Summer has barely begun and already many parts of the country are very dry. It's galling when you've complained all winter that it's too wet to suddenly find yourself hoping for rain. It doesn't help when your work colleagues are delighted by the 'wonderful' weather and it can be hard not to explain (through tightly gritted teeth) exactly why it's not 'wonderful' at all but an absolute nightmare!
What townie colleagues don't understand is that grass needs both moisture and heat to grow. In winter the ground temperatures are generally too low for much grass growth and we rely on spring and early summer growth to produce not only feed for livestock now but also the extra grass we can harvest and save in the form of hay and balage. No rain means no grass means no hay or balage.
What can we do if it's getting dry?
- Sell off livestock. It's not an easy option, especially if everyone else is selling too and the prices come down but it does mean less mouths to feed and a lot less stress.
- Buy in feed. You have to feed your livestock and if there's no grass in your paddocks that means buying in hay, balage or hard feed. Hay by itself isn't really enough for pregnant animals, they simply won't eat enough of it to meet their dietary requirements. If you decide to offer hard feed then you need to introduce it gradually - too much at first can cause problems including acidosis which is potentially fatal. It can take time to get animals used to a new feed so be patient.
- Get creative. If you (or obliging friends or neighbours) have poplar, willow or tagasaste (tree lucerne) they make great supplementary fodder for animals. Many other trees and shrubs will be palatable, but you will need to check that they're not toxic or otherwise unsuitable. Macrocarpa, for example, can cause abortions in pregnant stock. Instead of throwing out fruit or vegetable scraps, check which ones are suitable for feeding to your animals and add them to the mix, again with care and introduce any new food gradually.
In the long term your best strategy is to ensure that you're not over-stocked. If you can, grow your own fodder trees. Also, make sure your soil and pasture is as productive as it can be and consider oversowing paddocks with drought-resistant grass varieties.
If all else fails maybe we could organise a rain dance...?
News from the goat shed
It's a great time of year, the kids are growing fast and racing around in the sun. We're still a little way off shearing but fleeces are looking good. We've had a problem with lice for years and we're using flowers of sulphur to try to get on top of it. As the fleeces are getting long, this will be the last application until after shearing.
The does are weaning their kids and it's a comical sight. The kids dive under mum for a drink and she'll stand for a few seconds then just climb over them and walk away....as you can see in the video below.