Radke Report: Winter Wonderland puts an end to the fall grazing season
’Tis the season for caroling, baking, gifting, decorating, and immersing ourselves in the festive merriment that the holiday season brings our way.
The kids and I have been busy doing all of the above, and it’s so fun to create memories with them and to celebrate old traditions that have been passed down for generations.
As December continues to fly by faster than Santa’s reindeer can get around the world, my daughter noticed one thing was missing with all of the holiday celebrations.
“There’s no snow, Mom. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.”
Who doesn’t love a good Hallmark movie snow? We got exactly that last week. After church, we walked outside to the parking lot as a family, and we were greeted with big and beautiful snow flakes, perfectly dropping straight down into fluffy piles. The wind, for once, had stilled. The lights in town were twinkling. Deer could be seen alongside the gravel roads on our drive home.
And it really did feel like Christmas.
My kids couldn’t wait for a snow day. Sledding, hot cocoa, building snowmen, and snow angels. It’s almost a rite of passage for kids to spend a whole day outside playing in the first snow of the season.
Yet, with all of the joy and fanfare that a beautiful snowfall on the prairie brings, there also comes challenges if you’re a ranching family.
This week, a major blizzard is supposed to pass through our community. Everyone is gearing up for the avalanche of snow, wind, and rain. Food is flying off the shelves at the local grocery store. Everyone is fueling up and stocking up on supplies to hunker down until the storm passes.
And if you have cattle, there are plenty of things to do in order to make sure the critters can hunker down and weather the blizzard, too.
We’ve been blessed to enjoy a long run of fall and winter grazing, with our mama cows out on corn stalks several miles from home. With each passing day they are out on corn stalks, we know it is beneficial to the health of the gestating cow; it’s beneficial to the soil as they naturally fertilize the fields with their manure; and it’s beneficial to the environment as the cows can upcycle these feedstuffs and convert it into growing calves and ultimately beef, as well.
So it’s always a little sad when the fall grazing season comes to an end. It means moving the cattle home, so they can be closer to shelter and feed. It means firing up the tractor every day to feed hay. It means keeping a closer eye on things as those gestating mamas get closer to calving in this bitter cold.
However, despite the challenges and the bittersweet ending to a beautiful fall grazing season, it truly is a blessing to be closing out another year in agriculture.
The risks are great. The challenges are numerous. The stress, at times, can be overwhelming.
However, the rich rewards come when you see your genetic matings come to fruition. It’s connecting with customers and helping them meet their goals. It’s planting seeds and harvesting an abundant crop. It’s overcoming obstacles together as a family. It’s growing, learning, stretching, pushing, and achieving together as a team. It’s working alongside multiple generations, striving for the future as we honor the past. It’s seeing the kids and grandkids mature and come into their own.
Yes, the snow fall may be a lot of different things depending on the eye of the beholder. It may be a magical winter wonderland, perfect for making memories in the snow. Or it could be the beginning of feeding hay everyday out in the cold. However, if we can keep our perspective on the blessings, I think we can find joy in every season we find ourselves in.
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.