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

No reported COVID-19 transmission in B.C.’s tree planting spring/summer effort

With the fall season winding up mid-October, it is hoped that trend will continue

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

World-class carver prefers the simple life

His work can be found in galleries around the world, but Kevin Peters prefers the quiet life.

A first in the Chilcotin: Tl’etinqox builds six-unit Elders complex

“It’s exciting,” says Chief Joe Alphonse

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read