Rain, snow, sleet, or shine — a hungry cow can’t wait for the turn of the season to eat between 24 and 55 pounds per day. That includes winter.
Kansas cattle ranchers have an advantage over farmers working in damper countries like Ireland. They can let their cattle graze during winter without cattle getting hurt on soaked ground or preventing fresh spring growth.
There also are plenty of crop fields in the Midwest, with stalks and fallen heads prime for grazing.
Lehigh resident and lifelong rancher Linda Peters is one of many who turn their cattle out on crop fields after harvest as well as letting them graze in regular pastures.
“They will graze that unless it gets real rainy and mudded up, or if it snows really hard so there’s not forage for them to get,” she said. “Then we leave them out there for six to eight weeks. It cleans up the field and the extra milo.”
Peters provides between 10 and 12 acres per cow for grazing so areas don’t become overgrazed, which would encourage growth of tree saplings and noxious weeds. Rotating among different fields, some of which are used specifically for winter, also prevents overgrazing. Ranchers with smaller supplement grazing with hay bales.
“We always try to move them,” she said. “There’s so many acres per cow that we try to figure in.”
When temperatures dip too low, Peters rolls out bales of stalks or straw to provide insulated beds for her cattle.
“They snuggle down in it, all comfy,” she said. “For cows, it’s great. Then in the spring, cattle lie in it and poop in it, and we turn that into fertilizer. We kind of are recyclers, even though people don’t want to believe that.”