Winter Sunset

Winter Sunset

Friday, September 9, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

Time flies. Change is the only constant. That's been dramatically illustrated in our extended family this year as we've watched two babies change with each passing month.

Sometimes the changes come with less celebration and fanfare. The drought has brought changes, but none of them have been welcome. Earlier this week, I hitched a ride on the 4-wheeler as Randy looked at grass in our pasture along the Ninnescah.

Surprisingly, the cattle are in pretty good shape, considering the "diet" they've been on. Native grasses have struggled in this summer's triple-digit heat and drought. The babies are growing and the mamas don't have the lean look of New York City models who starve themselves for fashion.

But the evidence of the drought is everywhere. This photo below was taken this week.

Summer 2011

Compare it to the same location a year ago.

Summer 2010

Last year, I took this photo at sunset right before we left the pasture after a fishing expedition.

This year, there's no water to reflect the sun's rays as day fades into night.

Parts of the pasture look deceptively green. But cattle won't eat some of the native grasses, like this three-sided salt grass.

Other areas show clear evidence of the drought.

Most summers, the location below has water. This summer, all the cattle have gravitated toward the southern part of the pasture, where there's still water, albeit much less than usual.

Randy remembers having to haul water to the pasture one summer more than 30 years ago, but usually, the pasture's ponds and the Ninnescah River nourish the cattle in their summer home.

Unless we get rain soon, Randy expects he'll take cattle off pasture earlier than normal this year. He'll wean the baby calves and sell them this fall, rather than feeding them over the winter. We don't have the alfalfa, sudan or silage to feed them this winter.

But we are fortunate. Many cattlemen in Texas and Oklahoma were forced to sell their cow/calf pairs earlier in the summer due to drought. For us, there will be a "next year." For some of them, their herd is gone.

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