Chasing the Green

April 13, 2017


Ranchlands' founder Duke Phillips is a third generation cattle rancher who believes in economic diversification, high conservation ethics, and public education as critical to the future of ranching.

I am at the MP Ranch and last night when I came in, the road was so wet I was having a hard time staying out of the bar ditch. At the same time, I was getting messages from Tess telling me about non-stop gentle rain for the last two hours at the Chico.  The day before, we received photos from the Zapata, of a heavy, wet snow fall.  Brett up north a couple of days ago said there was major flooding from the snow melt.  

This moisture falling at the exact perfect time of spring is one of the most special gifts.  It’s as if Mother Nature is saying with a big smile, “OK… here it is, let’s see what you can do.”  And with that, shoving a palette of wet earth intermingled with seeds and awakening plants into our lap, she sits back waiting to see what we are able to do.

This spring feels like it’s pregnant. As if it is about to burst out unchecked as a living being. Warming soil, oozing earth, hair flying from shedding animals, seedlings waiting just under ground surface for soil warmth to inch up, green plants peeking through the soil crust, animals trapped by its scarcity. The light green sheen across the pastures is reminiscent of something big coming, not unlike a hidden army hiding, waiting in the fringes to attack. 

It permeates everything: the sky, the ground, our senses.  All our animals, both wild and domestic, are coming out of the hardest time of the year.  We think that because it has warmed up in March and April, everything is peachy, that winter’s hardness is over.  But in actuality, it’s perhaps the most difficult time when most animals’ condition deteriorates because they are walking past dry forage from last summer, to graze the green, of which there is not enough.  Yet, because they are starved for the taste and nutrients of chlorophyll, they chase it to their detriment, which is why we say, “the cattle are chasing the green.”

So, we are poised to have a great year, or at least a great spring.  The wildlife and herds of cattle and buffalo on our ranges stand a good chance of breeding up well. Calf survival rates will be higher.  Weaning weights stand a good chance, if the moisture continues, to average higher than normal.  We will be in a good humor.  The tension that permeates everything single movement and thought during dry times has dissipated.

This is what makes our lives different than anyone else’s, and in my mind, so special. The challenge of working with nature.  In dry times, we do the best we can with less than what is needed. In wet times, we do the best we can to make up for the deficiencies of the past dry times and to preserve and leverage the good that has been handed to us – which depends so much on the good fortune of what is happening to us at this very moment.

1 reply to “Chasing the Green

  1. Elin Parker Ganschow

    Well said! We have six inches of snow in the Valley floor this morning and it was 7 F.
    I was at Tercio for the NRCS seminar last summer. What type of post and line were you using there as I want to duplicate. The girls were just putting a half hitch to connect. Also, in hard ground what is best way to drive those posts? Thanks for the info. We are so stoked to be grazing with the rest rotation method at Music Meadows.

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