Psychologically, it’s not been difficult to get back into the feeding routine again, having fed continuously from August to April last season with little rain and less grass. And physically, I’m still in fair shape, but after forty-five years of bucking bales, I tend to roll them, rather than muscle them into place on the feed truck. And due to two years of drought, there’s 40% less cows to feed now.
As they begin to calve and have two mouths to feed, it’s essential that the cows are in good shape so that they will be cycling when we put the bulls out on the 1st of December. We ended last season with more dry feed in our upper granite country than in the clay, but still not enough to sustain a cow with a calf very long without hay. If a cow gets thin going into winter when she burns more calories, it takes more hay to get her to cycle than if we had fed her earlier.
Nobody’s starving, but after the last two years, just the sound of the diesel engine brings them to the feed truck. It was a little cooler yesterday, about 85° when we headed up into Greasy Creek, feeding the girls in Belle Point along the way. By the time we got to Greasy Cove the cows were shaded-up on the edge of a near-empty Lake Kaweah, about the only water they have to drink. We can’t take the hay to them, so they have to chug up the hill out of lake bottom to get hay. We didn’t have all the cattle, but left enough on the ground that the rest will get some.
Despite cooler nights and shorter days, stockwater is still an issue as the pond at Ragle Springs is now dry, though the spring is running enough to support a few head. We’re watching the weather hopefully, knowing that we will need near-perfect conditions get a decent feed year: early slow rains to get the grass started well-enough to hold moisture and keep our dry slopes from washing away.