Shades of Ireland

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally --- Big Chill

We have had a few cold snaps this winter that have lasted a day or two. It has been pretty darn nice having this almost balmy weather in December. Looks like that is all over with now!

The weather man warned us that an Arctic chill was coming and he was right. This morning, the temp is 16 degrees. He also called for a few snow flurries after midnight but I didn't stay up to see. I would have much preferred a heavy snowfall to at least give us some moisture......... we still are in a severe drought.
The national cow herd numbers are continuing to drop dramatically. There are fewest number of cows in the US since the early 1940"s. We are hanging on to ours just as hard as we can........ I am happy to say that my cattle still look to be in good shape. As I drive around some of the back county roads, I see herds that are getting thin. I thought it might just be our area but Salena tells me that on her drive up from Oklahoma she saw lots of herds that were beginning to show the affects of short grass and poor water.

The rotational grazing experiment is over and we count it a total success. Our stocking rate for our pasture is very light. That means that we could have more cattle grazing to make our farm more productive but...... we have been hesitant to do that because of the drought conditions and we have needed the money from calf sales. Now that we have seen the possibilities, in spite of the drought, we will begin keeping more heifer calves--- if we have any! The last six calves born on this farm were bulls!

It worked out that the grazing scheme ended just as the cold weather was heading our way. The cows burst out the gate in the last paddock and headed out to graze on the easy stuff. I really wanted them to have completely full bellies to help keep them warm.

The horses have been loose in the big pasture while the cows were shut up. They had a marvelous time roaming far and wide. They had to go back into their small pasture with a bale of hay. We do not give our horses grain. They are grazing creatures and every single one of ours is absolutely "mud ball fat". I also limit their access to the hay bale. They tend to just waste so much of it playing in it if they have full time access. So, they are allowed in with the hay bale late in the afternoon and left with it all night. Part of our morning routine is to run them out and shut the gate. I do give them a little treat when it is going to be very cold. There is a pelleted feed designed for horses that are kept in stalls. It is a complete feed that says that you do not even have to feed hay with it..... so it is very high in roughage---- a very good thing for horses. I try to keep a couple of bags of it on hand for the nights that it gets bitterly cold. I believe that 16 degrees with a brisk north wind qualifies as bitter........ so the nags get about 3/4 lbs each just before dark. It makes them thirsty so they all take a big drink from the tank before it freezes over.

So our late afternoon routine yesterday was pretty busy. Besides turning out the cows and handling the horses, we had to give all the bottle calves, penned bucks, and the goat herd extra hay inside their shelters. The chicken waterers had to be taken into the barn kitchen to keep them from freezing solid. We have to find a couple of tank floats to keep the water for the goats and milk cows from freezing over. After milking and cleanup, we had to shut off the water to the barn and drain all of the lines and make sure the heat lamp was on over the incoming pipes. 

This morning, we will have to take the ax and chop ice in the horse water tank. The pond is not frozen because the wind kept it moving all night so the cows are good.

The biggest problem I have with cold weather is all the clothes! By the time I get the wool socks on, jeans and maybe long johns, topped with coveralls, a hoodie and my heavy coat and gloves, I step out the back door and realize that I need to pee..........

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