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Areas of county in moderate, severe drought conditions

By Staff | Aug 25, 2017

As of last week, areas of Pierce County are in either severe (orange) or moderate (lighter orange) drought conditions.

Pierce County is currently in moderate and severe, D1 and D2 respectively, drought conditions.

The Pierce County NDSU Extension Service is undergoing the Drought Stressed Forage Sampling Program to test the quality of non-traditional forages. The program will give specialists, county agents and producers a better understanding of the quality of these forages in order to make more informed feeding recommendations and decisions, according to County Agent Yolanda Schmidt. There are currently 15 counties total participating in this program.

Pierce County has been assigned to four hard red spring wheat samples, two cornstalk samples, and one corn silage sample. The cornstalk samples are ones that are to be bailed for forage or hay or will be grazed due to drought conditions. Samples may also be taken of soybeans and canola if they are chosen to bail for hay.

This new program is similar to ones that the office has done before, including the Ditch Hay and Corn Silage projects, which helped to determine the quality of forages in North Dakota compared to other forages.

In addition to the Drought Stressed Forage Sampling Program, the Extension office also has the resources to perform the Nitrate QuikTest for those producers who wish to test forages for nitrates prior to baling or turning cows out to graze.

“It tests Nitrate Poisoning,” Schmidt said. “Anything that disrupts photosynthesis, whether it’s drought conditions, hail or a prolonged cloudy period, can lead to nitrate accumulation. Small crops such as oats and wheat are more prone to accumulating nitrates. The more mature a crop is, the less risk there is.”

The Extension office strongly encourages testing of forages for nitrate poisoning, which specialists have made simple with the QuikTest. The test will tell producers whether or not nitrates are present. Producers can then send samples in which nitrates have been found to the lab to see specific levels of nitrate in the plant to determine safe feeding levels.

“Generally, less than 1500 parts per million is safe for livestock,” Schmidt said, explaining that higher levels are of concern for pregnant livestock and other livestock classes.

Because of these concerns, Schmidt advises that some producers may want to begin weaning calves early, which will minimize stress on cows.

Recently, the office learned of a producer who lost an animal to water conditions related to the drought, which is another cause for concern and testing.

Blue-green Algae was suspected to be in the water source, which can be related to limited rainfall.

“Water testing is important, too,” Schmidt said. “Producers should use care when testing suspected cases of Blue-green Algae, however, as it can be harmful if it comes in contact with an open sore on the hand, for example.”

If there is a suspected case of Blue-green Algae, contact and report the case to a veterinarian right away. Then, either the vet or the Extension office can help get samples to a lab for testing.

According to Schmidt, yields of grain are currently looking good, depending on location in the county and soil type. She estimates yields are about average, with low drought effects.

More information on Pierce County drought conditions can be found at the Pierce County NDSU Extension Service office, or online at www.ag.ndsu.edu/drought.

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