The state of the farm is, as always, primarily determined by the state of the weather. Since weather is the one element we have no control over, we learn to be realistic about and adaptable to Mother Nature’s whims. There is no defying her; those who try, die. So let’s take a look-back at 2016 because her behavior then may tell us something about what to expect in 2017.
The all-important report from the rain guage: last year saw a rain registry report of 53.4 inches. That is a near record, surpassed only by one of our early years when we recorded 58 inches that included 17 inches in one month coming from a tropical storm in late summer. Growing grass is all about moisture, so 2016 sounds like a pretty good year, right? Yes it was, but look a little deeper and we find a caveat in the story – 26 inches came in the month of May during the 500 year storm that included 2 twisters that crossed the farm. If we subtract those 26 inches from 53, we are left with an average rainfall for the other 11 months of 2.5 inches. Since 4 inches of rain per month is the gold-standard rain year, we were short by 1.5 inches per month of “perfect”, a 38% miss on rainfall. And that explains my earlier lamentations that our problem last year was the cycle that gave us a lot of rain followed by long dry periods. Our early lessons in 2017 suggest a continuation of that pattern. January was well above average and February is dry so far. The wet/dry cycle, combined with above average temperatures, has our winter rye very confused. Cooler temperatures would have the winter rye growing furiously right now but the temps have it wondering if it should stay hunkered down. So the rye is not what we had hoped for when we planted it last fall. Maybe we get a late burst and maybe we don’t. While we wait for the answer, we draw from our hay inventory to maintain growth in our livestock, albeit slower growth than we aim for. Hay is a good insurance policy, but it doesn’t pay like green, living grass.
And that’s what the State of the Farm is all about in February 2017!