The past 5-6 years, the weather has quite deviated from the norm, but this year is more its irritating self. With frequent, yet light rains, drizzles, and cloudy weather resulting in constant mud, even on top of the ridges – there’s not a dry or even well drained spot on my farm. Pugging is everywhere, though thankfully, i don’t have large cows, so damage is mitigated by less animal weight per square inch.
This year is the first year in implementing the ‘no molestar’ (do not bother) concept of not shifting cows and calves to new paddocks during calving season. This has been a real blessing, however, given the mud and misery this year, the cows have trampled their large paddock and from the looks of it have wasted at least 50% of their forage mostly by walking around and trampling into the mud. This has forced me to move them to another paddock which is just as wet and muddy, but with thick forage. They will destroy it rapidly as well. Very thankful that through total grazing, there is plenty of reserve forage for the cows. The concept of not bothering the calving cows was interrupted and i had to find and pack and haul and drive a few calves – i think one has been abandoned – this is precisely why the pairs should be left alone during the important bonding time.
The continued cold, cloudy, and wet weather is taking its toll on the cows’ conditions and that of their calves, though it is most noticeable on those yearling first calf heifers and the really old cows.
Despite the rain, work continues as much as possible to avoid getting completely behind though there are many many jobs which must wait for warmer and much drier weather. Next week is supposed to warm up and not rain. Really looking forward to some warmth and especially sunshine.
I had planned to talk about the challenges of feeding hay in the winter in north Missouri last year, but never got around to it. As it turns out, there are a different set of challenges this year, so i’ll roll them in to one blog.
Winter of 2017-2018 was really long, cold, bitter, but it was too long ago and though i know it was a challenge, i can’t remember. So, starting with winter 2018-2019, which was the second consecutive long winter following a drought made for a very tough feeding season despite selling about 30% of my cows/calves.
My plan was to set out hay for bale grazing in July while it was dry, leaving the Netwrap on for protection of the hay, then using electric polybraid to ration it out to the cows in the hopes of minimizing waste. Sounds like a plan, but you what happens to best laid plans. I did set it all out – about 70 bales spaced appropriately on about 5 acres, then set up the tape. then came the bitter winter early on along with deep, deep snow. Of course, then with no way of removing the Netwrap because of snow and ice and snow and wind took down and buried the polybraid. Cows and calves had their way with the hay.
Unfortunately, the amount of mud and trampling destroyed the 1/4 mile roll of polybraid and the Netwrap from 70 bales is buried. I needed to remove it before grass grows but it was impossible even with Dallas using the harrow to try and pull it up a bit. Sadly, most of it is still out in the pasture even now February, 2020. But the resultant organic matter definitely improved forage production!
This year (2019-2020) blessedly has been mild by comparison of the past two winter. Though we had an early cold snap, it didn’t really dig in cold until Jan 11 when a blizzard rolled in (the day i arrived from Fundo Panguilemu) with 1/4 inch of ice by the time i got to my pickup in the economy parking at airport.
I had started feeding hay way back in August to allow as much forage to grow for winter grazing as possible. Thankfully, we had an excellent growing season though a late start in 2019. However, the two previous years of drought has set back our typical production. But haying while it’s dry only works if your growing paddocks are out of reach for the cows – otherwise, they will practically refuse to eat hay if they see green growing grass.
The freezing spell which lasted until the 31st of January allowed us to unroll hay on frozen ground, but couldn’t take off the netwrap very often because it was frozen to the bale. We cut it across the bale so we could at least unroll it, but that leaves the netwrap under the hay.
Today (2 Feb 20), it was warm enough for me to survive outside for a while (actually spent 3 hours outside because it was 55F!), yet though thawed enough that i could pull up some of the netwrap from underneath the hay that the cows had left behind.
While i was gone to Chile (first of January), it was dry enough that Dallas was able to unroll about 22 bales on another location that needed more organic matter, so that is set for later to be eaten. And in December, Brett had set out about 30 bales with netwrap removed on a section that needs soil building with organic matter before breaking through the barely frozen mud. So once the cows run out of grazing (hopefully there is enough to last ’til first of March), then they’ll back track to these areas where hay is already set out.
