It’s springtime in Montana and Mother Nature can’t decide if she is ready to let go of winter just yet.

Across the region, scattered precipitation and cooler then normal temperatures were reported for the week ending May 24. Some producers in Toole and McCone counties have noted a late, hard freeze may have had some negative effects on production.

The reported moisture has been much appreciated by producers, but the cooler temps have made the grass late to come. Ranchers are chomping at the bit to turn cattle out, but they’re in somewhat of a holding pattern, waiting for pastures to green up.

According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) Montana Field Office, 22 percent of cattle in the state are still receiving supplemental feed. 77 percent of cows have been moved to summer pasture compared to 83 percent by this time last year.

Lambing season is coming to a close with 94 percent of ewes lambed across the state. 79 percent of sheep have been moved to summer range, slightly more then last year at this time.

Jack Stivers, Extension agent for Lake County, which is located in western Montana, reported that weather has made spring wheat planting somewhat difficult, but 92 percent of the crop is planted at this time and taking advantage of recent rainfall.

He went on to explain that the grass and alfalfa fields in his area are good-to-excellent, but are in need of additional heat units to really stimulate growth.

Along the Wyoming boarder in Carbon County, Extension agent Nikki Bailey explained for the most part that things are good in her “neck of the woods.” Producers seem to be content and are making due with the moisture.

“We’ve gotten a lot of rain which has halted some brandings,” Bailey said.

Carbon County grows an array of different crops, from alfalfa and corn to sugarbeets and a little bit of dryland wheat. Most of those crops are reported safe in the ground, but there are still some garbanzo beans yet to be planted.

The NASS Montana Crop report for the week ending May 24 has topsoil moisture conditions for the state at 92 percent adequate-to-surplus, which is ahead of the week prior at 89 percent and 87 percent in 2018. Subsoil moisture conditions were rated at 82 percent adequate-to-surplus, the same as 2018 at this time.

Barley is 84 percent planted which is behind the five-year average of 94 percent. At this point, 52 percent of the crop has emerged, which is the same as last year.

Sugarbeets across the state are nearly finished being planted with 97 percent of the crop reported to be in the ground. The crop is slightly ahead of 2018, which was 94 percent planted by this time.

Spring wheat and durum are looking good, but they too are slightly behind. Spring wheat is 83 percent planted and 40 percent of the crop has emerged, while the five-year average shows 91 percent of the crop is usually in the ground by now with 66 percent of it emerged. Durum is 73 percent planted and 30 percent emerged. By this time last year, 84 percent was planted with 42 percent of it emerged.

Montana’s winter wheat crop really benefited from the little bit of sunshine the state had recently. 15 percent of the crop reached the boot stage by the end of May, compared to just two percent at the beginning of the month. Last year at this time however, the crop was 34 percent in the boot stage.

The planting of pulse crops is continuing to see some progression. Lentils were reported as 83 percent planted compared to 70 percent the previous week. Dry edible peas where reported as 89 percent planted, slightly ahead of 2018 at 88 percent. Dry edible beans are reported to be 63 percent planted.

Working field days continue to increase despite the spring storms being experienced across the state. Montana producers are taking advantage of the limited sun as they look to summer. Most crops across the state will really take off in the coming weeks with the forecasted sunshine.  

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