Thursday, May 8, 2014

Feed Troubles

Last spring is still haunting us.

Last spring was a wet, flooded, soggy mess. Because of the extra moisture, our corn was planted late, and we were not able to harvest any of it last fall. No corn at all. We don't feed much corn, reserving it for that little extra protein that is needed by the ewes right at lambing time. We feed a little to our Holstein beef steers over the winter, as Holsteins just will not grow on hay alone.

Unfortunately, we ran out of what little 2012 corn was left before this year's lambing season started. We've been hoping that our hay (typically very high quality) would carry the ewes through until they could be turned out to pasture.

There are two problems with this hopefulness. The first dates back to the spring floods I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The same flooding caused the first-cutting hay crop to be harvested late. It was very coarse and not all that palatable. Coarse hay tends to be wasted more by the animals. They pick out what they want to eat, and trample the rest.

Hay is a crop that you cut and harvest, and then let regrow for additional summer harvests. Typically we harvest three cuttings. Once in a blue moon, if everything comes together just right, we can get four cuttings. Last year we got two cuttings. Problem number one is less hay, with some of it being lower-quality.

The second problem with our hopefulness has to do with this late spring. Hard winter, cold spring--the pasture grass (and everything, really) is about two weeks later than normal.

So, we have run out of corn, have only a teeny bit of poor quality hay, and the pasture is not ready yet. If you put animals out on pasture early, you will stunt the growth of the pasture, making the whole summer challenging.


What would you do?



9 comments:

  1. I don't know how large your flock is. I fully understand the desire to take good care of your animals. I would buy some corn from a farmer I trusted (which luckily I have up the road from me) and I would also search out hay supply and get just enough hay to last until I felt my pastures could handle having the flock on them. And pray...probably do this first. :)

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    1. Good thoughts. We have over 100 ewes. I neglected to mention the cash flow problem right now. And all the hay is expensive, as all the farmers in our area have the same situation.

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  2. Know what you're speaking of...wean lambs early, 7 weeks. Takes less toll on ewes. put dry ewes on lower quality hay for a while 'til pasture is ready. You may have to buy some corn and pellets for lactating ewes plus some decent hay. JMO... we've been at the Zeeland hay sale all winter. There are at times, some fairly good deals.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Linda. We may have to consider early weaning this year. We'll see what the grass does...

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  3. I'm sure you have talked Dr. E. How about fast rotation on everything ( including the hay so the first cutting will be more like second) you can portable fence? I know your pasture guru may not be available. Tom B

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    1. Our pasture guru is here right now, for a couple of weeks. Gotta think outside of the box this year, don't we? Thanks for the suggestion.

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  4. Put them out to pasture! We always keep ours off of the pasture too long because we don't want to hurt it either. Then we end up with out of control grass growth and they are grazing over mature grass. There is more waste and the ewes/lambs do not do as well as feed quality is reduced. Ours moved out last Thursday, at first I was thinking they would be blowing through it, but the grass is coming along nicely.
    Jason A

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    1. That is what my thought was Jason.

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    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Jason. We put them out...

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