Yesterday (the 16th) is cold with a sharp wind, but sunny – not cold like in states closer to the 49th N parallel, but i don’t live there – my north Missouri Tannachton Farm at 39.95 is even too far north, but this is where my husband lives, so guess i’ll hang around.
Anyway, today the ice is coating all surfaces and the forecast is snow, single digits, sleet, ice, pellets, wind so to prepare for a nasty week ahead, I decided to take advantage of yesterday’s weather to set up a polywire electric fence with step in posts to strip off 1/4 of me cows’ next paddock. If ground is somewhat dry and there is no ice, i have to weigh in my mind whether or not it is better to give them a 20 acre paddock vs a portion. They won’t waste a lot in those conditions, so does my labor in setting up the fence offset less waste? This is how i think.
However, knowing there is going to be ice coming, i know that once quality and quantity winter stockpile is coated in ice, each hoof step can break the stems and leaves and do considerable damage to the grazing experience. Then my labor becomes much more valuable.
evaluate quantity and quality of stockpiled forage.
evaluate ground/weather conditions as to amount which may be destroyed just by livestock walking on the forage. (mud, ice, rain)
Dry cows in good condition need the least quality of forage – if you have finishing cattle, young cattle, thin, or nursing cows, higher quality forage is necessary.
These factors give value to your labor. How much you determine your time to be worth will decide whether or not you can justify driving to your cattle and stripping off small allotments of grazing.
The weather looks like it’s going to be perfect for pregnancy checking my cows and vaccinating late April through May born calves. With daughter Jessica off teaching 1st grade this year in Hanoi, Vietnam, i’m short someone to do the tagging. So that job gets shuffled between me and whoever is head catching the animals. Not as efficient, but there is no one to pick up that job. I do have most of the calf tags ready and most of the replacement tags for cows.
This peaceful video was taken Wednesday afternoon at my farm while i was up there working. Happy cows and calves.
Allen is working his calves today and Monday (mine are tomorrow) – it’s time for their second round of vaccinations and some fall calving cows need pregnancy checking. Weather is perfect except super windy. My job is to prepare lunch for the guys for whenever they arrive. It’s ready now (11:30), and i was notified that they’ll be in probably about 1p. Hopefully, all will go smoothly.
Beef short ribs offered with BBQ sauce
Homegrown slow simmered green beans with onions and garlic
Paraguayan Corn Bread (this is a new recipe for me i’ve made a few times this week – adding this one to my lineup and will post recipe soon)
Weaning calves later than i had planned, but weather always trumps the best laid plans. Despite there being a chance of rain, the temperatures are warm enough to take the chance to wean my 10-11 month old calves – about time, their mommas could use a rest before calving again as soon as the 15th of April.
With sun shining, using my best Bud William’s stockmanship, I moved the cows forward about 1/2 mile – mostly on foot because of the mud everywhere and having to cross three deep ditches complete with sucking mud as footing. So, although the move was slow, the cows and calves cooperated nicely and eventually all rolled into the corral, where i then began sorting cows from calves. About half done Dallas came up to help finish sorting. Was very glad for his help given that i’d logged about 29,000 steps in my tall rubber Lacrosse boots. Without a doubt those boots are NOT made for walking. At least not that much. (Hand ‘n Hand Livestock Solutions for discovering stockmanship skills)
The sounds of fenceline weaning the first night.
My husband has weaned his calves these past two days as well. The weather is cooperating nicely.
Okay, i know, in many parts of the world, including the United States, a foot of snow is hardly an event. But we haven’t had accumulation like this for at least a decade! I’m not a fan of snow, but soft, loose snow like this is useful for subsoil moisture and filling ponds.
Thankfully, with managed grazing protocols in place, one can largely avoid having to get out into the weather and on the bad roads. Today’s event is continuing, but the temps hovering around 30 degrees. The snow ploughs have been doing the best they can to keep highways open.
