State of the Farm

Okay folks, spring is looking better this year than last. We have been experiencing a regular cycle of nice little rains since January, notable for their frequency if not for their volume. We’ll take that because it is going to grow some warm weather grass this spring that we did not get last year. And the creek spring is flowing for the first time since late 2010, meaning that the water table has risen. It is just a trickle, but a good sign. Is it possible to be wary and hopeful at the same time? That is our current state of mind.

The spring grasses are essential because they fatten the calves and piggies but also set up soil shade and coolness as we move into the hotter, dryer summer. The very worst condition to deal with is a dry spring that grows no grass (which is what happened to us the last two years). In that scenario, the calves get none of the fattening fresh grass and we get no cover for our summer pasture. The result: we grow no grass in the summer even while applying irrigation - the soil is just too hot. The grass roots hide below the surface where cooler temps prevail. Plus we consume more hay, a very expensive commodity these days.

We will have to be judicious in the way we graze our pastures - can’t graze them too close to the ground. The grass will have a harder time in recovery as the temperatures rise if there is no cover. Graze lightly - that’s the rule.

Spring grass is not only as nutritious as it gets but comes at a time of moderate temperatures which keeps the stress off the calves while they enjoy the fresh young grass. You can see the weight gain on an almost daily basis as the calf grins his way through the lush pastures.

The only thing better than the frequent rains we have had is to mix in a few very heavy rains. Those give us runoff into our ponds, recharging them to last through the summer. They are very low or completely dry as we speak. We will have to substitute community water in some pastures. So we keep hoping for that drenching rain.

Still, no complaints. We are one step ahead of last year while hoping for that second step. That is progress we can live with. Let’s hope there is more to come.

JVF