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4-H Agriculture Kansas Livestock Spring

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love spring and everything about it. I also love summer and fall, and maybe a few things about winter but I really love spring. For me, spring really is the most wonderful time of the year. It is starting to warm up outside (YAY!) and color is finally coming back to the landscape. The browns of winter can be really depressing, especially after looking at them for several months. In spring it appears that everything is waking up and coming back to life. The trees begin to get buds and often it seems that they leaf out or bloom overnight. Each spring rain brings a little more green grass, clover, and flowers into the colors of the landscape.

Here at 14 Hands Ranch, we do most of our kidding and lambing in the spring. All of the babies racing around the pens and pastures makes springtime wonderful and exciting! We are anxiously waiting for our Lamancha goats to kid and sheep to lamb at the end of April/first of May. We feel like following natures natural rhythms with our kidding and lambing gives our livestock a better chance to perform how God created them to. The only exception to this is with our Boer goats. We want them to kid in January or February so that our children can show them at the 4-H fair in July. When we allow nature to work how it is intended the livestock generally can kid and lamb on their own, we don’t have to worry about any babies freezing, we don’t need heat lamps set up, and we are much more eager to spend time with the babies when it is nice outside.

Growing up, my family had a Limousin and Red Angus herd of cattle. We were one of the few in our area that calved in the summer. My dad always said that the cattle were there to work for us, not us work for them. We have adopted that philosophy on our farm as well. This means that we don’t introduce the buck or ram to the females until around Thanksgiving so that we are kidding and lambing in spring.

The other thing that that makes spring so wonderful is that we purchase and bring home all of our 4-H show animals in March and April. We typically start talking to breeders about what they will have available in February or the first of March. So far we have our show pigs, lambs, and bucket calves here. The Boer goats that we purchased will be picked up in a few weeks. There’s something so hopeful and optimistic about a new set of show animals. Everyone has goals and dreams of how they would like their animals to do. It takes a lot of work, discipline, time, dirt, and hard days to get to the end of the summer with the projects. Sometimes, there’s disappointment at the end of the summer because the judge didn’t like your animal on that one day or maybe the animal didn’t grow as well as you had hoped. Sometimes, it’s because the animal wasn’t worked with as much as they should have been. And sometimes, it all comes together and that animal wins the banner. But it all starts out every spring with hope and dreams.

The Corona virus has gave us a lot more time than we would typically have in the spring, so we started working with 4-H animals over the weekend. The pigs were all weighed and walked. This is usually a very chaotic event the first couple of times we let them all out to walk them but this group of pigs have been very calm and well behaved. The sheep were also all weighed and are learning to stand tied. The bucket calves were haltered for the first time. Midnight (the black one) didn’t seem to mind the halter but Sunset fought it the entire time. Violet our Boer/Alpine cross was also weighed and haltered for the first time. She didn’t like the halter either so Colton decided he would just carry her instead until she gets to big for him to carry. It won’t be long and he will have to teach her to lead because she is growing fast. Then he will learn it would have been better to start working with her on leading when she was small! The kids have also started riding the horses to get them back into shape for the summer shows. We also started working on our garden much earlier than we have before. I’m hoping to get a few things planted in it this week before it rains again.

I hope that all of you can find something or many things that bring you joy and hope this spring. Maybe its the green grass, the birds singing again, baby chicks, blue skies, sunshine, baby animals, or the warm weather. Spring has so many things to offer that make it the most wonderful time of the year!

Walking the pigs
Getting the pigs to go into the shed where we have the scale set up.
Hailey spending some time with Molly and the sheep after putting hay out.
Letting Violet walk herself on the halter.
He is so proud of her!
Walking the sheep for the first several times is always hard!
Feeding Sunset her bottle.
Midnight
Sunset did NOT like her halter.
The view on my walk.

Categories
Agriculture Burning Kansas Spring

First Sign of Spring in Eastern Kansas

How do you know that it’s spring time in eastern Kansas? When farmers and ranchers start to burn their pastures and CRP. The skies can be so smokey this time of year that the sun is pink or reddish during the day. These fires are called prescribed or controlled burns because the farmers and ranchers start them in specific pastures and (try to) control where the fires go.

Burning is done in the Flint Hills of Kansas to help clear out the old, dry, dead grass from the previous year, control the Eastern Red Cedar Trees that come up everywhere here, and to promote new grass growth. The controlled burns also help to control the amount of weeds in a pasture. The Easter Red Cedar Trees are a problem because they pull a lot of water out of the ground and choke out the native grasses. This then reduces the amount of ground available for grazing livestock. They can be very invasive and it doesn’t take long for them to completely take over an area. When pastures are allowed to become overgrown with tall, dry grass or cedar trees they can become a wildfire danger. It is also difficult for new grass to grow.

I grew up in western Kansas (almost to the Kansas/Colorado state line) where there is almost always a drought and it is always dry so very few people burn intentionally. There just isn’t enough tall grass to burn anyway because all available grass is always grazed. Where I grew up, there aren’t really any trees that would be considered invasive, so I am also always amazed at how easy cedar trees grow here because in western Kansas they are purposely planted for wind breaks. Many people actually water them to help them grow! The controlled burns were new to me and still make me nervous every year.

About half of our ground is in a government program called Conservative Reserve Program or CRP. This is when the government pays farmers to leave a field as fallow or plant native grasses. You are not allowed to graze or hay these fields as long as they are in the program unless there would be special circumstances. The purpose behind CRP is to help native species of animals with cover and food and to cut down on erosion.  When we moved to our farm the ground was already in CRP so we chose to leave it in the program. When our CRP contract ends we do not plan to renew it. Our plan is to work towards increasing our livestock numbers so that we can better manage the rotational grazing of our ground. Some of our ground is very overgrazed and tired so we plan to give it a longer break when we can start grazing the CRP.

Even though burning makes me nervous, I do enjoy taking pictures of it!

This is the before photo. You can’t tell from the photo but most of that grass is 6-7 feet tall!
Colton had the job of making sure the fire didn’t come up into the yard. They started on the south part because of the wind so he had to wait awhile before he had anything to do.
Cody is putting the fire out along the edge of the burn line.
Colton took his job very seriously and made sure the fire didn’t crossover into the yard.
Lance and Colton watching from the top of the hill.
All done.