Things have slowed down on the ranch now. We aren’t pushing cows and we aren’t shipping cows, that’s all over with. Now it’s time to settle in for the winter. Most of our time is spent feeding the cattle and finishing or starting odd projects around the place that need doing. We’ve made it through pregnancy testing and weaning so now we have about three separate herds of cattle at home.
The first herd is the weaned calves. We feed the weaned calves all winter so they can continue to grow into nice, fat yearlings. They will then go up the Green River on next summer’s drive and come down again in the fall to either be sold or kept as replacement stock. The second herd is the first-calf heifer herd; the heifers that will have their first calves this coming spring. We like to keep them separate so we can feed them well and watch them closely. They are not only growing a new baby calf they are also still growing themselves so it is important they receive a little extra nutrition than older cows. Finally, we have the main cow herd, consisting of cows that have all had at least one calf in the past.
Early in the winter we feed the first-calf heifers and cows supplement. There is still lots of grazing available on the ranch and the cows can forage and do quite well, but they need some extra supplemental protein (usually in the form of pellets) to be able to better digest the grass available. Once the grass is grazed to a level that is healthy for the grasslands or the snow becomes too deep, whichever comes first, we start feeding the hay we grew and bailed in the summer. As for the calves that have been weaned, we start feeding them hay and supplement right at weaning time.
It’s not only cattle and ranch stock that we feed in the winter. Plenty of deer, moose and sometimes elk also spend the winter on our ranch. Some deer and moose will stay on our ranch year round, but in the winter time a lot more of their friends come down from the mountains to join them. They are able to enjoy good winter grazing, warmth in the willows and some protection from predators.
Ranches provide an important habitat for all kinds of wildlife throughout the year. By maintaining open spaces the deer, antelope, moose, geese, ducks, sage grouse (we call ’em sage chickens), etc. have a place to live. If these ranches were to go out of business, as so many have, they would most likely become subdivided with houses built up and the deer, moose, etc. would no longer be able to stay or they may become some national park, in which case the wolves would move in and the deer, moose, etc would still be out of luck. Either scenario paints a grim picture for the wildlife. Thank goodness for ranches!
From RealRancher Kent Price – Daniel, Wyo.