I set up the polybraid around the remaining bales hoping they won’t need to be fed this winter. Time will tell. But unless it freezes hard again, it may not dry out until July or August.
Welcome to north Missouri – always 2 weeks from a drought in the summer and cow killing mud under sometimes deep snow and ice in the winter. It’s been said there are 3 good days a year in north Missouri.
Yesterday (the 16th) is cold with a sharp wind, but sunny – not cold like in states closer to the 49th N parallel, but i don’t live there – my north Missouri Tannachton Farm at 39.95 is even too far north, but this is where my husband lives, so guess i’ll hang around.
Anyway, today the ice is coating all surfaces and the forecast is snow, single digits, sleet, ice, pellets, wind so to prepare for a nasty week ahead, I decided to take advantage of yesterday’s weather to set up a polywire electric fence with step in posts to strip off 1/4 of me cows’ next paddock. If ground is somewhat dry and there is no ice, i have to weigh in my mind whether or not it is better to give them a 20 acre paddock vs a portion. They won’t waste a lot in those conditions, so does my labor in setting up the fence offset less waste? This is how i think.
However, knowing there is going to be ice coming, i know that once quality and quantity winter stockpile is coated in ice, each hoof step can break the stems and leaves and do considerable damage to the grazing experience. Then my labor becomes much more valuable.
evaluate quantity and quality of stockpiled forage.
evaluate ground/weather conditions as to amount which may be destroyed just by livestock walking on the forage. (mud, ice, rain)
Dry cows in good condition need the least quality of forage – if you have finishing cattle, young cattle, thin, or nursing cows, higher quality forage is necessary.
These factors give value to your labor. How much you determine your time to be worth will decide whether or not you can justify driving to your cattle and stripping off small allotments of grazing.
Whilst waiting for my next flight out of Santiago and no internet the next couple of days, i’ll post a quick blog that is a reminder that farming and ranching is not the glamorous career choice some think. Now, my photos are tiny inconveniences.
This article had been written back in the winter, but could be said for today and many other days as well. Today i found a dead ewe and a dead lamb wrapped up in the electrified netting. Why can’t they stay out of it! Sheep were out, but corralled AGAIN. This is just a regular problem. Half of the sheep are scheduled for sale at Kirksville Livestock Market on August 3rd. The rest will go when lambs are old enough to wean.
Those little woolly buggers! They busted out for freedom, but freedom for sheep generally means something will go wrong and some of them will die. Sheep must be kept in close and protected ALL the time. Since I cannot be there as a full time shepherd, I rely on guard dogs and electric sheep netting. Together, those work about 95% of the time.
Alas, they did bust out at a bad time – the ground was extremely frozen and there was no way to replace the fence, so they ran amok on 320 acres. During their freedom, one orphaned lamb was nabbed by a coyote and a young bred ewe had fallen into a muddy ditch and couldn’t get out – both died of course.
However, today I managed to reset ten nets to give them about 10 acres plus 8 big bales of hay – this should hold them for quite some time. The ground along the ditch bank and out of the sun was still frozen, so I had to use the hammer on about 75 posts to drive them in! Nevertheless, the sheep are now safe once again, so it was all worth the effort.
Yesterday, I found two ewes and a young lamb stuck in the muddy ditch. Of course, I had not worn my mud boots, so my short work shoes would suffice, though I was up to my shins in sticky clay. They were a bit of a challenge to remove leg by leg out of the muck, but with their cooperation and effort, I made fairly short work of it.
Today, I drove up with the specific purpose of walking the ditches in case more had found themselves engulfed in mud, but none were thankfully. However, the storm moved in and i was completely soaked from the thunderstorm. Additionally, I counted seven live newborn lambs as well as two ewes were beginning to go into labor.
We have missed the worst of these passing storms, however, and for that we are grateful.