Lynn and Michael spent a lot of time ditching and changing water, trying to make good use of our creek before it got short. There wasn't much high water this year, and fortunately the cool weather helped spread it out.
Temperatures stayed cold longer than most years. We had snow several times in May, and freezing nights. It was only 27 degrees the morning of June 1. The constant wind kept things pretty dry, however, and then the weather turned hot, drying things out even more.
We hope the range doesn't get too dry this summer. We also hope to have enough irrigation water to get some regrowth on the fields after haying, for fall pasture.
June started out very dry. Andrea rode around our middle range pasture June 6 to shut gates and check fences and water troughs before we move the cows in there, and found the grass shorter than usual and already looking dry. Some of the small streams we use for stock water are already drying up - streams that usually don't go dry until August.
Moving Cattle, Shoeing Horses Lynn moved the "instant" calf houses off our lower field so he could irrigate it. The shelters were created with big straw bales, using poles for rafters to support a tarp roof, and panels around the outside so cows couldn't eat the bales.
We won't need them next year as we won't be using that field with cows and calves. Michael and Carolyn will be calving out their cows at a new facility on our upper place. Lynn will help them build a calving barn this fall after we get done haying.
We got the horses wormed and ready to get back to work. I put shoes on ours and Michael put shoes on theirs. I've been shoeing my own horses for 42 years (since I was 14) but I'm slowing down now. I prefer to do two shoes a day instead of two horses a day like I used to do.
I also need to start our three-year-old filly's training this year, but it's hard to find the time. Our five-year-old mare is expecting her first foal on July 10, but is already getting a lot of udder. She may foal a bit early.
We helped Michael and Carolyn brand about 90 cows before they went to the range. These are cattle they've bought from us over the past three years. After branding, we took their cattle up to their 160-acre leased pasture above our place. There was enough grass to hold them a few days until turnout on the range.
They kept a few old cows home on pasture this year - a dozen 13- to 15-year-old cows, some they plan to sell this fall. The calves will do better on irrigated pasture, and so will the cows.
Pasture calves (on green fields) usually outweigh the range calves by about 100 lbs. The range grasses get dry by mid-summer, with a lower protein level. The cows milk better and the calves grow bigger on irrigated pasture.
Looking For Bull Candidates A couple of weeks ago, Lynn and I drove up to Sam McKinney's ranch (a few miles past Leadore) to look at some bull calves. We've periodically purchased Angus/Limousin cross bull calves from him for many years to use on our crossbred cows.
We like the crossbred bulls because they not only have good fertility and athletic ability due to their hybrid vigor, but it helps us keep our genetic mix the way we want it - both for the calves to sell and for our replacement heifers. Straightbred bulls tend to swing the genetics too far one way or the other for us.
Sam had four good bull calves picked out for us, and we liked them all. We also liked their mothers - another very important factor when choosing bulls to raise daughters from, since the daughters will have a lot of the characteristics of a bull's own mother. We will purchase them this fall when they are weaned.
Heather Smith Thomas and her husband Lynn own and operate the Sky Range Ranch in Salmon, ID.