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?