Here in north-central Missouri we’ve continued to stay rainy and muddy since winter. However, we cannot complain compared to the horrific flooding, damaging thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical storms, and continuing droughts and wildfires other parts of the country and world are receiving. It’s been hard on equipment, livestock, and people, but maybe someday it’ll change and become ‘normal.’ We wear mud boots everyday all day despite 107ºF heat indices on some days and terrific humidity even when it’s in the 80s and pretty sure i’m starting to get foot rot! Gonna switch to 100% wool socks pretty quick if we don’t get relief soon. Any socks with nylon or such in them cause my feet to sweat and peel – kind of gross for sure.
We keep a good supply of coconut water in the cupboard and frig for rehydrating when water just won’t quite supply enough minerals. Bananas and buffered salt are on hand as well to help with muscle cramping at night.
We’ve weaned the fall calves, doctored a good number for bad eyes (pinkeye) already, and sorted off two loads of calves to sell at North Missouri Livestock Auction the 6th of July. The mud and rain has prevented us from establishing summer annual pastures that we had planned to graze and grow out some of yearlings this year. Since we didn’t get that done, we are running out of grass, so the calves need to go where ever grass is available.
Tough on calving, but the cows and calves are really doing quite well despite the heat and rain. A couple of calves lost due to navel ill because of them lying in a muddy spot and allowing infection to develop. There is little help for a calf once it gets navel ill. We always lose some baby calves and this year really hasn’t been any worse in that regard. However, what I call ‘jungle rot‘ is on the increase. It is likely more calves will not survive if we don’t get some dry weather soon.
The ewes are pretty much done lambing and in the timber now which not only helps keep them cool and not sunburnt, but, by their grazing choices, they are helping control the brush which needs taming! Pretty hard on wool sheep all this rain and mud. Constantly wet wool on a live animal can be conducive to parasites that can kill the sheep. Usually not, but any animal with a compromised immune system is susceptible.
Cold temperatures have descended on north Missouri today and forecasted to hang around for at least the next 10 days! With the ground already frozen, these continued below freezing temps made
it tough to set up the sheep electric netting fence. Thankfully, I put up netting around several large bales of hay and running water for the sheep to stay put until the weather breaks, though I may have to chop ice if we don’t get any snow. Sheep really don’t need water if there is snow available.
No longer am I trying to graze the road banks with the sheep. Moving them down the bank is like pushing water now and with the ground frozen, it’s far too difficult to install the Kencove sheep netting fence. At this point, grazing the banks in the spring after green grass starts coming on will be the next time they are pushed out. Sheep grazing the banks eliminates the need for me to mow the banks with the brush hog, but it is extra work.
Cattle are a different story in the water department. If there is plenty of heavy, wet snow, they won’t drink much, but if that’s what we have, it destroys the stockpiled winter forage for them to graze much faster than just being frozen or a light snow. However, with a light snow, they will need fresh flowing water available. Therefore, in anticipation of freezing weather, I filled the water tank and opened the leak valve so that the water will fill the tank and then continue running over the top of the overflow pipe. Flowing water will not freeze easily – especially if the cattle are drinking from it. The drawback to overflow is that the water is draining the pond from which it originates, though in Missouri, this is usually refilled easily when spring rains come.
Winter grazing with the lack of grass regrowth allows us to strip graze whatever size breaks we want to give the cattle or sheep. If I know I’ll be back up to the farm the next day, I’ll give the cows a very small break of forage so that they won’t walk all over it and ruin it before grazing. However, if it will be several days or if it’s going to be extra cold, I’ll set up a bit larger break. The breaks are fenced with one strand of Powerflex Fence electrified polybraidfence and step-in posts for easy set up and tear down. I use two lines and leap frog them across the paddocks – allowing enough quality forage to maintain a healthy condition on the animals. Strip grazing versus free access will vastly increase utilisation resulting in, on average, about 60% more grazing days! Additionally, manure is more evenly distributed across the paddock. (my paddocks average about 20 acres each). My cows and calves require about 6500 lbs of dry matter per day, so accurately estimating the amount of forage per acre is crucial, then I open up enough acres for the cows to graze however many number of days I want.