Friday, February 10, 2012

In the Haystack

It’s still mild with just a light snow cover. We’re doing a few chores like cleaning up the wood lot and repairing corrals that normally wait until spring. We’ve started feeding hay to the mature cows. Of course we’d like to keep them grazing and feeding themselves, but we’ve run out of standing feed.

Our irrigated farm ground can grow up to three crops of alfalfa over the summer, so cutting, baling, and stacking it to dole out over the winter makes good use of our short but productive growing season. Still it gets more and more difficult to justify the cost of fuel and equipment to support our hay habit. Some people say you can’t feed hay and stay in business, but ranching is never that black or white. It’s about what works – economically, logistically . . . holistically. Each decision is neither right nor wrong until the factors specific to your operation are considered. And in our case, with family help and aged equipment, it works.

Feeding the same time each day is as close to an SOP, a standard operating procedure, as we get here on the ranch. Cattle have a clock in their heads and know when you’re late. I believe timeliness instills trust and a sense of security into the cow herd. What else do they have to do all day? Kind of like old people, meal time is the highlight.

And as monotonous as feeding each day can be, there is a comforting sort of rhythm to it. Breaking into stacks carefully constructed during the heat of July, flaking off the thick slices - the herd following the truck, steam rising off their backs - it’s not so bad. 

Seth and Anna are home for a few days from their FFA officer adventures and helped us feed. They're used to it. They grew up with this chore every winter morning including sundays and holiday vacation. No, they never learned to ski.

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