July 28, 2017

by

Jake graduated from the apprenticeship program and is now Manager-in-Training of Chico Basin Ranch.

Right now the Chico is in the prime of growing season. We had plentiful moisture in the spring and we are just now entering the wet season. This week a storm came through dumping 3 inches across the Holmes and Wolf pastures. Combined with warm temperatures in the nineties, the grass is going crazy.

This weather is bread and butter for short-grass prairie like the Chico. The dominant species for the Chico is blue grama grass. It’s a hardy warm season grass that grows fast in hot, wet weather, packs a lot of nutrients, and is durable for heavy grazing. Blue grama can be found in almost every pasture and is the main forage in all upland pastures.

This time of year is also very good for the west side of the ranch. Grasses like galleta and alkali sacaton are more dominant there and thrive in hot, wet weather. Currently, the big herd of cows is headed to these pastures in their grazing rotation. It’s ideal to graze these grasses right now because the cows don’t find it as palatable during the dormant season. Luckily, they will leave behind plenty of good grass in the other pastures to get them through the winter.

Before we know it, the summer will turn into fall and we’ll be looking to the sand country on the east side of the ranch. Here, we’ll be grazing cool season grasses such as needle and thread, indian ricegrass, sand dropseed, sand bluestem, and many others. The diversity here is incredible. When stocked at appropriate levels, the east side of the ranch will always make the fattest cattle.

It’s also important to monitor for indicator species. Grasses such as bottlebrush squirreltail and vine mesquite grass are species that can suffer from too much grazing. Last year was the first time I had noticed much squirreltail and now I see it in many upland pastures. Vine mesquite is a common sight in the creek bottoms and arroyos. It controls erosion well and cattle like the taste. Knowing these less common species allows you to see the health of the land. Diversity is always a good thing when it comes to forage.