In early August, daughter Andrea and I finished moving our cattle to the high range, and brought home five cows with bull calves to wean.
Cowboys on the neighboring range were moving their cattle into their Forest Service allotment about the same time, and we met the new owner of one of those ranches. He had just put some of his neighbor's cows into our range by mistake about an hour before we came along. So, we helped him get them back out.
It took a lot of hard galloping through the dense timber (those cows are a lot wilder than ours) and I was glad I was riding my old dependable cowhorse that day instead of the young gelding I'm training.
We got them gathered and back down to the gate before they had gotten very far up the timbered mountain, and felt very lucky. It would have been more time consuming to find and gather them a day or two later - after they dispersed into our allotment among our cattle.
Our hot, dry weather has continued for 211/42 months and we're having a bad fire season. Abundant grass growth from above average moisture this spring is now tinder dry. On the ranges, cattle have not grazed enough and it's a serious fire hazard. Thousands of acres have burned in our county, and much more in the adjacent wilderness area. Many days it's been too smoky to see the horizon and hard to breathe.
Range Fires Spread In mid-August a lightning strike started a fire on our range and burned about 15 acres of grass, sagebrush and chokecherry trees before Lynn, Andrea and the BLM fire crew got it under control. Strong winds that day threatened to take the fire up the ridge into the timber where it would have burned many acres, along with our boundary fences and some water troughs, and into our high pasture. That's where the cattle are so we were glad to get it stopped. A cattle trail around the ridge made a perfect fire line.
We finally got the last of our hay cut and baled, and Lynn is hoping to get it all hauled in the next couple of days. The old stackwagon hasn't been running very well this summer, and it's hard to get parts for the 40-year-old relic. But he's been innovative and made a few parts - like a washer for one of the springs - which he made from a piece of steel pipe.
Buying Square Bales We are buying a little alfalfa hay from a neighbor. A friend baled it with his new baler that makes 800-lb. square bales. We use small square bales ourselves, but thought we'd try a few intermediate size bales. We can put one into the Jeep with our loader to feed to replacement heifers on winter pasture.
We don't use round bales because they are awkward to feed in our situation - where we have a lot of small groups, fed on the ground andneed to know exactly how much we're feeding.
We have another neighbor who has solved that problem. He didn't like the wasted hay when feeding round bales. Even in feeders, cattle waste some if fed too much, so he made extra large feeders that the cows have to reach into to eat and cannot pull so much hay out. He also made a spinner attachment for his tractor loader so he can spin off part of a bale and feed just the amount he wants.
He feeds all his hay with this spinner, putting a bale or part of a bale into round bale feeders. Sometimes he strings a bale or part of it out on well-sodded or frozen ground, or backs the tractor along a feed manger and spins the hay off into the manger. He can also use it to pick up and load bales onto a trailer.
Many folks in our valley have gone to round bales because of their speed and convenience when haying, but they don't like some of the drawbacks when feeding them. Our neighbor's innovation has resolved some of those drawbacks.