We are now referring to our September and October rains as the Jim Theeck rains. Since “Coach” passed, we have had 2.9 inches over a 3 week period. Add to that the falling temperatures and the result has been a greening up down low, below all the brown. It’s a start and we thank Jim for all the help he is giving us from above.
Let’s talk not about the green but the brown. One of the challenges in a drought year is maintaining some degree of stubble on the ground. That stubble is the only thing standing between the soil and the pounding heat of the sun and the drying winds. And if it does rain, the stubble is the only thing protecting the farm from erosion.
Maintaining that protective stubble is a challenge because no matter how much good hay you put in front of a cow, she is going to want to graze. That is her preferred way of eating, even when her food is nothing but dead grass. Just as we will grab a burger on the go when we have to but always prefer to eat at our own table, the cow finds it acceptable to eat from a big round bale of hay but ultimately wants to eat at her table, the pasture. She grazes because she is compelled to graze. And when she does, there goes the stubble and here comes the sun and drying winds. The topsoil you have spent years and decades building is being blown or washed away by the next big wind or rain.
What to do? There is no perfect answer, but moving the hay around helps minimize the problem. Cows are famously sloppy eaters, leaving much hay on the ground as they pull it from the bale in large mouthfuls too large to ingest. The fallen hay can create quite a layer of protection on the ground and that helps. So we keep moving the hay bales around, covering bare spots. It’s the best we can do in a less than perfect situation.