This morning’s circle with salt and mineral for the first-calf heifers in the hills behind the house was not encouraging for the first of March. The south slopes are short and turning fast and the heifers want, and need, hay, though the calves look OK.
The forecasters have taken Saturday’s rain away, but next week still appears to be wet. We know that this ground is resilient, but with only March and April left as our only chance for real grass, this season’s future looks bleak and will probably require early weaning and a heavy culling of our cow herd, as there will be little old feed leftover to sustain these cows through summer and fall.
From an economic perspective, it costs around $500+ to keep our first and second calf heifers for a year, then add $400 for hay plus labor since August, an $850 calf won’t pencil out. Furthermore, with minimal snowpack and only four inches of rain this season, irrigation water will be expensive and the price for summer alfalfa high. Whether one believes in Climate Change or not, the trend for the last decade has been drought, (all across the West), the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime here, where losing money takes all the romance out of raising cattle. Nevertheless, we’re in it for the long haul and hope for the better days.