One of the many reasons why the Wet Mountain Valley is such a beautiful place is because of the thousands of acres of open ranch land, especially on the valley floor. Spring always brings new life. Flowers, green grass, longer days, and of course if you are lucky enough to drive around the valley you will see the new baby calves. They are always a sight to see playing together, jumping, running, springtime at its finest.
Ranching is still alive and well in Custer County, I would guesstimate there are more cattle in the valley than people, though I cannot find any hard data to support that. While some ranchers work and ranch smaller herds, some are full time ranchers. Unlike some other small Colorado communities, the Wet Mountain Valley is feedlot free, most of the cattle are fortunate to be free range and who can beat the view?!
Spring is a busy time of year for valley ranchers. Calving season requires a rancher to be close by the herd in case a problem arises, I have witnessed many cows that had trouble while delivering and had to have a little extra help for the delivery. If it wasn’t for the watchful eye of the rancher, probably both the cow and calf would have died. Long nights, early mornings and near-constant supervision allow a rancher to ensure the safety of their herd.
Once a calf is born there is still more work to be done. Some ranchers use ear tags while some notch the ear for identification. Often vaccines are given that include coverage for 7-8 different diseases found in cattle. Bull calves are sometimes “banded” shortly after birth so that later they do not have to be castrated with a knife or emasculator, which can lead to infections, but on the other hand delicious Rocky Mountain Oysters. Trying to accomplish the above is sometimes an adventure depending on the nature of the mama cow. Once a calf hits the ground some cows go into protect mode and will go after anyone or anything that comes near her new baby. Much like us and other animals. In one of the pictures below you can see a not-so-happy mama that was about to eat my dad’s lunch!
Another activity that ranchers complete in the spring is “dragging meadows.” The purpose of this is to disrupt the laying “cow pies” and break them up into fertilizer for the upcoming hay crop (we will talk more about haying in August). This ensures that the grass will grow and not be restricted and die due to lack of air and sunlight. Later in the spring, calves are branded and sometimes moved to summer pastures. Which sounds like an excellent blog topic for May!
Spring is a busy time of the year for ranchers. They work hard to provide quality, free-range, grass-fed beef for the families of America. I for one am grateful that Custer County is one of the few places left with large, un-subdivided, ranch land. It makes a beautiful place, even more beautiful. Thank you Custer County Ranchers!
I highly recommend a trip through the valley floor this time of year to see spring in action for yourself! Oh and if you snap any great pictures please share them with me, I would LOVE to see them!
Special thanks to the following for sending me photos to use in this blog. They are all great and I hope you allow me to use more in the future
Ory Photography, Kathryn Ory
ELEMOTION Photo, Steph Coffman
(Mountain Shot Photography photos are from me, Brianna Cozzetto)
Thanks for reading!