Agriculture & Livestock: Looking back on 2011, ahead to the new year

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Diane Prather

The end of 2011 and the beginning of the new year may have found area residents in a reflective mood. These reflections may include reasons to be thankful.

For example, a ranch or farm family might be grateful for:

• A stackyard full of hay bales.

• The previous summer’s plentiful pasture and stock ponds filled with water.

• Enough summer pasture to let cattle and sheep graze into fall.

• Plenty of irrigation water.

• A good “round-up season” with few strays to locate.

• A brand inspector who is out in all kinds of weather and at all times of day (and night).

• A feed store with help who are willing to put grain sacks “out on the dock” so it can be picked up after hours.

• A veterinarian who opens up at 3 a.m. to deliver a calf.

• Getting through the haying/harvest season without major breakdowns.

• Easy-calving bulls and first-calf heifers that have calves on their own.

• A warm house on a cold winter day.

• The invention of water tank heaters.

• Neighbors who are always willing to help, such as pulling a calf, rounding up livestock, or branding (and a whole lot more).

• A spring without lots of calf scours.

• Good market sheep and cattle prices.

• Beef steak, lamb chops and pork ribs, cooked up on the barbecue grill.

• A good well.

• For the kids, good prices at the Junior Livestock Sale.

• A comfortable recliner to nap in while watching television at night.

• Not getting knocked down by pushy cows on the feedlot while spreading out hay on foot.

• Four-wheeler vehicles — what would we do without them?

• A herd of spirited (even ornery) and healthy cows.

• A water line to the corral that didn’t freeze up all winter.

• Trucks loaded with newly-combined wheat.

• Nice days to finish spring fieldwork.

• Fences that are in relatively good shape come spring.

• Health, family, and friends.

So, with 2011 gone, what 2012 will bring is anyone’s guess.

If we could eavesdrop on conversations among Northwest Colorado ranchers and farmers these days, we might hear their views on the impact of oil production in Western Colorado, livestock prices, the economy and perhaps the most prevalent — the weather.

This time of the year, weather talk dominates conversations in the agriculture community because, after all, the farm and ranch (and related) businesses rely on good weather for their produce.

So, they can’t help but wonder if there will be enough snow in the mountains to provide irrigation water and to fill stock ponds.

Will there be enough moisture to provide adequate grass for summer pastures? Will a late spring end up with having to buy more hay to feed animals before they can be turned out for the summer?

Will wheat and other grains get enough needed moisture to grow? And will violent summer storms damage, even destroy, crops?

Weather conditions nationwide and worldwide also affect agriculture here in Northwest Colorado. Loss of a corn crop, for example, might affect market beef prices as feedlot owners cannot get the grain they need to feed animals.

So, when television newscasts and documentaries carry scientific reports that the weather might be downright weird in 2012 due to a predicted outer space phenomenon (affecting the gravitational pull on earth), ranchers and farmers wonder “what if …?”

There’s no way to know what will happen this year. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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