Winter Lessons

This afternoon is forecasted to be a return to almost normal weather.  Everyone here is looking forward to that to be sure, especially given that this is the second winter in a row of being exceptionally long and cold.  Like last year, there has been little opportunity to do outside work, so we’ll all be in a rush to catch up once the weather cooperates.

My difficulties, like last year’s, have been pretty much self-induced.  From not castrating the ram lambs in a timely fashion (so I have lambs being born now in this bitter weather) to having purchased fall-calving cows which are STILL calving.  Had four calves born just this week!  Thankfully, the calves have come without trouble and are doing well.  The lambs, however, simply do not have enough body mass to survive the cold – more specifically, the wind and cold – so I’ve brought them indoors for nursing.  It is unlikely that i’ll be able to get their mothers to take them back after being bottle fed for 3 days, but I will try this afternoon.

This ewe sensibly accepted her lambs after being roped and tied to a tree stump.  She wanted nothing to do with them in the beginning.
This ewe sensibly accepted her lambs after being roped and tied to a tree stump. She wanted nothing to do with them in the beginning.

I also did not allow for enough stockpile grazing.  When winters were more normal, it took about an acre of good stockpile per cow to get through the winter.  However, winters have become more severe so it not only takes more food for the cows (because it’s extra cold and damp), but also the stockpile deteriorates months before new grass comes on in the spring.  This year’s stopgap was to purchase and have delivered 150 additional bales of hay to carry me through another long and difficult winter.

It’s very difficult, i suspect, for anyone in the US to believe in global warming, but certainly there does seem to be some climate change and either I’m going to have to plan better or I need to move to a warmer climate.  Even if this is a cyclical pattern (and i suspect it is), moving still sounds like an attractive plan.

Interestingly, we have begun considering the option of purchasing most or all of our hay needs and selling off our hay making equipment.  Purchasing hay and unrolling it for feeding, not only feeds the cows, but adds considerable nutrient and fertilizer to the soil.  We may also use hay feeding as a way to expand the cow herd without expanding our land base.  Land has become far too expensive to buy now because of the government enhanced commodity support programmes and vast amounts of pasture land have been ploughed up for row cropping.

Additionally, the fences and trees have been pushed out to make more acres to plough, so it’s unlikely to return to pasture anytime in my lifetime.   However, maybe it’s best not to purchase more land as my husband and I both approach retirement ages.  We actually may not retire because we enjoy what we do, but we may cut back and additional land means additional expense and management.  If we expand using purchased hay, we can cut back anytime.  If we were to sell our land, it would be ploughed immediately by the new owners.

Cheers!

tauna

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