My favorite cowgirl and I headed down to our pasture ground last Sunday to search for grass. Nebraska has been moisture deficient since early last summer and, in particular, the drought has greatly hurt the 23 millions acres of grass pasture that makes up more than half of Nebraska’s land mass.
While the vast majority of our land is crop ground, we do have approximately 600 acres of cool season grass pasture in the Platte River Valley. Typically, we graze cattle on this land from April to Mid-June, and then again from August to October. I purchase “light yearlings” or “fall calves” that weigh 600-650# to graze on this land.
We grow these animals on grass pasture until they weigh approximately 800#. At that time (or at the time that all of the grass is eaten), we bring them into the feed yard to prepare them for harvest.
Today is the 2nd of May. Normally, we have already turned cattle out to pasture and our cool season grass is lush and green. This year the grass is very slow to grow due to two important variables: water and heat units.
After a very dry summer, fall and winter; we were blessed with almost 3 inches of rain (along with snow and ice) in April. The rain brought life-giving moisture, but it also left behind very cold temperatures. At the end of last week, we finally saw some warmth with highs in the upper 70’s but it did not last as we had snow again yesterday…
As Megan and I rode the pasture ground, I realized that I would not have grass to graze for several weeks yet. While it is valiantly trying to turn green and grow, it is way behind normal. The lack of carryover moisture combined with a dry winter and a cold spring have left Nebraska’s grasslands struggling.
I was glad to have my favorite cowgirl along as we traversed the pasture ground. She was a bundle of sunshine laughing and telling stories from her week at school. Her natural optimism is good for me and brings a smile to my face. As we loaded up the horses and headed for home, I thought to myself that her positive nature plays a key role in the sustainability of my mental fitness!