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Click to zoom in.

The morning of Monday, December 15th finds me a little down because underneath the snow is unfrozen sod which means MUD:  Mud around the big square bales because I don’t have any round bales to roll out, mud from hoof prints and mud from a tractor tires delivering the said hay.  Part of me wants to put them in the sacrifice area with a hardened surface and say to heck with grazing right now.  Part of me is questioning whether it would have been better to make the hay on this 30 acres versus grazing at this point, part of me wants to open up all the paddocks and say have at it and discontinue hay feeding for as long as possible and spreading the herd out over 30 acres.  The problem is I’ve got too damn much pride and there is “the goals” to contend with, including fertility transfer.  On the plus side, the well-rested grass that gets “wasted” will be strong in the spring and feed a bunch of microbes.

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Click to zoom in

The week of December 15 – 22 started warm enough for the heifers to push snow around in little snowballs trying to reach the grass to frozen, crusty, snow pack where they would have to work really hard to break through.  Mud was an issue and then not so much.  We have not had sun since December 7th.  I’m feeding one big bale per day along with the stockpile which was not part of the original plan but is necessary given the weather conditions.

If you look at the grazing chart you’ll see the paddock shifts have changed to accommodate more sheltered areas in Paddock 17.  You’ll also see I’ve lost a few more days of grazing since the mud and hard snow have plagued the ground and I’m trying to minimize the animal impact.  The grass underneath is still of good quality and they are performing pretty well given the circumstances.  A big ole’ beef cow might be a better match for these tougher conditions as they have more reserve fat to work harder.

Click to zoom in.

Click to zoom in.

For Christmas Week, we used paddock 14. I staged a bale in each paddock shift (while it was frozen) so I wouldn’t have to start a tractor all week.  All I had to do is take a break wire down and get back to the house to be with family.

I’m stressed because I’m not in complete control which is tough for me.  You can see how decision-making needs to be flexible and why you need a few mentors or consultants to help you mull over these decisions and keep you from melting down.  Looking ahead into coming weeks, I see trouble as the temperatures at night go below 20 which will freeze the melty snow and make it even more difficult for the animals to get to even though it might help with the hay hauling.

These postings give you a glimpse into my opportunities and challenges of extended grazing.  There’s no free lunch, you’ve got to be monitoring all the time.  Decisions need to be made about animal performance and comfort, environmental impacts, economic measures and family needs when you farm with Mother Nature.  I guess that’s the life of a farmer and probably why only 1% of us are insane enough to carry on the independent traditions.  See you next week and thanks for your participation.