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I Love Tournament Time But I Hate Ranching’s March Madness

I Love Tournament Time But I Hate Ranching’s March Madness

When anyone in America hears the phrase March Madness, most everyone instantly thinks of college basketball and the excitement of the big annual national tournament. I really love college basketball, and while I didn’t fill out my bracket of picks this year, I’ll definitely be watching for highlights of all the games. Once the teams are whittled down to the Sweet 16, I’ll definitely try to catch parts of the games; and my intention is to actually watch the Final Four.

So that’s college basketball. Now, if you are a rancher in a good part of the nation, March Madness has a whole new meaning. March is one of those fascinating, and often frustrating, months from a weather standpoint, because we usually have moisture (of various types), always have some wind, and undoubtedly wide gyrations in temperatures.

Our bull sale was last Tuesday, and the weather that greeted us was a blizzard with white-out conditions. Many people traveled to within 30-40 miles of our house and turned back, as the winds were a steady 40 mph with gusts to 60. Consider that the day before the sale, the conditions were 70° and beautiful.

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For a rancher, March Madness extends beyond uncertainty over the weather, however. The markets also always seem to be in a state of flux, as the fed market is usually steaming toward its spring highs, and the feeder cattle volume and trade are always affected by wheat pasture conditions and how winter grazing progressed in the South.

In addition, grass fever has begun to hit snow-blind cattlemen, and many ranchers are either fighting tons of snow and mud, or fretting over whether he’ll have enough grass in the spring. Plus, the grain markets are always in turmoil, as the focus shifts in earnest from last year’s crop to this year’s, and the markets compete to buy acres for planting. Meanwhile, everyone is trying to outguess the prognosticators when it comes to the weather/moisture situation going into the critical planting and growing season. For cow-calf producers, last year’s crop is usually gone, and the focus begins to shift to the calves on the ground or the ones soon to arrive.

For a college basketball junkie, March is special and the start to spring. Cattlemen, however, see March as the real beginning of a new year, a time when the focus once again turns more long term.

There are a lot of interesting dynamics at play, but none more interesting than the battle that winter and spring begin to wage at this time. The days lengthen along with our planning horizons. March is truly crazy, and I’m looking forward to a wet April/May already. Enough with the insanity that accompanies March!


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