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County extension office hires second agriculture agent

Emily Lockard is the new agriculture agent for the Montezuma County Colorado State University Extension office. She joins extension agent and director Greg Felsen. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)
Lockard moves over from Colorado State University research station in Yellow Jacket

The Montezuma County Colorado State University Extension office has added a second agent to serve agricultural needs in the area.

Emily Lockard will focus on livestock, range management and ranching programs. She will also assist with farming issues and drought management.

Lockard will join agriculture extension agent Greg Felsen, who also is the director for the county CSU extension office.

Lockard, of Dolores, has worked as a research associate at the CSU Southwestern Colorado Research Center since 2018. Before that, she was a agricultural extension agent in Pueblo and in Bozeman, Montana.

Lockard has a degree in animal science from California Polytechnic State University, and a master’s in range science from Utah State University.

Her interest in agriculture started at her grandparents’ farm in Viola, Idaho, and has grown as she has worked with agriculture operations during her career. She enjoys native plants and learning more about the environment of the Colorado Plateau.

As an extension agent, Lockard said, her job is to take researched-based agriculture information relevant to the area and communicate it to the public.

She meets with farmers and ranchers one-on-one about issues and questions, conducts on-site visits to farms and pastures to offer and evaluations and guides people through the various agricultural programs, grant sources and training that will benefit them.

“I have a background in animal science and range science. Also, in my work with the CSU research center I’ve also gained crop experience, irrigation management and pest control,” she said. “My job is to listen to farmers and ranchers to see what their needs are, and work to address those needs so they can have a more successful business.”

More smaller-scale, certified slaughter facilities would help boost the local livestock industry, she said, and the extension office plans to offer assistance for startup operations and funding opportunities.

“People are interested in locally produced meats, but there is only so much capacity for animal processing in our area,” she said.

Labor shortages, including for truckers, also impact local farmer and ranch producers. The drought created a hay shortage and higher prices, and herds have been culled as a result.

“Ranchers are making difficult decisions. Some are considering total liquidation of their herds unless things turn around,” Lockard said.

Livestock producers in the area mainly raise cattle, sheep, pigs and pasture poultry.

The extension office is a resource for drought mitigation and adaptive management expertise, Lockard said. A severe water shortage last season left farmers with marginal yields, and ranchers with less forage and access to hay.

Planning is essential.

“All these decisions are really difficult. Drought planning talks about them ahead of time, and sets trigger points where you take the following actions if there is not enough moisture at a certain point,” Lockard said. “The extension office helps to navigate difficult decisions and find different options based on your operations.”

Water efficiency, rotational grazing, water-efficient and profitable crops and varieties are all important, she said.

Last season, McPhee Reservoir did not fill, and Dolores Project farmers received less than 2 inches per acre of water, or 10% of the normal 20 inches per acre. Most farmers had one cutting of alfalfa instead of the usual three. Monsoonal rain allowed some farmers to get a second cutting and helped with forage production.

The extension office has a renewed effort on drought education and management. Online and in-person drought leadership programs are planned for Feb. 4, 11, 18 and March 4, 8, 9, 15, and 16. A Livestock and Forage Grower Update is planned for Feb. 17.

More specifics on the training and seminars will be posted the Montezuma Extension Office website soon, including times, agendas and sign-up.

Topics will include drought forecasts and planning, risk management, drought management for crops and ranching and managing the mental health stress from drought impacts.

CSU extension works in collaboration with the CSU Southwestern Colorado Research Center in Yellow Jacket.

The RestoreNet reseeding test site on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation studies methods to improve successful seeding rates to improve pastures and farms. (Courtesy Colorado State University Extension)

For example, Lockard said the RestoreNet seeding research program works to bring back degraded lands in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The test plots use different methods to improve seeding success rates that are notoriously difficult to achieve on degraded lands.

Methods include “pitting,” a Hopi Tribe technique that helps to gather moisture, use of compost, polymer beads, bio char and seed mixes that are adapted to cooler or warmer weather.

Test plots are on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation and at the Yellow Jacket CSU research station.

“The program tries different ideas to help with successful seeding in a cost-effective way. It is small-scale now, but the plan is to use it on a larger scale,” Lockard said.

The reseeding methods of RestoreNet could be applied to restoring lands infested with noxious weeds. The program also is seen as a way to convert crop lands to perennial pasture.

Montezuma County CSU Extension is back up to two extension agents, based on a 2008 agreement with CSU. Since 2013, it had been reduced to one agent.

“It is exciting to have two agents. Now, we will be able to do more for the community,” Lockard said.

The Montezuma CSU Extension office is at 103 N. Chestnut St. in Cortez. The phone number is 970-565-3123.