Moved to Spring Grass…Now Where Is Spring?

Winter has been hanging around a long time here in the Pacific Northwest. Imagine your slightly neurotic in-laws that show up early to Christmas dinner and don’t leave until well past nine bells – that’s what winter has been like. In fact, we moved cows out to spring grass this past weekend, and guess what it was doing Monday morning? Snowing.

Moving cow/calf pairs out on spring grass is one of my favorite times of year. Right up there with the smell of wood smoke on crisp fall air, chocolate milk shakes on 100-degree July afternoons, and the exact moment you drift into sleep after a long day in the saddle. With the start of pushing cows out on grass, the daily grind of winter chores start to dwindle. Focus turns to the farming side of the operation. Fence building, putting up hay, spraying thistles – they all become priorities for the longer days.

This past weekend, I helped my friends drive 100 head of cows with calves at their side several miles downriver from the winter feeding ground to the canyon breaks for a couple months of spring grass before they go to the mountains for the summer. (Wow. That was a super long sentence. Sorry.) It’s something like an 8 or 12 mile jaunt. Or 9 or 15 miles. Gus must have been absent the day they were installing odometers. Anyway, it’s a ways, and it takes a couple days to do it to ensure the cattle have time to rest up and be as healthy as possible when they reach Spring Home.

The pasture overlooks a dam on the Snake River, and the sprigs of new grass have turned the hills a wonderful shade of green. A few warm days, and the grass will shoot up. It is really a beautiful, rugged place, even when the wind is blowing as hard as it was this weekend. I now look like I’m in a perpetual state of blushing due to wind-burned cheeks.

My love for moving cows to spring grass is a recent addition to the list of life loves. This shift of spring grass to summer grass back to fall grass doesn’t happen in Iowa. Not the way it does here. Most ranchers calves in January and February here in the PNW, but my dad shoots for a March/April calving window which puts the move to grass in May.

Gus, the Cowhorse

Gus, the cowhorse

The grass in Iowa pastures is also a lot more productive due to moisture throughout the summer. It tends to dry up here in the Pacific Northwest in the summer months, requiring more acres to pasture cows than it does in Iowa.

I love the PNW, but I’m also thankful for my Midwest cattle background as it brings a unique twist to my perspective, the questions I want answers to, and an inquisitiveness for how everything works on other folks’ ranches.

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