Slide59The Stockpiling Story Continues Part 10

I hope you had a good Christmas week with family.  This update chronicles December 22nd to December 28.  The staging of the big bales while it was frozen was a great strategy cause it got rainy and warm last week and would have been a muddy nightmare trying to get around.  You might be asking, why feed hay when you can see the stockpile again?  Well, here are some reasons:  The 140 day old, cool season, sward smashed by wet snow is like me being at the salad bar with a bunch of wilted lettuce and leftover, stale toppings—It’s just not that tasty and appealing.  This offering limits dairy heifer performance so I want them to have a back-up dry matter source so they can just pick the best stuff.  It also helps because the weather sucks and they need extra groceries and a place to lay down. 

Other reasons are spreading their fertility in a more controlled area, makes the stockpile last longer since it’s melted into the soil, grazing efficiency and trying to find balance with environmental concerns and animal performance. 

If we had not received the wet snow followed by frozen crusty conditions, I would be confident in not feeding hay.  Slide60

So the weather is something that trumps planning that we have to be ready for (hay feeding).  Let’s say we didn’t get this snow event 2 weeks ago.  We would have saved 20 big bales @ $50/bale or 1000 dollars.

If we didn’t have stockpiled feed, the thousand dollars worth of opportunity would have been lost.  In another context, if we didn’t feed the hay we would not have added any extra nutrients to the land which is especially important on our organic farm.  I’m struggling a bit to answer how I would have gotten through the snow event better and not fed the hay.

First thing in my head was a late season swathing of the stockpile.  Second was planting a variety of cover crop species including sorghum back in August and third was changing over to an increased fescue grass base to maintain upright forage.  There is constant compromise when I look at our goals in dealing with this issue of extending the season using what you have instead of bringing in the metal and the latest new plant species.  Am I missing other facets and considerations?Slide61

Folks at our pasture walk talked about leaving decent residuals.  With the recent weather, the animals won’t go too far down because the sward is flattened and rotting so this should help come spring.  I have also been taking a hard look at the soil life harvest now that the snow has melted.  I’m intrigued by how much the earthworms have eaten in a short time and also how the mice have chewed up around the Orchardgrass clumps.  It begs the question wheSlide62ther I should graze it at all given how much is removed even after the cows go by.  Maybe the better approach or (in conjunction with summer fallowing a field) would be to winter fallow a field to feed all the under-ground livestock.  Jeez this stuff is starting to hurt my head on what to do!

You can see I continue to learn everyday and question what I see against all the goals of the farm and life.  Trying to find the right balance is challenging.  Being that the week coming up is the last week of grazing, I hope you also find balance heading into the New Year.  SSlide63ee you in 2015 and thanks for visiting.  GW