In one way or another, we’re all impacted by Mother Nature, it’s how we accept and work with it that defines us. As a farmer, we deal with the elements every day. We plan as best as we can for them through our Holistic Planning. We chart our grazing movements 6-7 months in advance. We take into account where on the farm we want to calve, breed, where we might have water or shade restrictions when it’s hot and making sure there are windbreaks for the cows when it’s windy and cold. Through this planning, we’re able to accommodate changes as they occur. What happens if we get a foot of snow or we lose a well pump? We look at our charts, change and adapt our grazing rotation and move on. Mother Nature will always be here. We welcome the rain when it’s dry and the sun when it’s cloudy. We cope with sub zero weather and temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, but never complain.
If a well goes out during a drought, some may frantically scramble to determine “What do we do?!”. However, when you’re always considering the whole of the farm and not just an individual occurrence, we’re already prepared for this and simply take the time to re-plan. If we had no plan and had the cows moving around the farm for no particular reason, anytime there was a dramatic weather shift, we’d be running around putting out crisis after crisis. Our biggest hurdle during cold weather like this is that it takes so much more feed for our animals. The cattle require up to 30% more forage and hay to keep warm, produce milk, and make sure the calves continue to gain weight. A cow (a breeding animal we keep specifically to produce calves), for example, needs to consume 3% of her body weight daily just to maintain her body condition. So, a 1000 lb cow would require about 30lbs of feed per day. If the temperature remains below 15 degrees for an extended period of time, she will require about 10lbs of feed extra per day just to maintain her body condition. 10lbs might not sound like much, but when you multiply that by the 138 cows we currently manage, it adds up! If we have a month of unseasonably cold weather, it could be as dramatic as providing an excess of 40,000lbs of extra feed for one month!
For us, the weather is our business, it is our livelihood. I check weather forecasts daily as it impacts what I’m able to accomplish and it also helps me to plan my work week. We rely on every single rain drop to nourish our pastures and try to capture every ounce of sunshine to make our grass grow. What may come off as a hindrance for some is the way of life for us. We’re out in it every day no matter the conditions. We love every minute of it and wouldn’t trade it for the World, but perhaps it’s something to consider that the rainy July day that may have come on an inopportune Saturday afternoon has just provided us with the moisture our pastures needed to make it through a dry August. It’s all in perspective and it never hurts to get a different view once in awhile.
Here’s hoping for green pastures, sunshine, and warmth during this cold time of the year.