Winter Wheat Harvest Piles in Judith Basin County

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MSU Extension is a statewide educational outreach network that applies unbiased, research-based university resources to practical needs identified by the people of Montana in their home communities.

The MSU Extension Service is an educational resource which is dedicated to improving people's lives by providing research-based knowledge to strengthen the social, economic, and environmental well-being of families, communities and agricultural enterprises.

Visit the Montana State University Extension website for more information on our progams and services we offer.

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Judith Basin County Fair 2024 Fair Book Cover

The 2024 JB Co. Fair Book is here! (pdf) The fair Schedule of Events is on our 4-H Fair Page.

Services Offered at the Judith Basin County Extension Office

High-Nitrate levels have been prevalent across Montana during the past three years.

One of the major drawbacks of cereal forages is that under stress conditions (heat, drought, frost, nutrient, etc.) these crops can accumulate levels of nitrate that are toxic to livestock.

A number of chronic symptoms of nitrate poisoning occur in livestock, but in severe cases abortions and deaths are common.

The hay probe is a stainless steel tube with a sharp cutting end.

Probes are simply pushed through the bale.

One core should be sampled from at least 20 randomly selected bales of hay.

Get your hay tested to find out the level of nutrients in the hay to determine how much to feed to your livestock.

  • Energy
  • Protein
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Water

Time to Test Your Hay!

Soil testing is used to determine whether aluminum toxicity or other issues related to soil acidification are teh causes of poor crop growth.

Soil Sampling

How much hay do you need?

  • Depends on location and winter conditions, you will need a one to four month supply of hay per cow.

Why test forages?

  • Hay is fed in large quantities, and thorough forage testing is the first step to design an economical winter feeding strategy.
  • Hay is the bulk package to deliver energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to cattle, sheep, and horse.
  • Hay can be tested accurately and inexpensively.

How do I get a hay or straw sample?

  • Every hay "lot" should be sampled separately.
  • A hay lot is defined as hay taken from the same field and cut, harvested within 48 hours, and stored under the same conditions.
  • Samples are obtained by using a hay probe in randomly selected bales.
  • Probe should be inserted 12 to 18 inches into bales.

Where do I send a roughage sample for testing?

What tests should be run on my hay?

  • For a winter feeding program in Montana, the primary winter feeding tests are: Crude Protein (CP), Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF) and Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF).

What are some special considerations?

  • Winter Tetany and Nitrate Toxicity are a concern during late gestation due to stress and high roughage intake.
  • Forages grown on many Montana soils are deficient in the trace minerals copper and zinc, testing can detect these levels.

How do I put it all together?

  • Once you get results back from the lab, use the information to balance rations to provide the desired levels of productivity.
  • Stop by in the office if you need help figuring out rations or have more questions!

Stop by in the office or call to get more information on how to determine rations or step-up your rations.

This link below is also a great resource. It is based on feeding a 4-H steer but it has all the information needed to help you determine how to change your rations.

Step Up Rations

MontGuides are a great resource to use whether you are wondering about AG related information or Human Resource related information.

There is a MontGuide for just about everything.

Stop by in the office to pick one up or click the link below to be taken to the pages to find and download your MontGuide.

MSU Extension Economics Publications and MontGuides

Also be sure to check out our MontGuide Monday page. Hannah posts weekly random MontGuides and informational articles every Monday!

Stop by the office to pick up or browse publications or visit this link to browse through and download them online!


At the office we have a smaller livestock scale that is perfect for weighing small calves, pigs, and sheep!

We do rent it out if needed!

The Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT) Program is for individuals and/or their employees who wish to apply Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) to land they own, rent or lease for the purpose of growing an agricultural commodity.

Private Applicator Training Program

To Become a License as a Private Applicator

Private applicators must be licensed prior to purchasing and using restricted use pesticides. To become a certified an applicator has two options: (1) take an exam or (2) attend an Initial Private Applicator Training.

Montana Private Applicator Certification Exam

The Montana Private Applicator Cerfication Exam can be taken here at the Judith Basin County MSU Extension Office. The exam has 50 questions and must be passed with a 70% or better. The exam is open book and not timed. Contact office to set up a time to take your exam.

