Last month was cold and wet. One day the temperature got above 70 degrees F, but most days have been cold and many nights freezing. The grass is growing nicely, however, thanks to all the rain.
Grasses on our semi-arid rangelands are programmed to take advantage of any moisture; they put forth many seeds that may never sprout, but when wet weather comes along it seems like every seed becomes a new plant.
We've moved our cows to one of our hill pastures. The pasture has no water, but our field ditch is close enough to pump from. We moved the upper cows from one 160-acre pasture to the other, until they went to summer range. With the rain, our hill pastures are already growing back. You'd never know they had been grazed once. They will make good fall pasture when we come home from BLM range.
Checking Fences And Gates On one of the nicer days in early May, Jim hauled salt out to the range on his 4-wheeler. It gets too muddy to go anywhere out there in a vehicle when it rains, so we were lucky to get the salt out between storms. On May 15 a neighbor babysat little Emily, and Andrea and I rode seven hours checking range fences and shutting all the gates between our range and the next.
The next day we put our cows out - four bunches from our various hill pastures. Lynn hiked up to a gate in the Gooch Basin pasture, calling the cows. They trotted and galloped up the hill after him. Even the yearling heifers have learned to follow a person on foot, horseback or 4-wheeler when called.
When we brought the cows out of the Cheney Creek pasture we noticed Henny lame with foot rot. We took her and her calf to our upper corral and Lynn went home to get some LA-200 while Andrea and I put that group out to the range. We gave Henny her injections in the runway to the loading chute. The LA-200 halted the infection and inflammation; she was walking normally by the next day.
After the cattle were out on the range, Andrea and I took turns every other day or so looking after little Emily while the other rode to check on the cows. Last week the neighbor babysat for us so Andrea and I could move cows to the next range pasture.
We keep them on the low range about three weeks, then they go to a much larger pasture for about two months. We like to move them over several days, gathered in small, paired-up bunches rather than one big group. They stay mothered up better.
Many of our cows hike to the high part of that range (2,000 ft. higher than the low end) by the next day. Andrea hiked around the fence before we put cows in there, to put in staples and splice wires back together that hunters cut last fall. She also got several troughs working again, unplugging the spring boxes that had clogged with mud.
Crossfencing Plans Last week we decided where to put the crossfence on our 320-acre pasture, and flagged it. We've wanted to divide it for a long time because the cows in the fall eat the lower south-slope corner too quickly. They need to graze the top and north slope first, before it snows under, and save the sunny lower corner for last. It's accessible after the other grass snows under or the creek and troughs freeze on the shady north side.
Most years, this fence will extend our grazing three to four weeks. Jim started setting posts, and we hope to get it finished before haying. Ranchers in the lower valley are thinking about haying (if the weather ever dries out), but our hay is rarely ready until early July.
Heather Smith Thomas and her husband, Lynn, operate the Sky Range Ranch near Salmon, ID.