It was snowy and cold in early November and we feared we'd have to bring the cows down from mountain pasture, but we left them there in hopes the snow would settle. Once they're brought down to the fields and easier grazing, there's no going back to the mountain, so we gambled and left them rooting through 8 in. of snow for their grass.
Weather moderated and snow melted, so our cows kept grazing through November. We deloused and vaccinated the bulls. They'll winter on pasture on the upper place, with hay when snow gets deep.
We winter our bulls on pasture rather than in a corral. They are more athletic and fit by spring. These crossbred bulls (our own composite mix) are efficient and don't need pampering.
We also deloused the weaned heifers and moved them to a new pasture. November 17, we moved the cows from the 320-acre mountain pasture to the adjacent 160. By November 28, that grass was pretty well gone so we brought them down to the Gooch place.
Here, there is still some aftermath on the hayfields and a lot of bunch grass on the big hill behind the fields. There's several week's good feed left, but on December 3 we had snow - 10 in. of it on the upper place and 8 in. down here - so that ended the grazing.
Twice Daily Feeding Temperatures dropped dramatically (10 degrees at night and mid 20 degrees's daytime) so we put the cows on full feed and hay twice a day. Cows get more food from twice daily feeding since they clean it up better. It's better for younger cows, too, since we don't have them sorted out yet - they're more able to get their share. Unless cattle have some grass to pick at and we're just giving them an early morning feed to get them going in cold weather, we always feed twice a day - especially after they calve. That way, we have two chances each day to check the babies for sickness.
We had cold wind in early December and the temperature never got above 20 degrees. Unless it moderates and the snow settles, this looks like a repeat of 1997 when we had deep snow in early December, lost four weeks of grazing and ended up buying hay in the spring.
If this snow stays and we go to full feed this soon, we'll be short hay again. Most years we don't get this much early snow.
In mid-November we sold 22 young cows to a rancher across the valley. We're selling 79 more (32 bred heifers, and 47 mixed age cows) to our son and daughter-in-law. They'll move them to their place at Mackey as soon as this stormy weather moderates.
They've wanted to increase their herd by buying more of our cows. We're just waiting for their banker to approve a loan. We were hoping to be able to sell them some more good cattle (we sold them 45 cows last year), giving them the benefit of our 32 years of genetic selection, and it looks like it's going to work.
Slowing Down We've decided to quit leasing the extra place we've rented for 28 years and cut down our cow herd. Our landlord has been increasing the rent price with each five-year lease renewal, and it's now going up annually. It was already too high, and we were just continuing the lease because it fit in so well with our place (together the two made a nice family sized unit), but with low cattle prices it's become impossible.
We've decided it's time to slow our pace and just take care of our own place and the cows it can support. This will make our haying, irrigating and calving easier. We don't want to ever "retire," but maybe it's time to make things a little easier so we can continue to ranch and still enjoy it. Neither Lynn nor I have our old endurance. We don't want to get to the point where we can't handle the work and end up resenting the very thing we love. We want to always be able to work on the land and enjoy our cattle.