Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Last Day for the Cattle

A guest post by Anne Stine, one of our Hubbard Fellows.  (All photos are by Anne)

Today (Oct. 1, 2013) the lessee came and got his cattle, as per our agreement.  I’ll miss them. It is with some sadness that Eliza and I have been awaiting their removal from the pastures.  We’ve really enjoyed having cattle around.  I like the way they keep an eye on you in the pastures, and the way they prick their ears and step forward before turning tail and scattering.  I like hearing them bellow (pronounced “bell-er”) at each other to keep tabs on calves and herd-mates. Eliza and I agree that our acreage will seem a lot emptier without them.

This bull came over to check out my truck.

This bull came over to check out my truck.

It’s funny, because the herds we interact with are a skittish lot, but they are still companionable if you go about your own business without paying them too much mind.  The closest I’ve ever gotten to our lessee’s cattle was when I was harvesting seed from white prairie clover.  At first the cattle were suspicious, but when they saw me hunched over pulling on plants it seemed to put them at ease.  I imagined I looked like I was grazing too.  A cow wandered so close I could hear her huffing and chewing as she snipped grass. I liked being surrounded by the cattle and having them placidly munch around me.

Chris entertaining the cows.  (Editor's note: For the record, I was photographing a management practice, not entertaining cattle.  Not more than a couple of the cows were laughing.)

Chris entertaining the cows. (Editor’s note: For the record, I was photographing a management practice, not entertaining cattle. Not more than a couple of the cows were actually laughing.)

If you step away from your truck cattle will often surround it and start rubbing on it and licking it.  The calves are more curious than their mothers.  They’ll follow trucks and come over to see what you are up to.  I’ve seen cows nose their inquisitive calves away from trucks they were stepping forward to examine.

If I ever have a prairie of my own, I’ll definitely look into leasing out the grass on it.

Goodbye cattle.

Goodbye!

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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6 Responses to Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Last Day for the Cattle

  1. Ed May says:

    Chris, what lease rates do we get from farmers using our prairies? Is it based on how many head or cow/calf pairs are in the property? Thank you, Ed

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Kristi says:

      Cow-calf pair, usually $1.35/month/AUM. Same rate for 5 sheep or goats.

      • Chris Helzer says:

        Lease rates vary around Nebraska, and even more beyond that. We try to stay within the market range, but not necessarily at the high end since we sometimes are doing experimental things with the lessee’s cattle (trying out crazy grazing schemes, etc.).

  2. The cows are sort of charming, and I enjoy your description of their behavior, Anne (and Chris’s editorial addition). They were just like that when I visited there last summer.
    I’m looking forward to reading Chris’s magnum opus on the grazing experiments, some day.

  3. Now, how ’bout some bison?

  4. James C. Trager says:

    Chris may wish to address this, himself, but my impression is it would take more land and more substantial fencing to accomodate bison in “his” prairies. They are, of course, eslewhere on TNC holdings that have the sspace and the good fences.

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