Mostly livestock have no problems grazing through this snow, though heavy cover of ice on top of a foot of snow is actually a really bad situation, which we haven’t had for many, many years.
Below are some photos from years past since i’m not driving up to my farm today on slick roads just to take a photo of my cows. In a few days, i’ll mosey on up in my JD Gator and check on them. If they need more grazing, i’ll roll up the polywire and let them have access to the next paddock already set up. In the next paddock are 5 big hay bales they will have access to as well as mostly grazing. However, i don’t expect them to need a new break.
The only livestock we have that refuses the snow are our small flock of laying hens!
Today’s (June 19) chores were frustrating and exhausting – hopefully, i won’t vent too much, but instead methodically record what happened and what decisions to make based on the mishaps. However, the first of the morning was spent walking in 3 Angus heifers to attach Estrotect patches in preparation for AI (artificial insemination) over the next weeks followed by spraying off 30 gallons of Surmount chemical mix on woody brush at my farm. Started about 5:30 am.
This late spring I started letting my cows graze the new seeding implemented last fall. It’s been super, super dry (until today! already 8/10s of an inch and still gently raining), so using a back fence was not important since the grass wasn’t trying to grow back after grazing because of the heat and dry.
Nevertheless, I’ve been stripping off sections of about 2 days grazing each – no where near what could be considered mob grazing, but i’ve already decided that is a practice which simply won’t work for me. I had already set up 2 temporary fences of polybraid of about 1/4 mile each. Anyone who has done this realizes that that 1/4 mile of walking turns into at least a mile by the time the poly is unrolled, then walk back to get posts, then set up posts along the poly and hook the handle into a hot (electrified) lead.
When i arrived this morning, the cows had blasted through both of them!! I was not a happy camper to say the least. Thankfully, i had brought along another 1/4 mile roll of poly braid and I pushed the cows sort of back where they belong and i unrolled this tape. The grass and weeds were tall, so it just sort of laid on top and looked like a fence the cows didn’t want to bother. Testing the lead, i found that there was no electricity. Ah ha! all the polybraids were ‘dead’ and with baby calves running around, it didn’t take long for them to run through with mommas right behind.
But why was the fence dead?
I had spent some time at that very spot repairing some wire and gate just 24 hours before. Why did the tree not fall while i was there? Only by the grace of God. Not only that, but my spinning jenny was unharmed and the end post was still in place! Only one gate handle and the top hi-tensile wire was busted. Easily repaired that. Plus, the tree fell in such fashion that i didn’t even have to move it or cut it up. (thank goodness because i didn’t have my chainsaw on this trip). I simply repaired around it. It will have to be removed when i have time.
But this also is a prime illustration as to why forests, timbers, draws, need managing! Treehuggers take me to task for removing mature and junk trees. But without management, trees can become diseased, can’t compete for sunlight and nutrients so they can die and are a major hazard.
Anyway, back to my morning winding up. Once all was said and done, i’d walked at least 5 miles in tall forage, scratched through dense brush, and crawled in and out of deep ditches to retrieve all my temporary fencing and posts, finishing the morning installing a new rain gauge, checking my replacement heifers, and resetting an end post.
Dragging back to the seed plant, refueling the JD Gator and using forced air spraying out the seed heads from the grill (this must be done to keep the Gator from overheating), unloading the reels of polybraid and a bunch of posts. I forgot to take water with me and by noon (got home), i had lost 4.2 lbs. Goodness, that is 1/2 gallon of water sweated out!
This was another reminder of why mob grazing with multiple shifts per day will not fit with my schedule and quality of lifestyle. It’s just too stinking much work – i sold off the sheep to get away from so much exhausting work. With tall grass (not complaining), deep ditches, long stretches of temporary fencing, dense brush, and baby calves not trained to electric braid, there are simply too many bugaboos to make this a happy time. The mob currently has about 20 acres to relax and graze. It is what it is – i do the best i can.