- Stephanie Fradette
Ugh, the weather….
2019 has been a turnaround year for us, moisture-wise. It’s a welcome change after the past four years. Those years were starting to take a toll.
2015 was a winter without snow, a spring without runoff and a summer without water. We had grass but no surface water. It was the first time we sent cows out for the summer season.
2016 was dry. We sent cows out again. We started buying feed, just to carry us through that year. Little did we know what was coming.
2017 was record setting dry.
Hot temperatures and almost no rain (about an inch all growing season) left the ground brown and parched all season long. We sent cows out. We bought a TMR. Our cows learned to eat straw and barley that winter. We bought feed; we paid more for straw than we’d ever paid for hay. We trucked it in from 200 miles away.
2018 was better than 2017 but still dry.
We had a big moisture deficit that needed more than showers. We sent cows out. We hauled water. We bought feed. We harvested a very expensive silage pile. The cows were happy with this addition of wet feed to their straw/barley diet. But we wondered whether it was worth it.
That winter, we decided to make some changes. We weren’t sending cows out again. The financial and time costs were not worth it. We had to figure out something different.
Spring 2019 started strong with a decent run off and a late April snowstorm.
It felt hopeful but then, nothing. The rains never came. It was becoming a familiar song.
We got through our May calving season. It was late June. The hay was starting to go backwards already. We were going to sort for breeding fields. Serious decision time. How many pairs are we going to sell? How low are prices going to get? The drought was wider spread this year and others were already de-stocking. It was grim, but why keep fighting it?
And then… it rained! Actual rain! Over 3 inches at a time! 3 inches!?!
It was an unbelievable relief. And then it kept coming. Hay crops that everyone thought were too far gone turned around. Dry pastures greened up. Waterholes filled up. Our silage crop tripled the prior year’s. And, most importantly, the weight lifted. The weight of extra work, of extra costs and of failed decisions. And we have hope for the 2020 season.
Some of you might be reading this from drought-ravaged landscapes.
I understand if it makes you frustrated rather than hopeful. The weight of worry, work, and regret is heavy. I didn’t realize just how heavy until it lifted.