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The Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock
John Griffith, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS

    Nationally, approximately 95,000 calves die each year due to cold stress resulting in an estimated $38 million loss to producers. In discussions between ranchers and the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Glasgow, Mont. there was considerable interest from local ranchers in the possibility of a NWS product specific to the effect of cold weather on newborn livestock. One rancher stated, “Calves are our saleable product, so no calves, no sales, no income.”
    During the critical weeks of calving, generally mid-January to mid-April in the high plains, ranchers heavily depend upon advanced warning of extreme cold in order to move livestock to more sheltered areas and minimize mortality rates of newborn calves, specifically those less than 24-hours old because these calves are least able to regulate their body temperature. Improvement in the advanced warning of potentially hazardous conditions will enable producers to more effectively implement life-saving measures to minimize losses.
    The research that went into this Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock (CANL) system was developed with a partnership between NWS Glasgow and the University of Miami. As the study evolved, it was shown this CANL system would work for all newborn livestock and was expanded from calves to include all newborn livestock. It also works for all areas of the country because newborn livestock are not acclimated prior to being born.  The purpose of this product is to provide users with a decision support tool that could help reduce newborn livestock losses due to hazardous weather.
    The CANL is presented using graphics that show the risk of cold exposure to newborn livestock. The risk is related to wind chill temperature, precipitation and humidity.  The bio-thermal responses of newborn livestock are not acclimated to the environment they are born into, and until they are dried off and warmed up, there is increased risk for them to succumb to weather.
    Research and discussion with the ranching community show the key elements they are worried about is wind chill, accumulating precipitation and the ability for the animal to dry off, or the presence sun versus clouds. The categories range from “none,” when there is no risk, to “extreme,” for rare and particularly dangerous situations.
    This will be the second year that the National Weather Service in Cheyenne will be providing this product.  At this time, the CANL is considered an experimental product by the NWS and not all offices provide this service.  In the winter of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 it was used at five NWS offices across the High Plains. While reviewing the recent 2010 USDA livestock loss report, which is compiled every five years, the overwhelming losses of livestock due to weather, both heat and cold, came to light.
    Looking at the 2010 report, across the entire U.S., cattle and calf losses totaled 13 percent of all non-predator losses, or a total of 489,000 livestock at a value of $274.1 million.
    Cattle deaths generally occur in both heat and cold, but newborn livestock typically are born in the late winter and spring, bringing the threat of wind chill and precipitation that can kill them.
    Weather also indirectly leads to losses by exacerbating respiratory problems and calving problems. Respiratory problems made up 28 percent of those losses, or 1.1 million calves, for a total of $643 million dollars, and calving problems makes up another 13.1 percent of losses, totaling another $274.6 million dollars.
    The weather is the number one non-predatory loss of calves in Alabama, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming. In another six states, weather was listed as the second highest cause of non-predatory deaths.
    Looking at other livestock, the 2010 USDA data for sheep and lambs for the entire U.S. was also reviewed. The majority of non-predator losses, 21 percent, were due to weather, totaling, 81,333 sheep and lambs at a value of over $13 million.
    South Dakota led the nation in losses with 6,600 sheep and 19,000 lambs lost due to weather.  In addition to South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming, were in the top 10 states for the number of lamb losses due to weather.
    The Cold Advisory for Newborn Livestock forecast is available at

Birdsfoot trefoil is a short-lived perennial forage legume. Its origin is the Mediterranean region. It has deep root system, fine stem and more leaves than alfalfa.
    Birdsfoot trefoil grows up to 30 inches tall if it is an erect type, or up to 12 inches or more if prostrate type. The leaves of the plant do not have any hairiness. The flower color is bright yellow. Seed pod color is brown to purple, and seed pods radiate from the stem, resembling a bird’s foot, hence the plant’s name.
    Under proper management, they have the ability to naturally reseed.
Planting Birdsfoot trefoil
    Birdsfoot trefoil does very well in humid, temperate regions but can also be grown in areas and valleys with dependable winter snow cover. It is adapted to wide range of soils and has good tolerance to acidity, alkalinity, low fertility, drought and poor drainage. It is primarily used for pasture and has good compatibility with grass mixtures.
    Birdsfoot trefoil is slow to establish. However, once it establishes, it produces a thick stand and gets thicker from year two and onwards.
