December 07, 2023

From the Pastures: Feeling spring fever

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. It sure is great to see the sun stay up until almost 6 p.m. now and I like even more getting an early start with daylight. I feel a case of spring fever coming on.

February has given us some winter concrete, making it much easier to feed hay, either round bales with the tractor out in the field for the cattle or big squares with the pickup for the ewes in the pasture. I used to think feeding hay on the ground created too much waste, but that so-called waste helps feed those underground critters that help us build soil. And having snow on the ground is even better since it gives the animals a “clean dinner plate” to dine from. I also have feeders on real concrete for those muddy days, but that requires spreading work next spring. So far, I just pile it and wait for spring.

All in all it’s been a decent winter for livestock chores and I’m sure most of us old folks can recall many winters that were much more of an adventure. At least 40 years ago it might have been that. Now those kinds of winters might cause me to call the trucks and send the animals to the sale barn and head south. But since it’s this nice now, I think I will stick with it a while longer.

Since Ruth and I haven’t done any traveling yet this winter, I can’t really report on anything really exciting. I will leave that to Elton Mau and his grazing meeting reports. They are always worth reading. Since snow, ice or mud has been a constant this winter and I don’t get up as easy when I fall anymore, I tend to walk while outside with my eyes to the ground. Lately, though, with all the news of these UFOs crossing the country, I have developed more of an interest in the sky above me. We are living in interesting times.

I know I have many times promoted sheep as a great addition to any livestock operation and still do for reasons previously stated. Now I would encourage anyone with some pasture available who doesn’t already have cattle to get a few while these calves are reasonably priced.

Many folks smarter than me in the cattle business are seeing a perfect storm coming with the lowest beef numbers here in 60 years due to drought-induced cow liquidation combined with good domestic and export beef demand along with no heifer retention yet. That means our small cow herd will continue getting smaller until those heifers stop going to slaughter. It’s hard to keep them back when slaughter prices approach $1.60 and there are bills to pay.

All in all it just looks like another good livestock investment. As a mentor of mine, Allen Nation, used to say, “don’t invest in things that rust, rots or depreciates — just remember that tractors can’t have baby tractors.”

I doubt these pearls of wisdom will generate much of a stampede to the sale barn by those grain farmers who are enjoying their own “good times,” but either way, as I’ve said before, “isn’t it great to be a farmer!” Happy trails!

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.