"I got a call from a rancher that lives 100 miles north of Billings, Montana. He was looking to rent pasture for 400 head of cattle and said some of his neighbors were taking their cattle clear up to Bottineau, North Dakota," says Jerry Larson, North Dakota State University Extension agent.

While most of the cow-calf states are flourishing under rainy skies, Montana beef producers are suffering. According to the May 21 U.S. Department of Agriculture crop progress report, 26 percent of pasture and rangeland was in very poor condition, 27 percent was rated poor and 31 percent was estimated to be in fair condition. Only 14 percent of the forage in the state was classified as good.

Farmers and ranchers in North Dakota that have pastureland available should contact their local extension agent or post it on the World Wide Web through the FEEDLIST program. Feedlist is a service of North Dakota State University and is designed to bring together those that need help with farmers and ranchers that have pasture land or hay available. The service is free and has been available since the late 1970s.

"There's no pasture available here and none, as far as I can tell, in Western North Dakota," says Lary Brence, Montana State University Extension agent for Fallon county Montana. "Conditions are even worse further west in the Livingston area. They've been dry for the last three years."

Mr. Brence says some Montana ranchers just don't have any pasture left and are at the point now of just trying to keep the nucleus of their cowherd together.

"They're willing to haul their cattle quite a ways to find pasture," says Mr. Larson.

Renting pastureland is preferred over buying hay according to Larson. "Hay can be a lot more critical in terms of miles traveled and transportation expenses. In many cases it's cheaper to bring the cattle to the pasture than it is to purchase hay and haul it home."

If you have rental pasture available in the northern plains region near Montana, contact your local county extension agent or access FEEDLIST at www.ag.ndsu.nodak.edu/feedlist/