Going into our first winter this year brought a little bit of heartburn. The precipitation of 2020 & 2021 was the least amount precipitation most had seen in their lifetimes according to some of the old timers in Kamas valley. Some even say it was the worst drought in the last 500 years.
What that meant for our wintering program this year were record high hay prices. And in our neck of the woods, grazing year round is a gargantuan task. Our goal this year was to feed our hay on bare spots. We are attempting to reintroduce biology and life to soil that was desertified by overgrazing from previous management practices.
One of the principles of soil health is to always keep the ground covered and bale grazing in the winter in the right locations is a great way to implement that principle. Cattle waste quite a bit of their hay when they eat, and that waste is plant litter to cover previously barren ground. That, along with manure and urine are the armor soil microorganisms need to reestablish their environment. We thought just letting the cows go to town on a bale would be sufficient, but due to our low numbers we wasted more hay than we wanted to. The cows would tear portions off and then soil a large amount of it. Our Ecological context and financial context butted heads on that one. Plus, we didn't buy enough large bales to get us all the way to April. So here we are having to lug small bales every week or so in snow covered fields to our cows.
We are excited for spring. Excited in a way like never before. Green grass, not hauling hay, you can
imagine. It looks like we will have around another 190 acres to manage next year which is exciting and intimidating at the same time. Trucking, winter feeding, calving, working cattle. It gets a little more complicated. But that is what we signed up for. Getting enough animals to effectively biomimic large herds under predator pressure will force us to be creative, More updates on that soon. We hope to expand on our poultry operation this coming summer as well. We have lots to do!
Your newbie ranchers trying to figure it out,
Mitch, James, and McKinley
Want to keep learning? Here are some of our favorite finds across the web
What we are listening to:
Mitch on KPCW talking about our grant from Park City Community Foundation
What we are reading:
‘Greener’ pastures in Park City (article)
What we are watching:
We also wanted to give a special thanks and shoutout to Park City Community Foundation for their generous support of our work. We received a $75k grant over three years to measure and monitor the soil and ecology of 3 Springs and 3 other ranches in the Kamas Valley to understand the carbon sequestration and other environmental benefits of our practices.