Well, what a pleasant surprise we have had with our fall and winter rains. January was our third consecutive month when rain totals came in slightly above our 7 year average, and February started out with a bang - nearly 3 inches of rain by the 6th of the month.. Along with a mild winter, we are seeing the clovers green-up and peach blossoms in abundance. If these rainfalls and warmer temperatures persist, we could have a spring grazing season while we wait to see what the May to September conditions bring. (This also means we may be looking toward elimination of our temporary drought fee later this year. Whoo-hoo!)
We are concerned about the long term effect of the drought on some portions of our pastures. We may be seeing signs of the destruction of the grasses all the way down to the root system. In those pastures where we have fed the hay to our mother herd, there is no greening up as we see in pastures where we did not feed hay. So what’s going on with that? Here is the likely answer.
We have spent over a year in the drought. On the surface, there was virtually no grass growing. Below the surface, we hoped that the root systems were surviving, but knew that the roots were certainly weakened. When cattle are existing primarily on hay, they still have a grazing instinct, so if a mere blade of grass shows itself, they will graze it. You cannot blame them for that - grazing is deep in their genes. But we know that grazing infant grass only further weakens the root system. Maybe to the point of dealing the knockout punch to the underground root system. This we fear has happened in some portions of our pastures. What do we do if that is the case?
The good news is that nature always has its reserves. In this case, it is grass and clover seed waiting for its chance to germinate. Since these pastures are bare, germination is not hindered by existing grass cover which ordinarily blocks the sun, which is the first ingredient needed for germination. Nature will take its own course, but we can assist the process. We will pull our tractor with the harrows attached, tickling the soil while breaking the crust that formed, followed by our drags to level the ground again. This will loosen the soil, exposing buried seed, and give the seed a nice, porous bed in which to germinate and grow. Oh, and we will then hope for a little more rain and look for a place to feed the cattle away from the germination areas. That’s how we work with Mother Nature.