    Seeds need to be planted in spring or late summer at the rate of four to eight pounds per acre. In case of mixture with grass, a lower rate of seeding, only three to six pounds per acre, should be used.
    Planting depth is also important. Planting too deep is not recommended.     Planting depths of 0.125 to 0.25 inches should be maintained.
    Seeds also need to be inoculated with appropriate bacterial inoculants for nitrogen fixation.
    Birdsfoot trefoil is not very shade tolerant, and competition with weeds and other plants needs to be controlled.
Use for livestock
    At early flowering, grazing may begin. It does not cause bloat, so frequent grazing can be done. However, a rest period is required, so grazing periods shouldn’t be too close.
    It is well suited for stockpiling because it maintains high quality forage after flowering.
    It may be cut for hay at early flowering stage, but leaf shatter may be an issue in field drying. Two to three cuts are possible, depending on the locations and weather conditions.
    It is not advisable to harvest four to six weeks before killing frost.
    Natural reseeding is important to maintain good stands and productivity. Birdsfoot trefoil needs to be allowed to produce some seeds each year.
    Fewer pests have been reported for birdsfoot trefoil compared to alfalfa. Crown and root rots may be a problem in some soils which may weaken or kill plants. Nematodes may also be a problem in sandy soils. Therefore, natural reseeding is required to maintain the stands.
    Anowar Islam is an assistant professor and the UW Extension Forage Agroecologist 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..
Aliens! It must be the strange combination of Halloween and presidential election season that makes it seem that alien sightings, discussions about aliens, etc. have been so prevalent lately. How to handle illegal immigration has been a hot topic on many of the campaign advertisements and opinions abound about what is the best course of action. Zombies are probably a little more popular among the Halloween crowd this year, but I would bet you have also seen a few little green men costumes in your local activities as well.  With so much emphasis on aliens lately, I thought I would touch on a topic of a similar vein.
    New alien sightings have increased in Wyoming over the past several years. Before you quickly move to, “What in the world are those people at the University teaching our kids?!!” I must clarify that these are “alien” plants – those not native to our area and considered invasive weeds in neighboring states.
    Several new invasive plant species have been found in Wyoming over the past two summers. Were they found near you? Are they something you might have seen before and not realized it is a potentially problematic weed? I will give a brief description of these alien sightings in Wyoming so you can keep an eye out for these aliens in your area.
Moth mullein
    Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria) was found and reported by Natrona County Weed and Pest late this summer along Interstate 25 north of Casper. Much like its close and more abundant relative common mullein, moth mullein is frequently associated with areas where the soil has been disturbed. The population found and reported was growing in an area that had been disturbed by recent construction activities.
    Moth mullein is a biennial, meaning it lives for two years. The plant has very attractive yellow or white flowers that some people think resemble a moth. It spends its first year of growth as a basal rosette, which is a relatively round cluster of leaves that grow near the soil surface without sending up a vertical flowering stem. It produces flowering stems and seeds during the second year of growth.
    Although it is facilitated by disturbance, moth mullein has been documented moving into perennial forage crops, pastures and rangelands in other parts of the country, thereby reducing forage quality. It has been intentionally planted for ornamental purposes in some states, but its ability to invade natural areas makes it undesirable. An additional characteristic that makes it very difficult to control once a population becomes established is that the seeds it produces may stay alive in the soil for 100+ years. It is listed as a Class B noxious weed in Colorado.
Dame’s rocket
    Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is not necessarily a new plant in Wyoming. This showy white to purple-flowered biennial mustard has been planted as an ornamental plant for quite some time.
     However, in recent years it has been showing up in increasing numbers in areas where it has not been planted.
    The plant has lance-shaped leaves with small teeth along the edges, but the large clusters of flowers are the most conspicuous and often-noticed characteristic. Many people have made the mistaken assumption that dame’s rocket is a native wildflower. It is often sold as such in “native wildflower” seed packets, but it was introduced from Europe many years ago. Once a population becomes established this plant can form dense stands which may exclude other desirable vegetation. Like many of our problematic mustards, control is difficult once patches become large. Dame’s rocket is also a Class B noxious weed in Colorado.
