Wet '17 not so easy for farmers, but grazers liked what they got

Jan 4, 2018 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Part 2 of 3

Wet weather in the spring may have created crop management problems for area farmers, but local cattle growers seem to have benefited for the most part from the increase in precipitation early in 2017.

"(We were) pretty fortunate with the snowpack and the moisture we did get," said Chance Marshall, an educator with the University of Wyoming Extension office in Lander.

"That set us up (for) a good grazing season this year. ... There was plenty of forage out there."

Bob Pingetzer, who grazes his herd of 650-700 head near Waltman east of Shoshoni, said 2017 was perhaps the best year he can remember for the natural food supply for his cattle.

"I will leave twice as much grass there this year than we even had in 2013," he said.

Cattle did well

Rancher Jock Campbell compared the range conditions for his herd near Lysite to those he saw in the 1990s.

"My cattle on the range ... did really well," he said. "There was more feed this year than there's been in years. ... It's a good year."

He also keeps some cows near Pinedale and Cora, where he said he lost a few calves either to pneumonia or predators - or both.

"We might be hunting some wolves next year," he said.

Marshall said local cows experienced a "pretty rough winter" last year, so even though they came out of the fall in good shape, they may have entered the grazing season underweight or sickly. And good forage sometimes brings with it parasite problems, he noted.

Coming home

He didn't have information about average weights in Fremont County, but he said after the lush summer of 2017 local cattle were likely to come home this fall with plenty of fat stored for winter and calving.

"Whenever you've got good forage you're going to have a little more body condition, a little more fat on the cows and heifers," he said. "That will set them up so they're in good shape to breed and calve.

"As we're moving into calving season that body condition and those extra energy reserves are really important to help us calve without any issues."

Corn and oats

Both Campbell and Pingetzer grow their own corn and hay to use for feed over the winter, though Pingetzer said most of his heifer calves get oats instead of the corn, which is reserved for young steers.

"The steer calves (you want to) fatten faster," he explained. "Heifer calves we're not pushing that way. We want a more functional cow in the long run.

"We do have some heifers we put on corn, too, that we know we're not going to keep as momma cows - they'll end up in the feed lot - but for the most part heifers get oats, and steers get corn."

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