Seasonal cycles of Ranching
The Gunnison Valley is a unique environment with cold winters, high altitude, and short growing seasons that make other types of agricultural production difficult. Seasons change and so do the beef cattle production practices. Here are the basics:
The annual cycle for Gunnison Country ranches begins in spring with calving. Spring also brings unpredictable weather. Ranchers and mother cows work together to protect newborns.
After haying is done, cattle leave the high country for late season grazing in the ranch meadows. Calves are weaned and sold. It's also a good time to check fences and make repairs before winter begins. Rain, snow, or shine, there's always work to do.
Cows and calves head for the high country summer range. During the summer months cows graze in the mountains while the ranches in the valleys below produce hay necessary for long winters. Irrigated meadow provide wildlife habitat and recharge groundwater supplies.
Ranchers keep a close eye on their cattle in the winter months. Cows need protection from the wind and access to fresh water to stay healthy through the frigid winter. Hay is fed and cattle are examined for health daily. A cow in the high country typically eats 2 tons of hay through the winter.