This year Kansas has green fields, kissed by the sun. There are blue skies with white clouds high above. There are even valleys where rivers run.
Seldom have the grass and crops been so green. If you?ve traveled anywhere in the state you?ll know this is true?and this late in summer?the middle of August.
Corn crops tower above the ground. Ten-feet tall is not unusual. Some farmers say some of their crops are 11 and 12 feet tall.
Soybean leaves are the size of footballs. Pods weigh down the plants. Cattle graze in grass up to their bellies while looking around for their calves, some who are hidden in the tall, green vegetation.
Even in short-grass country in western Kansas, the buffalo grass is green and full of protein. It?s a stark contrast to so many years when the grass has already turned brown, parched by the sun.
The Sunflower State has been truly blessed with abundant moisture during the summer of 2009. Rainfall has been plentiful, timely and it keeps falling.
Hodgeman County farmer/ rancher Jerry Whipple grew up on a farm about eight miles north of Jetmore. He?s been around crops and cattle for more than 65 years.
?It?s been a great year,? Whipple says. ?The cattle are looking good and in great shape. I can?t remember when I?ve ever seen the grass this green this late in the (growing) season.?
Plenty of showers, moisture from 35 to 60 hundreds of an inch, have been sure and steady throughout the summer, sayd the farmer/rancher.
On this early August morning, temperatures were in the low 70s. Barn swallows bobbed and weaved in the sky searching for insects. Many of the insects are pesky black flies that pester the cattle and calves.
These insects don?t like to fly on such cool, early mornings. As the cattle kick them up from the ground, the swallows snatch them from the sky, eat them or carry them home to feed their hungry offspring.
Looking out the window at the Black Angus herd, Whipple says he?d rank them at the top on a scale of one to five. The plentiful moisture, good grass and plenty of milk for the calves have been a real asset this summer.
?They?re in top condition?they?re fleshy and their coats are sleek and shiny,? Whipple says. ?With these cows in such fine shape, they?ll raise a better, healthier calf this coming winter.?
While Whipple sold his cowherd in May, he still goes out to his farm most days. He also looks after cowherd of his nephew, Dave Ochs. He oversees the cattle like he did while he was ranching.
The cornerstone of his livestock operation has always involved making sure they have good feed, good nutrition and the proper health care. He likened his cattle to his family.
The Hodgeman County stockman regularly drives out to look at his nephew?s herd. Once in the pasture, he meanders slowly through his stock, checking carefully for any sick cows or calves. Whipple also checks to see if the cattle have water, mineral and salt.
Another important part of this routine is to count the stock and make sure they?re all inside the fence. Whipple?s pasture borders a busy highway and he doesn?t want the cattle or calves hurt. He doesn?t want any people hurt by running into them either.
?If you can keep livestock in, off your neighbor?s property and off the road, that?s a real accomplishment,? Whipple says. ?Every cattleman must keep track of his fences?make sure they?re in top repair. Like the poem by Frost says, ?Good fences make good neighbors.??
Yes sir, out here on the Whipple place cattle have always been his living. The better he takes care of them, the better they?ll take care of him. That?s the way it was with his dad and his grandfather before him. As a matter of fact, that?s the way he says it will always be.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.