Community Agriculture Alliance: Thinking about spring |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Thinking about spring

Todd Hagenbuch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

While February seems like a wintery month, I always think of it as the beginning of the transition to spring. Indeed, the warm weather that came through last week was just a sampling of what we can expect in the next month or two, meaning spring will be here before we know it.

What will this spring hold for us? While we don’t know yet, here are some items area landowners need to be thinking about before the big thaw, and they all relate to the production you can expect from your property.

This winter has seen decent snowfall, and that is hard on fences. As the old adage says, “good fences make good neighbors,” and if you want to be a good neighbor this year, do not turn out your livestock without checking your entire perimeter fencing.

Some years, you can get by without fixing fences until just after you’ve turned out, expecting that you can get ahead of your animals, but expect significant breaking of old wire, downed trees and broken posts this year and plan on investing some time and money in your fences.

Last year was dry, and your land needs time to recover. Regardless of how wet this spring may be, forages may need a little more time to grow than usual, especially in areas that were heavily grazed last year. Since last summer and fall were so dry, we didn’t get adequate regrowth of grazed or hayed grasses, meaning they didn’t have a good opportunity to rest and recover before heading into winter dormancy.  Giving pastures plenty of time to grow this spring before grazing will help them recover and lead to better production.

That dry summer helped lead to the first-ever call on the Yampa River, and how we manage water is about to change. The Yampa River basin has been blessed with plenty of water for a long time, so water management has been a bit lax when compared to other basins throughout the west. However, with the call on the Yampa in 2018, that is going to change, and we are going to have to function like our neighboring basins have been for years, including better management of our diversions. 

If you do not have the ability to manage and measure your water diversions, you can soon expect a notification from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Every ditch, pump or other diversion in the basin will soon need to prove how much water it is diverting through a legal measuring device and be able to fully control that amount. If a diversion is lacking that ability, the Division Engineer has the legal authority to curtail or shut off the diversion.

At this time, there are more than 800 diversions not under compliance in the basin, which is a staggering number. If you get one of these notifications, you need to invest in your diversion and measuring structures right away so further action by the division engineer can be avoided, and you can assure protection of your water right.

For additional information on these issues or to find resources to help you manage them, contact the Routt County Colorado State University Extension office at 970-879-0825 or visit

Todd Hagenbuch is the Ag/Natural Resources Extension Agent for Colorado State University in Routt County.

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