A Cowboy’s Faith: Wet waste growth tomorrow

A Cowboy's Faith: Click to read more from Frank J. Buchman.“This is sure going to waste a lot of feed.”

After a day of rain, then five inches of snow overnight, everything was a mess.

Livestock must be fed despite weather and more so when there’s icy cold water topped with snow.

Better off than another rancher who reported an inch of rain covered by 10 inches of snow.

So, load up the feed and head to the bellowing cows rambling on wet prairie begging for bales.

Always try to find the lowest quality in the hay pile to unroll on the sloppy ground. Greedy, acting like they’re starved, no hay for 24 hours or less, mommas dive into the free food.

No respectful appreciation for the breakfast, rudely stomping hay into the wet snow more than actually being consumed.

Outsider unaware of actual working ranch conditions would air opinions of better methods for less loss.

“Put the hay in a big baler feeder, so they don’t tromp it.” That’ll work with a small herd sometimes, even those 40 replacement heifers in the growing lot.

But for 260 cows in the Flint Hills such really becomes almost impossible.

Anyway, the rancher friend, who got more rain and snow, did put big bales in his round horse feeders. That hay was soggy and mostly wasted too, he claimed.

Certainly, small square bales are no alternative on native pasture, unless there are bunks, and that’s also difficult.

Feed cubes or ground grain would be lost in muddy snow before cows got a chance for a bite.

Then there are the smart advisors insisting the bovine can get their nutrition from protein lick tubs. Well, they’re on those already plus the dry grass and still insist on getting hay. Always, but even more so when temperature drops and moisture comes.

Bite the bullet and take the loss now, trying to appreciate the wetness confident it’ll make spring pastures grow amply. Several have expressed such optimism that these winter conditions will sure help develop the tame grasses better than last year.

Biggest concern though is damage to the native grasslands when feeding in the mud. Those deep pickup ruts will probably never heal completely, evidenced by more than a century after the wagon trains.

Reminded of Ezekiel 38:12: “Turn back thy hand on wastes make cattle dwelling on high land.”


030615-franksmug2Frank J. Buchman is a lifelong rancher from Alta Vista, a lifetime newspaper writer, syndicated national ag writer and a radio marketing consultant. He writes a weekly column to share A Cowboy’s Faith.


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