February 27, 2024

From the Pastures: Time to recharge

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. I imagine some of you have started harvest by now. Not me, though, but that’s normal. Our double-crop beans are getting really thirsty since we’ve only had a third of an inch of rain in over six weeks. Most of the corn and May-planted beans should be OK, but not great.

I have been strip grazing the cattle on the late corn on clover stubble since germination was delayed and sporadic. Some may make a crop if frost is delayed, but the whole 50-some acres may get grazed this fall or winter. At least it will make great forage for grazing and I may soon put the flock in there, as well. It could still earn its keep by delaying winter hay feeding, even though I am already giving a little alfalfa to the ewes and lambs on their orchardgrass pasture to keep them in condition.

As I write this, Ruth and I are in Kansas coming back from a quick windshield survey of grasslands, taking two-lane roads. We first headed to western North Dakota to Teddy Roosevelt’s million-plus-acre grassland then into Wyoming, South Dakota, then through the Sandhills of Nebraska and currently across northern Kansas. After a week and about 2,800 miles we should arrive home — rested, I hope.

So far, we have seen tens of thousands of cows, a million round bales of hay, give or take a dozen, but hardly any sheep. A century earlier would have been a different picture, even 50 years ago. Since then, though, the government has restricted predator control measures, removed the wool subsidy — which was not taxpayer funded — and revoked grazing permits because of tree huggers and animal rights groups who continue to pressure the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to remove all livestock from federal lands. Not to mention the new labor issues. We easterners don’t have to deal with some of these problems and since 50% of lamb eaten here in the United States comes from Oceania — Australia and New Zealand — there is room for more ewes here.

As we were in a museum in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, we watched a film about a big Rapid City livestock auction where a cattle rancher sold a load of Hereford steers, then went to the bank, smiling ear to ear as he made his deposit. Those steers brought 27 cents per pound. A sheep rancher sold his load of lambs for 17 cents. That was 1959. The cattleman then went out and bought a new pickup. I don’t know what the sheep guy did, probably took his wife on vacation.

I was told years ago that a person can get more work done in 50 weeks a year than in 52 weeks. So, if you haven’t taken a break yet, there is still time after harvest. I should be good at least until spring. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.