Gene Crownover’s cows


I’ve always prided myself in keeping my cattle well-fed during the winter months. I inherited that trait from my father, who was known to keep his cattle a little overfed during the worst time of the year. A neighbor once commented, “I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if it happens to be a thing, I would like to come back as one of Gene Crownover’s cows.” 

I may not feed them to that extent, but I’d like to think my cows are content. Because I’m constantly concerned that my animals are always well-nourished, I normally perform an inventory of my hay supply around the first part of February. Knowing that there is usually about 60 more days of feeding hay before green grass, I can closely estimate whether I need to reduce the amount of hay fed per day by supplementing with range cubes or, in the worst-case scenario, find a source to purchase more hay. Whichever the case may be, I consistently end the hay-feeding season with no more than 10 to 20 big bales of hay left.

During normal years, I don’t start feeding hay until mid-December unless we get caught up in an early winter snow. This year, unfortunately, has been anything but normal. The severe drought (which continues) forced me to feed quite a lot of hay, even during the months of July and August. With a little moisture in September, I was able to feed cubes a few days each week to conserve on my limited supply of hay. That reprieve didn’t last long.

I started feeding a bit of hay again during the last part of October and gradually increased the amount through the entire month of November. I changed my routine this year and performed the inventory of my hay supply on the first day of December. Unsurprisingly, I need to buy more hay, even if we have a mild winter. If we have a rough winter, with colder than normal temperatures and/or heavier than normal snowfall, I will need to buy a lot more hay.

Sadly, every cattleman in this part of the country is in the same predicament. Because of the drought, no one made as much hay as usual; some hay had to be fed during the summer, and there was almost no fall growth of grass to delay the beginning of the hay-feeding season. Very few farmers that I know think they have enough hay to adequately make it through the winter, and the prices for the limited hay that is for sale just keeps going up. I guess that old economics professor did know what he was talking about in the chapter on supply and demand.

Somehow, someway, I suppose my cows will make it through this winter. I do, however, have a sneaking suspicion that none of my reincarnation-believing friends will want to come back as one of Jerry Crownover’s cows.

Jerry Crownover farms in Lawrence County. He is a former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University, and is an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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