Friday, March 31, 2017

Rainy, foggy, snow on the way

As the title implies it's a warm, balmy, sunshiny day here in the Nebraska Panhandle. Er...

In this part of the country this is the time for spring rains, which sometimes come in the form of snow. We only average 16.29 inches of liquid precipitation (snow is melted and measured to arrive at a liquid equivalent) per year, and over the last 123 years an average of 5.65 inches of that comes in March, April and May. A further 7.29 inches typically arrives in June, July and August, so nearly 13 of our 16 inches arrive over one-half of the year.

Spring rains are pretty important to get the grass growing, particularly cool season perennial grasses. Follow on summer rains keep the grass growing and boost warm season grass production.

We've had nice moisture over the last few days and it looks like more is on the way. This eases the mind of the grass farmer as we know we'll have at least early-season grass this year. What will come later will, well, come later. For now there's a bit of security in the grass farmer's outlook.

Spring rains not uncommonly turn into spring snows. This is a complication for the grass farmer who chooses to harvest grass with cattle, particularly if the cattle are having babies in the spring, which is rather often the case.

Range beef cattle of the type we raise are well equipped to survive and thrive in springtime snow conditions and usually even manage to weather blizzards in fine shape.

Severe blizzards can be a different story, and the right (or wrong) combination of snow, cold and wind can depopulate your cows and calves in a matter of hours. It's always a risk. We take steps and introduce strategies to mitigate the risk, but in a worst case you can loose all your cattle overnight or in an afternoon.

On the plus side, back during the Blizzard of '49, when several hundred thousand cattle perished across the Great Plains, our ranch lost but a single aged milk cow. As Juvat points out, luck is often more reliable than skill.

The snow promised over the next week or so looks like it'll be pretty tame. Our cows are healthy and well fed and those that calve during the inclement weather should do just fine. I'll be watching closely, of course, and I may have to spring into action. But that's my job.

Other things happen on the prairie in spring, and one of the most interesting is bird breeding season.

When I first saw this pheasant yesterday afternoon, he was scrapping with another, rival male. They were throwin' it down right in the middle of the county road! Unfortunately I didn't get any video of the fight. It was epic though!

And last evening at sunset, as I prepared to tag a newly born calf,

this fellow perched upon a steel post and gave forth with the Western Meadowlark's characteristic mating call. Music to my ears. Sorry about the background noise, I-80 is only a mile away and the breeze was perfect for carrying traffic noise.

Spring is a neat time of the year.

And now I'm off to Scottsbluff. Mom has an ophthalmologist appointment in preparation for cataract surgery. She'll be having her eyes dilated, so I'm providing seeing-eye-driver-dog services! 


  1. I hope your mother's eye surgery goes well. Thanks for the post to keep us/me up on how things are going on your bit of our planet.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. Thanks Paul. Looks like the surgery will go like the last one which was very well. And my pleasure. I like to share my good fortune.

  2. Life on the prairie can be grand.

    Saw pheasants all over the place at Kunsan in Korea. Handsome birds. Nothing like the song of the meadowlark.

    (How do birds whistle when they don't have lips. Oh, I said that out loud...?)

    1. Thanks Sarge, Grand indeed.

      I loved your story about the invasion of the nork pheasant hunters!

      And yeah, it's a good question... :)

  3. Hope your mom's eye work goes well. I had both eyes done a while back. 30 minutes, no pain and I'm seeing better than when I was a kid. They really have it down nowadays, particularly using the computer assisted laser method.

    1. Thanks Captain! Her last one went just like that. She developed a secondary cataract but they fixed it with lasers in only a few minutes. We're fortunate to live in this time and place.