Recall that half of our mother herd resides at JVF and the other half at Clay’s Mayfair Ranch. We sent the JVF herd to “vacation” at the Mayfair in August while we rested JVF and planted winter pasture. While the two herds were together, we re-mixed them so that the JVF herd is now all red in color – Red Angus and Hereford - and the Mayfair herd is more varied, consisting of everything from black to red to striped. Why the change? We are taking advantage of the added vigor that cross-breeding provides. The red herd will be sired by the Hereford bull, with his girlfriends being Red Angus and a couple of Herefords, while the Mayfair herd will be sired by the Red Angus bull, and his girlfriends will be a very mixed lot. Think of cross-breeding as mimicking the American experience; that turned out pretty well. We’re hoping for similarly successful results.
After record setting rains in May, we relapsed as June fell off the average by 2 inches and July will do the same unless we get some rain at the end of the month. While there has been rain all around us, it dries up right as it reaches our edge. That happens, and it usually means that a rotation will occur and we will go through a period when we get the rain and our neighbors won’t. But we can’t count on that this time of year, August and September being our driest months. We will follow through on our plan to move the mother herd to the Mayfair leased pasture where more rain has fallen. That move will take place circa August 15th after the mommas and their babies harvest the grasses that are left at JVF.
Between August 15th and October 1st, we will be using our no-till seed drill to plant winter pasture: oats, rye, millet, turnips, collards and crimson and ball clover. That will give the mommas and their babies a green feast when they return from their Mayfair holiday, and keep them off of imported hay until hard freezes occur over a series of nights.
We’ve had a pretty good rebound year and look forward to more green prosperity in the fall and winter months. What a relief it is to be able to say that!
Report from the rain gauge: May rain totals set a 25 year record according to the book we have kept since 1989. And not by just a little bit. We hit 16.4 inches, which blew away the previous record of 9 inches and ravaged the average of 3.2 inches. The May rains have built a surplus of rain for the year to date. If June continues only on a normal path, we should be in good shape for the summer. We usually mark July 4th as the last heavy rain date and if the grasses are in decent shape by the 4th, we can get through August and into the fall with some cooling grasses protecting the soil and its micro-life.
Repair mode: While we glory in the new-found moisture, enjoying every thunderstorm that rolls in, we are also realistic about what has gone before. Three years of drought and super-charged heat has taken its toll on the pastures, ponds, and woods. Bare patches in the pastures, cracks in the ponds and fallen trees in the woods are the scars that survive as we give thanks for the moisture. The moisture is curative for sure, but we have to be careful not to rush things. There is a lot of newborn grass out there trying to get established and nipping it in its infancy will only deter it. So we have isolated the mother herd in the South pasture which borders the old Road House, supplementing them with hay when necessary. That will leave the East, the Lake, the Pig and the Boundary pastures free to get some recovery time. But the South is sacrificed while it awaits its turn for rest.
The rest period for the aforementioned pastures will last a minimum of 4 weeks. If the pastures look better at that time, we will flash-graze them, meaning we will rotate the herd through the rested pastures in short bursts, a week at a time, so that nothing can be grazed hard and will rest the South Pasture for the rest of the year. This rotation will last until sometime between August 15 through September 15, when the herd will be temporarily moved to the leased pasture at the Mayfair Ranch for 6-8 weeks. That “herd vacation” will avoid grazing during the hardest part of the summer when the grasses struggle even in a normal year. It is also when the grasses seed out, so we will build an inventory of new seed for Spring of 2015. Make sense? We place our bets and hope for a winner. While it’s not rocket science, it is grass science.