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AMY KIRK: A Positive + A Negative = Ranch Life

The past six months have been classic ranch life living. Ranching is perpetually dealing with positive and negative situations simultaneously. For every break we get there's usually a catch to keep our life balanced.

All winter my husband and I worried about not getting enough moisture. The indicator that we were lacking wintertime moisture levels was that we never got a chance to get sick of snow. From November through March we had mostly snowless, spring-like weather to frolic in and the abnormally warm days and nights in February and March made calving less work. Our stress levels and the amount of time spent worrying about what kind of calving chaos was awaiting us every morning was drastically less than years past. The downside was the thought of the after-effects from the lack of normal moisture levels needed to grow enough hay and alfalfa crops.

We finally got some winter-style moisture in April -- a winter's worth in big doses for about three weeks. Thankfully by then all we had left to calve were late calvers. Our herd got through the April snowstorms unscathed but the fast-melting snow created new worries: potential for grass tetany (a debilitating health problem in cattle from fast-growing forages lacking in magnesium) so we filled mineral feeders with supplemental magnesium to prevent grass tetany issues with our cows.

After we branded, we moved our cows onto fresh grass, which alleviated our worries about our cows getting shorted on feed from the well-picked pasture at home and our dwindling hay supply. Once on fresh grass, cows had enough to graze until we moved them to summer range but the reprieve was quickly replaced by anxieties. Little things like poor stretches of fence next to neighboring herds and fence jumping bovines. The relief of having fresh grass available was also offset by having to haul all the water almost daily since the well didn't get charged with the normal winter moisture.

Throughout May, we were wonderfully blessed with some substantial rain showers. The kind of rain showers that are notorious for bringing on scours (bovine diarrhea) in calves, keeping us on a nervous, paranoid vigil looking out for the gray evidence of the troublesome illness around the water tanks. We looked at a lot baby calves' butts and packed scours pills with us every time we went out to the Reed Place for insurance.

The week-long cloudy, windy and cool weather pleasantly changed for us on June 1 when we moved cows to summer range. The mild, sunny and calm day was perfect for riding horseback to trail cows along the short, easy jaunt to our endpoint -- the summer range tanks. Just so we didn't get too overconfident in our cow-moving plan, our cows found a glitch and provided us with a nice little setback in our otherwise simple plan. Several calves found a gaping hole along some old fence perfect for slipping through. Once their mommas saw them on the other side of the fence we were forced to forfeit our original plan and go an alternate route.

The last six month's activities just goes to show that if you want something good to happen, there has to be problems to worry about first.

-- Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.

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