those early years, Wyoming was known as having abundant and free grass, which did not encourage large-scale haying operations. Hay operations were all hand-harvested, typically for feeding horses and mules.

Nathan Baker, editor of the Cheyenne Leader in 1867, once declared, “Mild winters necessitated no feeding, and while an operator might expect winter losses to his herd of two to three percent, this was still more economical than buying hay for feed.”

It probably wasn’t until after the winter of 1886-87, during which an estimated 15 percent in cattle statewide were killed, that hay production gained much interest or demand for feeding cattle.

In the late 1800s, hay production was done by hand-harvesting with a scythe or cradle or, for more wealthy operations, a McCormick reaper, which was a horse-drawn swather of its day. The hay was then piled with pitchforks into loose stacks of hay, hoisted into haylofts in a barn or pulled to hay stackers, like beaver slides, using horse-drawn hay rakes.

There are a few ranches today that stack hay in loose stacks similar to what beaver slides did, but with modern equipment.

Stationary balers became available on the market in the early 1900s. Tractors of the day were used to power stationary balers, and the baled hay was hand-tied with baling wire. The hay was still gathered in the field with pitchforks or horse-drawn hay rakes and brought to stationary balers. The first swathers, which cut the hay, were not on the market until the 1920s.

Haying operations that would be similar to today did not materialize until after World War II. World War II’s mechanization flowed into agriculture with various sizes of tractors, which could pull implements like balers, plows and discs. From the 1950s to now, swathers, tractors and balers have increased in power, size and capacity. As with every industry today, agriculture is on the cutting edge of technology with GPS (global positioning system)-guided equipment and development of unmanned equipment.

Changes in labor are the largest driving force for this mechanization of hay production and agriculture in general. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), hired farmworkers make up less than one percent of all U.S. wage and salary workers, a number which has steadily declined over the last century from 3.4 million to just over 1 million. The beaver slides, swing arm hay stackers and hay derrick relics needed hay crews of six to 25 to operate, while today’s hay operations can be done by one or a few individuals, depending on the size of the operation.

This fall, take a moment and be thankful for the modern conveniences in hay production, even when your most needed piece of equipment breaks down, because resorting back to the scythe is not very tempting.