PV 10/9/21

It’s not usual that we would see cows unloading off of trucks backed up to the chute here at PV headquarters, but 2021 has been nothing if not unusual. These girls — prime-age PV cows — are just arriving home from their summer “vacation” in Wyoming. The reason for their southern vacation? Drought rendered grass insufficient and water nonexistent on the east side of the PV early on this year, and so in May and June we underwent the arduous task of shipping 1,500 pairs to summer grass at our sister ranch in Wyoming (the Q). This was a real departure from normal events here, as normally a mama cow would not leave the ranch in her productive lifetime and a calf wouldn’t leave until it was a yearling, at which time it would spend the summer at the Wyoming ranch. But resources were so sparing here at the PV this year that the yearlings were sold right out of the feedlot and pairs instead were off to Wyoming. Nothing about shipping pairs out of here was simple, and it asked a lot of the great crew we work with to get it done: sorting out 45 pairs (1 truckload) at a time, branding the calves, then putting those same cows and calves on a truck bound for Wyoming the next morning. When putting baby calves and their mamas on trucks, it’s essential to take great care that the right mamas and the right babies leave together and arrive together. While the crew was doing all this careful discerning of mamas and babies, it was enormously hot for May/June, the wind blew like dragon’s breath most days, and the dust billowed so thickly in the shipping pens that one shower couldn’t quite wash all the grime off of/out of a body at the end of a day. The project was so time consuming that, once it was done, there was little time left to do the rest of the summer work. And now, however unbelievable, summer is over… and it’s time for these mama cows to come home to the PV. Their calves, now old enough to wean, are headed straight to a third sister ranch (the Broken O in Augusta), while these mamas will spend the winter in the PV feedlot here at home. So another departure from the norm: for the first time in my lifetime, we won’t background PV calves in the PV feedlot this winter. Instead, all the calves are headed for the Broken O, and we’ll squeeze as many mama cows as possible into the feedlot pens that would usually hold those calves. Because there still isn’t any grass on all those hills out there. All these changes around here are rarely-used tools coming out of the drought-management toolbox that we’d just as soon leave closed. But our neighbors of every shape and size are in the same shape: digging deep in their own toolboxes, trying to find the right combination of tricks to survive these unprecedented dry years.

– Tam Blake

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