KIRK: Black Hills ranching's springtime guidelineThe calendar might say spring is officially here but in South Dakota that’s just a guideline. Especially in the Black Hills, people have to have proof because Mother Nature is notorious for pulling springtime pranks. Just because daylight savings gets implemented doesn’t necessarily mean the season is going to change along with it. Mother Nature loves to convince Black Hills residents that winter has finally broken and then turns around and behaves like an ornery brat.
By: Amy Kirk, The Daily Republic
The calendar might say spring is officially here but in South Dakota that’s just a guideline. Especially in the Black Hills, people have to have proof because Mother Nature is notorious for pulling springtime pranks.
Just because daylight savings gets implemented doesn’t necessarily mean the season is going to change along with it. Mother Nature loves to convince Black Hills residents that winter has finally broken and then turns around and behaves like an ornery brat.
So far, I am fairly optimistic that spring is here to stay. One reassuring sign of this new season is when grass starts popping up. This is a relief because once Old Man Winter gets the manure-covered boot for another year and cows decide to sneak off someplace to have their calves during the night, my husband and I can worry less about freezing temperatures and wind chill factors.
Yes, we can relax for a second and focus on other matters, like the potential for grass tetany. This metabolic disorder can be found in cattle grazing on fast-growing grass in early spring and has the potential to be fatal to livestock lacking magnesium. Naturally, grass seems to have sprouted up everywhere just after we decided to turn our herd out into a different pasture.
As a result, the livestock mineral feeder has been set out and filled with adequate amounts of a magnesium supplement which alleviates grass tetany problems. When the mineral feeder is set out, I know the calendar isn’t lying about it being spring.
It’s also a well-known fact that rain showers represent spring-like weather. This type of moisture symbolizes the time of year when we start looking at the ground for signs of calf scours (bovine diarrhea). This is another springtime specific concern that will have to be dealt with promptly if it shows up.
Although South Dakota communities on the prairie are accustomed to strong winds year round, March’s high winds signify that the season is changing in the Black Hills. The scouring winds we’ve had lately have all but sandblasted away our driveway and my flowerbeds. Surely that means spring actually made it to the southwest corner of South Dakota.
I try to offset these bothersome spring-related signs by looking on the bright side. It’s been said that if blue birds are seen, spring is here to stay. Just the other day I saw a blue bird for the first time this year; a barn cat was packing it off in its mouth.
Other surefire cues are when the air feels warm enough to get by without wearing gloves and coveralls. When it’s cold out, I don’t like putting on boots that make my feet cold. I can tell spring temperatures are in the air once the nighttime low temperatures hover around 30 degrees and I can stop bringing my boots inside to be warm when I put them on.
The only way to truly know for sure that it’s spring is to check out my husband. A good indicator is when he stops wearing long johns, thermal shirts, and silk rags around his neck. But most importantly, when he doesn’t put his ear flappers down on his scotch cap, I know spring is here.
But we’re not Mother Nature’s fools. Winter gear doesn’t officially get put away until June.
Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.co m.