Initial Private Applicator Training

An Initial Private Applicator Traiing is a seven hour program covering the basics of pesticide use. Upon completion of the program applicators must take an ungraded 50 question exam. Initial Private Applicator Trainings must adhere to criteria set forth for initial programs. Contact the Extension office for information about trainings.

License Fees

Private applicators must pay $12 for each year of the cycle for a total of $60 per each 5 year cycle recertification cycle to the Montana Department of Agriculture. This fee is to be paid at the time of licensing and when the license is renewed.

Paraquat Training for Pesticide Applicators

An online paraquat training is available, created by pesticide manufacturers and approved by the EPA. This training provides information about paraquat's toxicity, person protective equipment, new label requirements, restrictions, and the consequences of misuse.

Applicators must print out certificates online and retain for their own records. In addition, the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC) wil retain certification records as well.

In order to take this training you will need an email address to set up a guest account.

Check out the current weather conditions in Judith Basin County


Judith Basin County Profile

Judith Basin County is located in central Montana in a fertile basin between the Highwood, Big Snowy, and Little Belt mountains.  The county population is 2,044 people.  The principal communities are Stanford (county seat located about 65 miles east of Great Falls), Hobson and Geyser.  Numerous other small communities make up the county.  Judith Basin County’s economy is based on agriculture.  The major components of this industry include livestock, small grains and forage production.  The county ranks 10th in Montana for beef cattle numbers, 10th in winter wheat production, 15th in barley production, 23rd for spring wheat production, 4th for alfalfa hay production, and 21st for other hay production.  Timber and mining enterprises take place on a small scale.  The MSU Central Ag Research Center is located in the county.  The Judith Basin 4-H programs consist of 92 youth members and 29 volunteer leaders in three organized clubs.  The county offers a variety of recreational opportunities, which include hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling and skiing.  A major ski area is about 45 minutes from Stanford.  The Judith Basin was the home of the legendary western artist Charlie Russell.  Many of his paintings were scenes captured by the artist between Lewistown and Great Falls.

Judith Basin County History

The Judith Basin is nestled in the heart of the state known as the Last Best Place, the basin truly fits the classic Montana description of "high, wide and handsome." Island mountain ranges such as the Highwoods and the Snowies surround a sea of grass and wheat making it easy to enjoy the rich bounty of this land.

The legendary Western artist Charlie Russell learned the ways of the cowboy and mountain man here in the basin, and many of his most famous paintings were inspired by the landscape and drama that unfolded here as the West was settled. Highway 87 between Great Falls and Lewistown is known as the Charlie Russell Trail. Square Butte, Stanford, Utica and the Judith River country are all scenes captured in Russell’s art.

Stanford and nearby Utica have several museums of interest. Recreation opportunities abound in the nearby Lewis and Clark National Forest, Judith River Wildlife Management Area and Ackley Lake State Park. The Judith River Wildlife Management Area, at the edge of the Little Belt Mountains is a good place to view large elk herds in late fall and winter.  Raynesford is an agriculturally rich area. The homesteading boom from 1908 to 1915 and the extension of the Great Northern Railroad played an important role in the development of this area.  Moccasin also began as a homestead community. In 1908 the Montana State legislature created the Central Montana Agriculture Research Center, 3 miles east of Moccasin. The purpose of the center was to teach dry land farming techniques to the newly arrived homesteaders. Even after the homesteaders bust, the center went on to develop machinery and new crops, improving the area's wheat yields.  Hobson was named for an early-day rancher, S. S. Hobson. He owned the Campbell and Clendenan ranches and later became a state senator.  The Big Snowy Mountains lie south of this agricultural community. There are camping and hiking opportunities at Crystal Lake, 20 miles southeast of Hobson.  Many Finnish homesteaders settled in the Geyser area at the turn of the century. They had been coal miners in the Belt area but were lured to Geyser by free land offers. In earlier days, it was a stagecoach-stopping place on the trail from Great Falls to Lewistown. In 1920, Geyser became a rail line station, when the old town was moved to its existing site.

If you would like to find information about Judith Basin County community events, check out the Russell Country website.


This website is aimed to provide you with resources and publications as well as up to date events and happenings around Judith Basin County. Please feel free to call the Extension Office (406)566-2277 for any questions or more information. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram

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