It’s been a long, dry year, but we’ve begun to breathe easier now that our last bunch of calves is in the weaning pen and headed to town tomorrow morning. Born last fall, they are averaging about 100 lbs. lighter than normal due to the drought, but current prices more than make up the difference.
The country we graze is cross-fenced into pastures. We gather each twice a year to brand and wean while culling the cows that don’t fit our program either due to age or late calving dates. It takes about six weeks for us to wean all our calves, but longer to brand when it rains and while we’re helping our neighbors. We try to keep our cows in the same pasture their entire lives here, familiar ground where they can make homes and the gather becomes routine. Because of our terrain, rotational grazing is impracticable—so we understock to meet most feed conditions instead.
This second year of drought, however, has reduced our cowherd by 40% while feeding 500 tons of alfalfa since last fall. Because of the time and feed required for a heifer to have her first calf, we kept no replacement heifers this year. It’s disappointing for Robbin and I to see them go and the efforts of the past twenty years reduced so drastically, but we hope to take advantage of this heavy culling by improving the genetics of our cows into the future. We are encouraged with a good base to work with, as our cowherd now is fairly young, a third of which are first and second-calf cows.
Near term, we concentrate on improving stockwater until it might rain again this fall.