Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's All About the Grass

 Remember these scenes from this past winter?  Did you ask yourself why on Earth would ranchers stay there and put up with this when there are other more hospitable places in which to ranch?  I certainly did especially this year. 

This is a place that the Utes came to only during the summer months.  They followed the herds of bison, elk, and deer that migrated back into the area as the snow receded and the ground turned from white and brown to various shades of green to feed on the plentiful rich grass.They'd spend the summer.When fall came, the animals would migrate out where their feed wasn't covered with lots of snow and their water sources were liquid not solid. The Utes would follow.

Prior to the Civil War this area was known only to the Utes and a few trappers.  It wasn't until after the Civil War that the area became known for its grass.  There was an abundance of cattle in the Southwest and a very hungry population in the Northeast.  The large herds were trailed north where they could graze on the rich free grass, gaining weight before heading east to meet the rail heads.  There the cows would be loaded into cattle cars to be shipped to Chicago and beyond. The harsh winter conditions, along with the plentiful water, moderate summer climate and fertile soil all contribute to the production of some of the best grass in the world; according to CJ Mucklow, our extension agent, not some but the best grass in the world.

All of this rich grass wouldn't be of much use to the world's population without the amazing cow.  Humans don't have the ability to digest grasses; however, the cow can digest the grass and convert it to protein which humans then eat to support every system and many functions within the human body. According to Wikipedia 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans and seas.  Of the 30% which is solid surface, less than half (40%) is arable  (able to sustain  either crops or grasses or pasture).  That 40% breaks down to only 13% able to sustain crops and 27% can sustain grass or pastures. This means that animals which graze, like cattle, give us more than twice the  land area of crop land to grow food for a population which is growing exponentially. According to the National Geographic, it took from 8000 BC until 1800 for the world population to grow to 1 Billion, 130 years (1800 to 1930) for the population to grow to 2 Billion and 94 years (1930 to 2024) for the population to quadruple to 8 Billion people.  They predict that it will take only 26 years (2024 to 2050) for the population to grow by an additional Billion.

The grass in the yard on the 31st of May
The best things about grasses is that they can grow in all kinds of conditions where nothing else will grow but here in Northwest Colorado, we feel we have the best grass for 90 days out of the year.  Cattle gain exceedingly well and quickly with no additional supplment except salt blocks and plenty of good clean drinking water.  Our grass grows well when it finally gets warm.  We are thinking about beginning to cut our dry land grass hay but first we need to cut the grass around the house.  Because we only have native grasses for our yard and don't water it, mowing our yard is a good indicator to help determine if it's time to start haying the upper grass fields.

The grass around the grand kids swing set on July 2 was as deep as the snow was on April 22. 
Mowing the yard Stanko style.
Guess it's time to cut the dryland.

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