The sun starts to lighten the skyline above the Wind River Mountains while the song birds can be heard singing and the warm and cool air currents can be felt as the cowboys ride across the sagebrush, BLM allotment to gather the cattle and start them marching north to summer pasture. This is the beginning of summer in the Green River Valley. This is the scene from the middle of June to the first part of July on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing allotments in the Green River Valley. The cattle are methodically gathered and put on the trail to the summer pasture in the mountains on Forest Service land or private. The cattle are trailed anywhere from 10 miles to 70 miles depending on the summer grazing pastures.
The first Forest Service grazing permits were issued in 1906. To get a permit at this time, a rancher had to have a ranch in the area and to have used the open range in the last three years. Starting in the 1930s, the cattle were counted by the Forest Service to see how many head each rancher was putting on the Forest Service grazing allotment.
Starting in 1970s, more intensive grazing systems were developed, so the cattle could be grazed to benefit the grass. Much of the land was at too high an altitude to have rest-rotation pasture systems, so deferred grazing pasture systems were developed. A deferred grazing system describes the process by which cattle enter the foothills of a pasture system in the spring and migrate to the high country and then drift down the other side to a low pasture in the fall. The following year cattle use the opposite low pasture first and out the other pasture in the fall. This allows the grass a recovery time. A rest rotation grazing system consists of four pastures, which works by resting one pasture every year while the other three are grazed. The rested pasture is rotated every year.
The 1980s saw riparian areas being part of a concerted effort to improve the stream bank life. Beginning in the 1990s, range monitoring was done in cooperation with the ranchers, forest service range conservationists and the University of Wyoming’s county extension agent and range specialists.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, cows and the ranchers began dealing with the grizzly bears and wolves killing livestock. It is hard to see a calf mauled and suffering or a cow bawling for her dead calf. Some cows have been killed by the predators when protecting their young.
The cows are monitored by a cowboy or cowboys in each pasture system. The cattle are moved to a new pasture as the grass is used and new grass is needed. Many of the old cows know where their favorite spots in the mountains are located, so they will grab their calf and take off to enjoy the mountain pasture.
It is always fun to move the cows to the new pasture. The growth of the calves can be seen. Beautiful mountain scenery, fresh crisp mountain air, beautiful wildflowers, cow and calf elk mingling with the cows, moose along the river bottom in the willows, deer and antelope throughout the pasture are seen during the cow drive.
Some ranchers have private allotments in the foothills and haul or drive their cattle to and from the private pasture. This is for another story.