Tuesday, January 29, 2013

There Was a Time ...

Not that long my main concerns with the days weather was if it would interfere with my days outdoor plans. I worried about things like cold fronts and warm fronts because of how they may effect the fish bite ... I worried about rain because it might cancel my slow-pitch softball game ... and I worried about snow because then I would have to shovel it. These days things are a little different ...

Although I'm not constantly checking the weather because I find that there hasn't been much I could do to change it I do find myself looking ahead and trying to plan around the freeze and thaw that we experience here in central Iowa. For example ... if I have a choice of moving big round bales or pulling three tons of feed in my feed wagon I would rather do those things when the ground is frozen as opposed to when there is a nice layer of slick mud!

The thing that does get my attention these days though are articles such as this one from one of the local television stations. When this came across my news feed I just had to groan a little at the suggestion from "experts" that this may be a two-year drought. This past year was a bit stressful with the lack of rain, heat, and of course the rising feed prices. In the short almost five years on the farm I have seen my hog feed prices more than double! At the same time I have not doubled the prices of my products for sale and have been working very hard to improve my efficiencies on the farm when it comes to feeding.

When it comes to our heritage breed hogs it does help very much having them out on the pasture and in the woodlot, but I also find myself constantly checking the feeders and working to adjust them the best I can so that feed is not wasted. I'm also planning on doing a better job of getting the cattle into the little nooks and crannies of the farm this year (woods, corners, ditches, etc.). As far as the chicken and rabbits go it is going to be very important to keep them rotating on the pasture and foraging as much as possible.

I would love to hear what others are doing to increase feeding efficiencies whether it is for ruminants or non-ruminants!

1 comment:

Rich said...

The last two years, we've had a severe drought with temperatures over 100 (up to 110) and little rain. It's been dry for at least 5 years, but the last two have been brutal. But, we did get some rain last winter at just the right time to give us a decent wheat harvest.

I've been able to get through this winter partly because I baled some straw last summer after harvest. I almost didn't bale it because the drought was "officially" over, but I also didn't want to run out of hay again.

After I baled that straw, I planted sorghum-sudangrass so I'd have more hay, but the heat and lack of rain meant it looked pretty bad all summer long. But, we got a little rain in early fall which made it grow enough that I was finally able to bale it (check for nitrates if you plan on trying that). I had given up on that field a couple of times, but am glad I kept holding out for some rain.

That straw and sorghum-sudangrass turned out to be almost all of the hay I had for this winter. I sort of limit feed it by putting out 2-3 days worth of straw, then 2-3 days of the better sorghum-sudangrass hay, while also feeding a few pounds of higher protein cubes each day (If you are selling grass-fed beef, you might have a problem with feeding cubes). Alternating the low quality straw with the higher quality haygrazer seems to do "something" because they look a little better than they usually do and they seem to be wasting less hay.

Other than that, I made a point of controlling the flies last summer with an IGR in their minerals, back rubbers in the pasture, and a pour-on. If the flies are controlled, the cattle are less stressed, so they can better cope with the stress of high heat and poor pastures.

I also weaned the calves a little earlier (only about a month or so) than usual to reduce the amount of forage needed.

Last winter, I was able to drill some wheat into about a 10 acre part of the pasture (sometimes called pasture cropping) to provide a little grazing in the winter which helped me stretch out my hay by about a week. I wasn't able to do that this year, but am planning on drilling an even bigger area next year.

Until I get a normal year of rainfall, I'm going to be assuming that I'm going to be facing a drought. I'm going to bale some straw as a cushion, try to conserve as much hay as possible (so I can build up an extra year's worth in storage), probably wean calves earlier (closer to 5 months instead of 7 months), and gamble on planting something like wheat for winter grazing in pastures and hay meadows.

I don't know how much of that applies to your farm, but that's what I'm doing and what I plan to do.

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