Our son began swathing hay the first week in June. He's been cutting steadily ever since, doing custom haying around the valley. Lynn started cutting ours the first week in July.
We'd hoped to get the hay off and get the fields watered again, to get some regrowth for fall pasture (for the calves after we bring them home off the range to wean). Our creek, however, has dropped so rapidly in this hot, dry weather that we don't know if there will be enough for irrigation. We're in a severe drought situation with range fires starting earlier than usual around the West.
Some of those fires could have been avoided if more grazing had been allowed in those areas. It would have lessened the buildup of dry grass. One of the worst fires was near the government's nuclear reservation (Hanford, WA), where no grazing is allowed.
We have just the opposite problem on our range - overgrazing by elk. When our daughter Andrea rode the high pasture recently to check gates, she ran into a herd of 67 elk.
That's a lot of elk for our small range area. Large numbers of elk defeat our efforts at grazing management and pasture rotations. They utilized our middle pasture heavily just as it was starting to grow, while the snow was still covering the high pasture. Now, they are eating our high pasture before we go into it.
We use a deferred rotation system on our varied elevation pastures, using the low one first to let the higher ones start growing. We move the cattle into the higher pasture as the grass makes its growth, and we allow part of it to go to seed. But the elk don't wait.
June was a busy month. My 5-year-old thoroughbred mare (bred to an Arab stallion) was due to foal in early July but did it three weeks early. She started waxing a few days before she foaled, and I put her in the backyard at nights (under the yardlight) where I could see her from the window.
She went into early labor at 9 p.m., June 19, and paced around the yard all night but did nothing. She rested the next day and then started in again that evening. By midnight, she quit pacing and lay down to strain, but only one foot appeared; it was soon obvious there was a leg back.
Lynn was able to reach in and get the missing leg - it was back along the foal's head - and pull it out. I was glad I had kept an eye on her, or we would have lost the foal.
Editor's Note: Heather Smith Thomas' daughter Andrea Daine was severely burned while trying to help control a range fire in early July. She was flown to the Burn Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City (the Intermountain Burn Center). At press time, she is in critical but stable condition with second- and third-degree burns over 51% of her body. Please include her in your prayers.
Heather Smith Thomas and husband Lynn own and operate the Sky Range Ranch in Salmon, ID.