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

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

The city of Williams Lake has been doing routine maintenance to one of its wells at Scout Island as seen here earlier this week. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake residents asked to reduce non-essential water use

One of the city’s pumps is under repair

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

An RCMP cruiser. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Two people arrested following fight in Lac La Hache: RCMP

Man allegedly sprayed two victims with bear spray.

Mike Dutour can’t wait to get the golf season underway following the Williams Lake Golf and Tennis Club’s announcement it would be opening its front nine this Friday, April 16. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Golf and Tennis Club open for 2021 season

Tee times will begin daily starting Friday, April 16 at 9 a.m.

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Since April 4, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Vancouver the largest source of domestic flights with COVID-19 cases: data

This month alone, 38 flights with COVID-19 cases have departed from Vancouver International Airport, while 23 arrived

Most Read