Welcome back to "Cattle Tales from the Flint Hills," our monthly E-Newsletter with tales (and tails) that shape the Flint Hills.
Ranching - and feeding cattle - is a year-round operation. At this time of year, we wonder what happens to cattle in the winter
Here is an excerpt from a story by Kansas Farm Food Connetion
, where they invite you to "get to know the facts and folks behind your food!"
Brown grass poking through a layer of snow in the fields as cows dot the landscape—it can mean only one thing: It’s winter on the plains. But what, exactly, happens with all those cattle out there?
We caught up with Matt Perrier, who runs Dalebanks Angus in Eureka and (is a past) President of the Kansas Livestock Association, to find out what happens on the ranch in winter.
Matt says his top priority is ensuring his herd is well cared for.
“It’s the right thing to do—for us to be good stewards for our herd,” Matt says. “And happy cows are the best for business.”
Being a good steward requires a deep commitment to the animals, especially in winter.
Each day Matt, together with his father Tom and two employees, heads out to check on his herd. With about 400 cows, 400 calves, and 250 yearling heifers and bulls spread out over 4,500 acres, that’s no small feat!
One of the biggest tasks in winter is feeding. Because most of the grass and other plants that cattle normally graze on are dormant, cows must be fed daily.
Matt feeds them hay, along with a protein supplement that helps them break down some of the winter grasses. Younger cattle need a higher-energy diet, so they are fed silage and grain in a special feeding area.
When he delivers feed, Matt drives his truck to meet the herd or draws them to a different area. (Drawing them to different areas spreads out the natural fertilizing that manure provides, which helps maintain the health of the grass year-round.) Do the cows know where to find him? Oh, yes.
“Just like with kids and the ice cream trucks, the cows hear that feed truck and come to you,” he says.
Water is also a concern during winter. Certain areas on the ranch feature live water, like streams, which run even in frigid temperatures. But other areas have ponds and other water sources that are prone to freezing. In these spots, Matt and the team chop holes in the ice or use special heaters to ensure cattle always have access to water.