There are few things ranchers depend on for their industry- cows/calves to sell, buyers to buy, and feed to fatten them up. The first two are in pretty constant supply, feed on the other hand... Well that's a little subjective...
There is always feed out there, but good quality feed at a good price can be hard to come by. Why? One word... DROUGHT.
The last few years we (and by "we" I collectively mean all or most ranchers) have been needing rain in a bad way. Without rain grass, grain, alfalfa, hay, whatever won't grow. Pretty cut and dry (hehe, dry... that's what we are right now!).
The other day we had our turn to check water in Locomotive on our BLM association ground and we took a turn through our private ground to check the feed. Our private land in Locomotive is where we take our cows to calve out every winter, the turnout day coming up in just a few weeks. But the sad truth is that its going to be a very different year for Locomotive.
Throughout the summer and fall we have been keeping an eye on our feed down south, hoping and praying the rain and sun to get to work to make grass that we need to winter the cows. As the time has gotten closer and closer to moving cows out there we have realized we don't have NEAR enough feed to winter all the cows there and keep the ground healthy.
Last year it was rough. With years of drought, we finally grazed it down to its limit. And we hate getting to that point. We consider ourselves stewards of the land. We care for it, trying to keep it flourishing in something more than tumble weed. But without the rains and the tough soil we have struggled the last few years. You can see in the pictures that the normal greenish brown is yellowish brown or even more greyish brown.
So what's a ranching family to do in a situation like this? We could just take the cows down and not care. But we care. We want this land to sustain itself and our cows. We need this land to sustain itself and our cows. So we are keeping most of the cows home this winter. We will take down the number of cows we think will make it on the range and keep the rest here. That means The (poor) Rancher will have LOTS of cows to feed at home... bummer. And we might have some tougher weather for our cows to calve in... And we might have a little more sickness go through the calves since they won't be spread out across the range. But we are hoping that we can help the land to renew itself and be fruitful in the coming years. This year will mean we get to put in a little more work, but protecting our land, something we CAN'T do without, is worth any effort.
So with a little less cows, a little more rain, maybe a few grass seeds, and a lot of faith we are trying to care for the land and not let this drought win.