River Ranch cowboys bring home cattle from a fall meadow, a process which takes three days to complete, to feed for the winter months. Photographer Racquel Russell said the cows fared well from the summer fires, but that the biggest challenge has been that all fall and past summer feed was burnt. Raquel Russell photo

RANCH MUSINGS: Winter pasture thoughts as we shift into the season

I have been thinking about some specific things as we go into winter on the ranch

I have been thinking about some specific things as we go into winter on the ranch.

Many of us are short of hay so we are looking or have looked at our options and have priced them out.

Over the years there have been some “protein lick tubs” developed and local BC Livestock co-op, Beaver Valley Feeds in Williams Lake and the Co-op in Quesnel all carry the product.

These tubs feed the bugs (bacteria) in the rumen of the livestock which in turn digest the tougher part of the “roughage” we have on hand, hay or standing pasture.

Simply put, we need to know there is a balance of carbohydrates for energy (body function and keeping warm) and protein which is necessary for growth and important functions like nurturing the fetus in the mother cow.

Short of testing the pasture and hay, one can get general guidance about what is in the feeds you provide to the animals.

For instance, our local knowledge about grazing cattle on natural meadows says that early in pregnancy they should do well, at least into January.

READ MORE: No till pasture rejuvenation and silvopasture trials

Unless highly fertilized, all the macro and micro nutrients should be there.

One might send in some samples and get the analysis, so you know about your specific pastures.

Now we have the supplements to place out in those fields.

Several years ago, when we started to extend our grazing season and calve later, we grazed cattle in mature Reed’s Canary and wild sedges in the wetter areas which we couldn’t access earlier in the fall because it was too wet. This is mostly willow bottom riparian ground.

Advisors in the Ministry of Agriculture said that if the cows can eat willow there should be enough protein to digest the “rank” Reed’s grass which grows to seven feet tall, held up by the willows.

In other words, it is accessible to the cows.

Literature (research) that I have read says that if the cow can get a good mouthful of the feed without burying their eyes, then they can follow the grass under the snow.

We have successfully grazed these voluminous pastures well past Christmas.

Cows that are suited to and or habituated to this kind of feed can do well. We routinely use the protein supplement which is much cheaper than providing a full hay or silage diet.

If you are thinking of reducing your herd you may wish to replace them with genetics that are adapt to the extended grazing strategy approach.

After all, about 65 per cent of the cost of keeping a cow is feed costs.

A dollar saved is a dollar earned.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Aubrey Jackson embraces Scottish heritage at Robbie Burns Night this Saturday

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 invites the whole community to attend

Horgan’s caribou liaison quits

Blair Lekstrom was appointed to ease tension between local groups over plan to save threatened herds

Williams Lake RCMP respond to pedestrian-involved collision at Pigeon and Western

Three children aged nine were taken to hospital with what appears to be minor injuries

Water treatment plant for manganese removal price tag at least $14.9 million

City council received a feasibility study at committee of the whole

Smudging ceremony held near 108 Mile after fatal collision

‘We want to be there for her parents and her children as much as possible’

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

B.C. man dies after police called for ‘firearms injury’ in rural Alberta

Victim is 30-year-old Greater Victoria man, say police

Most Read