Rush skeletonweed
    Several times since recently has another very problematic alien species made appearances in western Wyoming. Rush skeletonweed (Chondrilla juncea) is a perennial weed with a similar growth pattern to some weeds with which we are already familiar – Russian knapweed, Canada thistle and other creeping perennial species. It was found in Sublette County in 2006, Lincoln County in 2010 and Teton County in 2011. Other instances in Wyoming have been reported, but not documented formally.
    Unlike the previous two plants discussed here, Rush skeletonweed is not grown as an ornamental plant. It was reportedly introduced as a forage contaminant in the early 1900s, and currently is estimated to populate millions of acres in the northwestern U.S. Its forage value is very low and once it becomes established it can form very dense stands which exclude other native vegetation. Early in spring it forms basal rosettes that look similar to dandelion, but as it develops it forms upright stems with reddish hairs angling downward at the base of the stem. The yellow flowers are quite small and the petals appear notched on the ends. Rush skeletonweed also produces a white milky sap that will ooze from stems and leaves when damaged.
    Of these three aliens, rush skeletonweed likely poses the greatest potential for widespread ecological and economic impact in the state of Wyoming.
    To be fair, alien weed species may not catch your attention as much as a glowing orb passing through the night sky. They probably will not be discussed by either presidential candidate as part of their platforms. However, invasive “alien” weeds impose significant harm to our natural resources in Wyoming.
    The diligent work of Wyoming Weed and Pest, other agencies and you, as a citizen, in locating and managing newly emerging weed threats to our state will pay large dividends into the future. For more information about any of these plants, visit, contact your local UW extension office or your county Weed and Pest District.
    Brian A. Mealor is an Assistant Professor and Weed Extension Specialist at the University of Wyoming and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. More information about ongoing weed science research at the University of Wyoming can be found at

Argentine Bad Acts Hurt Rural America
By Chuck Kiker, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association Board member

    Today’s ranching community has a number of concerns headed our way.  From a stalled Farm Bill in Congress, increased feed and fuel prices, increased oversight from the EPA, the list goes on; one thing we don’t need added to this list is an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the U.S. or unfair trading practices from exporting countries.  The recent actions taken by Argentina could amount to just that.
     Ranchers like me have been targeted for years by Argentine special interests hoping to carve out a part of the U.S. beef market despite the country’s problems with Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) and inadequate testing and monitoring capabilities.
     For those not familiar with FMD, it is an airborne disease that if brought to the U.S. would decimate our country’s beef industry.  If this disease infects the U.S. herd, it could inflict billions in damage to one of America’s lone economic bright spots - rural America.  That’s why lawmakers and Administration officials stood strong against Argentine lobbying pressure and blocked their attempts to ship potentially contaminated product into America.
     Now, Argentina has taken their case to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is asking officials in far away countries to jeopardize the U.S. economy by forcing us to grant market access.  And it’s not the first time Argentina has sought WTO assistance in harming U.S. farmers and ranchers.
    They are currently asking the international trade body to give them part of the U.S. lemon market, too, which was also sealed off because of disease concerns.  Years ago, Argentina teamed with Brazil in WTO courts to target policies important to U.S. cotton farmers.  Threats have been made against other farm policies.  And alongside Brazil and India, Argentina has helped derail international trade negotiations that could further open global markets to U.S. farm and ranch products.
     Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Argentine bad acts against rural America.
     When Argentina declared the largest debt default in the history of the world earlier this decade, U.S. businesses and taxpayers stepped up and gave the country billions to survive economic collapse.  But Argentina refuses to pay America back despite no fewer than 88 U.S. court judgments to do so.  This has limited available capital in America when we need it the most and has even harmed retirement funds that lost money in the deal.
     What’s worse, Argentina used some of this borrowed income on agricultural infrastructure improvements that, when combined with the country’s massive currency deflation, gave Argentinians an advantage in global markets.
     John VanSickle, an agricultural economist from the University of Florida, found in 2009 that these acts helped Argentine farm exports increase by nearly $9 billion from 2000 to 2007.
     When the dust settles from November’s elections, U.S. officials need to take a hard stand against Argentina.  All legislative, administrative and diplomatic channels should be used to protect U.S. jobs, keep our food system free of foreign disease, and force the country to repay their debts.
    Chuck Kiker is a Texas cattleman who sits on the board of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association.