GAP Farm Life: The Grass is Always Greener… In the Hay Bale

GAP Farm Life: Winter Cattle

Mr. Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year. Anyone else think he might have been wrong?

Many of GAP’s partner farms and ranches are located in geographies that experience cold, snowy winters. Though beef cattle can weather the colder weather better than some of our other GAP species, like broilers and turkeys, feeding and managing cattle through the winter is no cake walk (no pun intended!). With colder temperatures, ranchers face challenges such as pastures full of dormant forages, the animal’s thermal comfort, and early calving cows that seem to wait until a big storm to give birth.

GAP Farm Life: WIlsey Ranch in Winter

GAP Farm Life: Wilsey Ranch in Winter

Wilsey Ranch, affiliated with Desert Mountain Grass-fed Beef and GAP-certified since fall 2012, sits in the picturesque Owyhee Mountains of Idaho, where the winter temperatures range from 0°F (-17°C) to 50°F (10°C) during the winter. Winter weather is no stranger to this ranch – snow usually covers the ground from December through to March.

The ranch keeps the cattle on pasture throughout the winter where they can eat their fill of the forages harvested during the growing season. The ranch rotates the herd through each of the fields, allowing the manure produced from the herd to be spread throughout – which is a great fertilizer for the fields. Basically, the cattle themselves do an excellent job at returning nutrients to the soil!

Calving season starts in February, so it’s important to make sure the cows have enough to eat to help support nursing their newborn calves through the spring. The pregnant cows are brought closer to the ranch right before calving so that the new mothers and babies can be more closely monitored. Though the young calves will pick a bit at the hay on the ground, their main diet is cows’ milk. They prefer to use the hay piles as comfy resting places instead!

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