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.
Whilst waiting for my next flight out of Santiago and no internet the next couple of days, i’ll post a quick blog that is a reminder that farming and ranching is not the glamorous career choice some think. Now, my photos are tiny inconveniences.
This article had been written back in the winter, but could be said for today and many other days as well. Today i found a dead ewe and a dead lamb wrapped up in the electrified netting. Why can’t they stay out of it! Sheep were out, but corralled AGAIN. This is just a regular problem. Half of the sheep are scheduled for sale at Kirksville Livestock Market on August 3rd. The rest will go when lambs are old enough to wean.
Those little woolly buggers! They busted out for freedom, but freedom for sheep generally means something will go wrong and some of them will die. Sheep must be kept in close and protected ALL the time. Since I cannot be there as a full time shepherd, I rely on guard dogs and electric sheep netting. Together, those work about 95% of the time.
Alas, they did bust out at a bad time – the ground was extremely frozen and there was no way to replace the fence, so they ran amok on 320 acres. During their freedom, one orphaned lamb was nabbed by a coyote and a young bred ewe had fallen into a muddy ditch and couldn’t get out – both died of course.
However, today I managed to reset ten nets to give them about 10 acres plus 8 big bales of hay – this should hold them for quite some time. The ground along the ditch bank and out of the sun was still frozen, so I had to use the hammer on about 75 posts to drive them in! Nevertheless, the sheep are now safe once again, so it was all worth the effort.
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.
Final three days of testing for chooks verifies eating/trampling about 3/4s of a pound of grass per chicken per day. We’ve had about 7 inches of rain, however, on the last 6 days of testing and they really had scratched out some mud holes. In weather like this, they really need moving more often to avoid bare spots. Open soil not protected by forage will invariably be eroded by weather.
Egg production has stayed at 7 eggs per day. After this trial, their grain offering will increase up to whatever they’ll clean up in a day – probably close to 3-4 lbs per day for the lot of 14 hens.
They are over two years old, so that may have something to do with decreased production as well as the constant rain and no sunshine will also cause stress. That has certainly caused stress to all of our livestock and people as well. However, our hearts go out to those who are flooded beyond imagination.
Next project is to build a 7 ft by 16 foot low profile chicken tractor with little wheels light enough to be pulled by hand. Hopefully, this will take out the chore of moving all that electric netting!
There’s one thing that I should say straight off the bat. I have never thought of myself as having a mental disorder or a syndrome. When I was still in grade school (I would be home schooled from the third grade and beyond), I was a quiet lad, never asking questions unless asked and rarely talking to my classmates; just sitting quietly listening to the chatter going on around me. Rarely, if ever, injecting anything into the conversation. Conversations especially were and still are difficult for me. Whenever I tried to start a conversation, I am reminded of wading through mud. Every topic, every sentence, every word was a trial and effort. Sometimes I would just get so tired of trudging through the mud that I just have to rest, but I keep wading through the mud until I can find a dry and solid ground on which I can rest and enjoy the peace that comes from being out and away from the mud. After a while, once rested enough, I might feel like wading through all the mud again and so I’d go back in to the mud, but the mud feels thicker than before and thus harder to wade through and then after awhile I get back out and rest and, after a time, the rests get longer and the wading gets shorter until finally I stop going back into the mud. Then I rest for the night and I’m ready to start the cycle again. But sometimes clogging through the mud gets to be too much. Instead of going through the mud, I stay on my little dry patch, even if I don’t particularly like it, it’s still better than fighting through the mud day after day just to interact with other people. So I stay on my dry patch of ground that I don’t particularly like and I just stand still. Sometimes, I work off the will to venture off your little island because I’ve become lonely or my little island has gotten too little and I just want to stretch my legs a bit. I find the mud is easier to walk through than I remember and I start taking more trips through the mud to interact with people and so, I slowly begin to take part of the world again.
Yesterday, I found two ewes and a young lamb stuck in the muddy ditch. Of course, I had not worn my mud boots, so my short work shoes would suffice, though I was up to my shins in sticky clay. They were a bit of a challenge to remove leg by leg out of the muck, but with their cooperation and effort, I made fairly short work of it.
Today, I drove up with the specific purpose of walking the ditches in case more had found themselves engulfed in mud, but none were thankfully. However, the storm moved in and i was completely soaked from the thunderstorm. Additionally, I counted seven live newborn lambs as well as two ewes were beginning to go into labor.
We have missed the worst of these passing storms, however, and for that we are grateful.