Although the cows have been at their winter home for some time now, I want to discuss why my cows change residence during the winter months. My cows have been temporarily relocated since early December 2010.
Wintertime conditions around Lusk, Niobrara County, Wyoming can be quite adverse at times. We have the ability to receive a lot of snow, and the wind can really crank up periodically. Throw in some below favorable temperatures, and the conditions become pretty tough on the cows. Even if you have some winter grass left, the cows are going to need a substantial amount of supplemental feed (i.e. hay, concentrated cake) to keep them in proper body condition (i.e. packing some flesh). Supplemental feeds can be quite expensive. Plus, the actual feeding of these feedstuffs have associated costs (i.e. fuel, parts, wear-and-tear). With these conditions and expenses in mind, we in Niobrara County have options.
One option I believe in is relocating the cows to a milder climate. Located 60 miles south of us is a “Banana Belt” known as the Platte Valley. The North Platte River passes through this vicinity, and runs past the town of Torrington, Goshen County, Wyoming. This area is a large farming area with lots of hay, corn, beans, and sugar beet fields which have been harvested and are available for winter grazing. The area also sports milder temperatures, and generally less snow accumulation. These attributes allow cows to graze most of the winter without supplemental feeds. Occasionally, feeding may be necessary if the weather conditions dictate, but for the most part this is minimal. These lands are leased from valley property owners, and they are responsible for the care of the cows. The lessor makes sure the cattle have adequate water and available feed.
Obviously, there are costs associated with taking the cows to a winter oasis. The cows have to be trucked to winter pasture and back home to Lusk, leased pasture is generally charged at a dollar figure/per head/per month, and the possibility of supplemental feeding. However, these costs are less than if you had to buy hay and feed it all winter. I do not put up any hay on my ranch, and have to buy all supplemental feeds. Economically, the best situation for me is to relocate the cows for a few months. Even if you put up your own hay, it could be economically feasible to take your cows to a winter home. Just some food for thought.
My cows start calving the 1st of May, so I try to have them to Lusk by the middle of April in preparation for their springtime ritual. I have been doing this routine for more than 10 years now, and feel this home relocation works well. The cows are always in good body condition and seem glad to be back to their spring, summer and fall home. And I’m happy to have them home! I just really enjoy having my cows, and being involved in production agriculture. Ranching is truly a great occupation!
From RealRancher Dustin Cushman – Lusk, Wyo.