The one thing that stays the same is the daily care of our cattle.
Unlike a 9-5 job, where the duties as described stay the same, our work cycles through the seasons.
Winter is the quiet time on our farm. We have two different herds this time of year. The spring calving mama cows are winter grazing out in the fields. We feed the other fall-calving mama cows on alfalfa, barley hay, minerals, and salts. Halfway though winter, we will put the bulls in with them for fall calving. We also feed our 150 yearlings on alfalfa, barley hay, minerals and salts, and make sure that the recently weaned fall calves get their vaccinations to keep them healthy from cattle-borne diseases. Our biggest challenge this time of year is keeping the water tanks from freezing, ensuring the cattle have adequate water.
When not handling herd management, we are putting the last purchasing orders on our spring seeds and doing the major overhauls on all the equipment.
Spring is a madhouse time of year for us on the farm. Not only does spring calving start in mid-April, but we start spring planting of 2,000 acres of grain production.
During calving we are doing twice-a-day herd checks, counting cattle, and making sure none of the cows are in distress. These early spring calves will be weaned and vaccinated in the fall before winter sets in.
Spring planting is its own myriad of processes from soil sampling to see what the winter cover crops added to the soil, to reseeding hay grounds and planting for winter feed. Fertilization of the fields adds more nutrients to the soils to build up our fodder for the coming growing season.
The whole cow-calf herds are out on 3000-4000 acres of pasture. We check our yearlings twice a day and rotate them from pasture to pasture to allow the land to rejuvenate. During late summer, the breeding cycle begins for spring calving from July 15-September 15. Each breeding cycle is in a timeframe of 60 days.
The summer sun keeps us busy. We also irrigate the majority of our high-end crops from middle of April through October to ensure that they will not die from drought. Our summer harvesting schedule begins with haying on Memorial Day weekend and runs through October 1. We’ll have 3-4 haying cycles. We grow a variety of different types of hay mixtures: Alfalfa mix, orchard grass, pastures mix, and barley hay.
Besides the hay and pasture management, we also plant wheat for off-farm sales. Like the orchard grass hay, wheat sales contribute to providing more economic stability for the farm. Barley, which is also planted for its seed head, is harvested alongside wheat from July 15-August 15.
The last of the hay harvesting happens during September. After the last hay harvest, it is time to button up the farm by starting winterization. We need to winterize the irrigation system, get all the equipment cleaned off, and get hay put away and covered.
We will also bring in the cattle from the far pastures. We bring them into the home range for easier herd checks during the wintertime. At this time, we’ll start checking all the fencing and seeding the winter wheat for next summer’s harvest. This is also a good time of year for catching up on sleep.