Willmore carmen
Extension Educator / University of Idaho Extension – Lincoln County

I was recently riding through the county taking in the status of our pastures and hayfields, as most irrigation has been turned off for the year. The rancher I was with was needing an extra set of eyes and opinions on what their next move should be with the current drought looking into the summer and fall.

We were discussing the condition of their herd and what pastures could be grazed first or left until fall, what was worth cutting for hay or leaving to see if it lasts to late summer. As we continued our drive, they said something that stuck with me – “You take care of them, and they will take care of you.”

Something not many people outside the farming and ranching world would understand is: The relationship we have with our livestock and land is symbiotic. We are tasked with making the decisions to keep our livestock safe, healthy and comfortable – and, in return, they provide us with a lifestyle we can enjoy as we build our farms and families throughout the West.

In a year like this, our stewardship of land and livestock will be tested. We may have to make decisions on whether the calves should be weaned early or the cows need to be brought home sooner rather than later. Which fields are going to get the majority share of irrigation, and which ones can go without? Are some cows better off going down the road, or are there some we can keep and feed cheap hay to (if you can find it)? If you decide to keep more of the cow herd out on dry pastures, are the pastures going to suffer or can they withstand some harder grazing? Are the cows that stay out on range pastures in good enough condition they can work a little harder to get their needs met and stay in good condition?


These decisions are not taken lightly but may make the difference in the sustainability of your farm and ranch. Don’t be afraid to reach out to neighbors, friends or your local extension office, as these decisions are not a one-size-fits-all situation. They may not have the answers, but they can support you in your choices and can be a friend along the bumpy ride.