Grazing Through Drought, Too Much Rain, and Fire

The early part of spring here in the glorious grass country of western Oregon began about as usual. We were able to turn out our custom-grazing yearlings during the last week of March, just a touch earlier than usual. The cow herd went out a few days later. Turning cattle out on grass always comes with a combination of emotions. I’m excited at the prospect of beginning to produce positive cash flow. I’m focused (maybe stressed just a bit) on trying to manipulate cattle numbers, grass growth, paddock size, grazing periods and a bunch of other variables, all to achieve the twin goals of strong production and ecological progress. I enjoy my drives from ranch to ranch and cataloging what’s happening everywhere, as well as starting my social relationships with new groups of cattle. Finally, there's the challenge of a few technical problems to solve like electric fence systems that get cranky, or water systems that find creative new ways to fail. This year, the first tiny red flags of drought started waving early in the grazing season. Things still looked great in our neighborhood, but a few hundred miles south of us, the National Weather Service began sending out warnings of possible drought conditions brewing. As the weeks went by, those warnings became much more dramatic, and eventually D1 and then D2 conditions were declared. The counties just south of us gradually turned from yellow to orange to dark red, and our own valley was threatened with D3 conditions. [ca

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