COLUMNS: Spring Fever on a ranch in the Cariboo

Spring really brings on a bit, (or a lot) of feverous activity.

Spring really brings on a bit, (or a lot) of feverous activity. Shakespeare said something about spring putting a bit of youthfulness into everything: “April Hath put the spirit of youth on everything.”

One thing we all share in the Cariboo is the short season between winter and summer. Once it is warm enough or dry enough to get on the land then we are sure to have the possibility of drought or non-stop rain that impedes cultivating and seeding.

We have a small window during which to get on the land when it is not too wet (to avoid compaction of the soil or not get stuck). If it gets too dry and hot too quickly we can’t hope for a good early catch to freshly seeded crops.

At least most ranches are only freshening hay fields and maybe doing some broadcast seeding of range and pasture, especially where there have been disturbances such as logging, road building, land clearing and trampling by livestock kept off more productive farmland.

The spring feverish activities are extensive and we are cramming them into a short period before we have to start haying. That could be one month away at some of the lower elevations.

If you have spring fever, assuming you have recovered from looking over calving cows and keeping bulls away from cows wanting to get going on next year’s calf, the adrenalin rush (much like a hit of sugar) leaves you exhausted at times.

Some say spring fever brings on lethargy and ill feeling but, hey, it is just like Christmas — don’t get so caught up in the preparations that you feel down about a beautiful thing, this thing “spring.”

As I write this, we are on the cusp of turning our cattle out onto spring pasture or range if the grass is tall enough. A few hot days would make the grass jump and be ready for grazing.

With a relatively short growing season, we hardly get two crops in any given year. It happens for hay crops with irrigation. But a spring planting of a grain or green feed crop will likely be the only crop unless it is underseeded in the spring with a permanent stand of pasture or hay.

But that second crop will hardly be ready in the fall and best left to grow until the next spring.

Most areas of North America south of the Canadian border can count on two crops of annual plantings (grains mostly).

So what else are we doing besides trying to enjoy some peace and beauty when the sun shines?

We are repairing fences from winter logging accidents with trees across fence lines, blowdown of dead trees, moose hitting the wires and occasional road accidents. Or, we might be replacing whole fence lines or building new ones for better stock control and resource utilization.

We are doing cleanup from trash left and lost when the snow came. Mud and soft spots from the frost breaking and spring rains and snowmelt rutting farm/ranch roads challenge us to repair the way to our isolated places.

We are branding, vaccinating, sorting cattle to avoid premature breeding of cows (we don’t want the calves too early). We are getting machinery ready for farm work and haying. We are buying replacement bulls for those too old, or injured.

We might be selling off bulls and open (no calf) cows and buying replacement females if we don’t have enough of our own. And there are Spring meetings of our industry associations, e.g. BC Cattlemen’s Association at the end of May. We hope to have our early Spring work done by then.

Soon we will be cultivating if we need to renew the stands of forage (livestock feed). Depending on how the grass grows we might be looking for more livestock to stock our pastures. Or, we might just be looking for someone else’s grass to rent.

The list goes on and we need a good attack of Spring Fever to get it all done. And we just need to relax a little so we don’t stay awake at night worrying about the things we need to get done this spring or else not until next year.

I always have a lot of projects on the go. I see them as projects started early, not unfinished. Today the glass is half full and I am ahead. Tomorrow other symptoms of Spring Fever might prevail and I will be “behind” on Spring work, thus the glass will be half empty!

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake in January of 2016.