Well the elk did make it down to our orchard, luckily not very many of them came down onto the bottoms. This was a boon to us as they did dig in the snow and try to find the grass. We had one cow elk that stayed low and even spent the night in the machine shed with the alpaca one night. The weather has finally warmed up and the snow is slowly melting off. One of our greatest worries was that the elk would get down into our newly planted grass hay pastures and tear them up. I have been driving up to the upper end of the farm three times a week to look at the pastures and check for elk damage. I can go all winter without ever normally seeing the other end of the farm. I am unclear how me watching for damage will change anything but it did not stop me from looking. People ask why the elk are different than deer. The picture below is a great example. You can see above where the elk dug down and ate the grass. When you look at the picture below you can see the yellow spots on the ground. Those yellow spots are where the elk dug down and ate the grass. They will tear up the grass and eat the roots. In a couple of weeks we will know how much damage was done to the pasture but since it needed replanted we are not going to worry about it. The elk started moving up the hillsides as the snow started to melt off. They did not want to stay low and only came down because the weather forced them out of the mountains.
Our back creek is running a little muddy but it is doing great. We have a rock on the creek bank we use to measure the depth of the water. This rock has been buried but the creek has gone down again and it is visible. The water is starting to run clear also. All in all if this will continue for the next 6-8 weeks it is going to be a glorious Spring!
Mother Nature finally drove the elk out of the mountains last week. There is so much snow up there that the elk cannot dig their way down to fodder. When this happens they move to lower elevations which means wheat fields, hay patches and CRP. The real problem with this is the elk are very destructive. Not only do they just tear down fences by going through them but they dig up the ground looking for food. We have about 80-100 animals on our property. My real worry is that they will find the 14 acres of planted grass I put in this fall! I don’t mind the deer nibbling the green tops of the grass but I certainly cannot afford for the elk to go down there and dig it up by the roots. It would cost me about 2 weeks of time and another $1000 to replant but the hard part is we would lose the growing time. Which would mean we would lose an entire first cutting on the grass fields, maybe even both of them which could cost us 30-60 ton of grass at a minimum loss of $4500-9000. This would hurt us on top of the extra feed costs we are incurring now due to the late and deep snow. So far we have put out for 2 ton of bagged feed for the sheep and may need to buy another ton still so we are out about $850 so far. We have just enough alfalfa to keep the cows going for another three weeks, longer if the snow will go away.
Several of my coworkers have offered to come kill elk if if I had land owner depredation tags. The problem with that is there are thousands of elk in the area. Me killing a handful is not going to make them go away from our property. So we just suck it up and hope they don’t tear up our fields.
The problem with the snow going away is there is a lot of snow! At this point we want a nice gradual warming up or our back creek will flood and try and rip out fence. I know it seems like a farmer is always bitching about the weather but in all reality they live or die or succeed by the whim of Mother Nature therefore giving them more right to complain. That is my take and I am sticking to it. The damage to the fence is gonna cause me problems. I had the upper fence all repaired and tight. So far I have not noticed any damage to the lower sections but I cannot get to the upper fence without just hoofing it up there and there is currently nothing I can do about it so I am leaving it for a surprise later this spring when I can inspect it on the tractor.
Annmarie tells me that last night the elk came down into the orchard to eat grass. We have been seeing a couple of them here or there but she said they came down en masse. I didn’t see any this morning when I went out to feed except for a lone cow elk down by my Mother-in-law’s house. She ran off when I came with the tractor to feed our cows.
The sun was shining today and melting snow despite the temperature only being 30 F. The elk are still on the back hillside. We have mostly cow elk with the occasional bull, there are larger bull elk in other fields, just not ours. We are getting so much moisture that the bottoms are starting to create wet spots, this one below is in the 7 acre barley patch that we are going to turn into alfalfa this spring. This wet spot is going to delay planting. The deer are hanging out in the bottoms away from the elk.
No horrible raging runoff creek yet. It is very sedate and clear at the moment and we hope it stays that way for the next six months.