HAY PANIC

At least we don’t have a feed lot type operation. Many cattle farmers around here have big open cover buildings and cows standing on concrete, fed hay and grain.

I only need hay in the dark winter – they need hay all year round. By now we usually have one cut in the barn or close to it. But we save ours for the winter. The cattle in yards need that hay right now. I have already talked to a few really panicked cattlemen. They have stands of animals in small spaces surrounded in empty corn fields where there should have been pasture.

Just imagine the muck they are dealing with.

There are two reasons why my farm will weather this endless rain a bit better. Last year I had to make an emergency run to New Zealand and I sold stock to get there so already I am light on animal numbers. Secondly, my cows eat fresh grass all summer and fall and I have plenty of fresh pasture. Thirdly, I can fence my hay fields. If it continues to rain I will call my hay standing hay, and put the cows IN the hay fields in the winter.

Also, I will buy no new stock this summer even though some of these other farmers are already considering selling off stock they cannot feed and the prices should be pretty low in an already depressed beef market.

Old fashioned small scale farming is more able to adapt to a changing climate. Not something I had thought about before.

And we had another two inches of drowning rain, thunder, lightening and tornado watch again, all in about half an hour yesterday afternoon.

Celi

38 Comments on “HAY PANIC

  1. I’ve been watching all the tornadoes on the US map with a worried and watchful eye for you and all around you. Looks like you’re in the midst of some real icky weather. Batten the hatches. Lots of love.

  2. Lucky you can adapt on a turn off a tickey. You really have crazy weather at the moment. Our water restrictions about to be increased again. I would love to look out my window and see your barn view for a week or two. Laura

  3. A farming friend in Kansas is verklempt. Fields underwater, etc. ad nauseum. Much damage already is done, but here’s to things straightening out, and quickly. I remember a few years ago when a huge hay convoy from Texas made its way to the midwest during significant flooding. It probably will be needed again this year, and if I’m judging things rightly, the crop here will be sufficient to help some others out.

    • Though most of us can not afford to ship hay all this way. However if we can just get a couple of cuts in it will help – a lot of farmers who do not have pastures are feeding a lot more corn to their animals.

  4. So much rain here we have grass that is ridiculously high and soggy now. Also had the tornado alarms go off last night too. Nothing happened here but over in Dayton which is a bit over an hour from us they got hit!

  5. Few understand the implications of severe weather and constant rain in the farmlands. Noticed they are mowing and baling plenty here – also feel that hands will reach out and haul hay to those in need – as has been done for them when wildfires and flooding left so little in the fields.
    I agree with your thought that small scale farming is much more adaptable in the long term,
    Stay safe

      • Wouldn’t that be considered price gouging? (We have laws against that here) Your need for hay is a big topic even out on the west TX ranches. Hopefully there are more kind/sensible people (who understand the situation and how it might happened to them next year) than the greedy ones
        We’re sweltering, but watching the storms coming across the midwest daily make you shiver. Hang in there. (Holding you and yours in our thoughts)

  6. Oh my goodness. The poor farmers and animals!! I hope it dries up soon

  7. I like that you share your problem solving process with us. It is good that you have created an adaptable small scale farm. Rich lesson there. We have to persist in our efforts to save the planet. You are setting a fine example of how to live in harmony with your environment. We all need to get back to basics.

  8. Small operations are always more adaptable, it’s always easier to change a process or create something new when you don’t have to manage a megalith of resources into the change. And diversified ones are the most sustainable, being able to let the parts that are thriving in the current context support the ones that aren’t gets them through the constantly changing markets.

  9. At this rate, farmers will have to change over to rice instead of corn – the paddies are ready and waiting. But surely, hands will be held out and hay trucked in; farmers are the absolute best at helping each other. Your small, closed system is by far the most agile and adaptable at dealing with change, your options are wider and more flexible. It’s a valuable lesson to the broad acre guys, but at such a cost…

    • Kate, coming on late, I just wonder whether our Australian habit of taking free hay to those in need because of drought . . .and the fact that many truckies will help with time and money to make sure the poor cows do not go hungry is par for the course around the world ? Watched a delightful Masterchef episode but a few weeks ago when the drivers of a huge feedtrain in arid N Victoria was fed by the contestants. The hay bales stretched for seemingly kilometres and, once again, I was very proud to be an Australian . . .

      • Eha, I think they do have big convoys of feed in the US, but not perhaps on the scale we do because our drought is so longstanding and our farmers are now at risk of starvation, let alone the stock. Buy A Bale (or several) has been our long-standing Christmas gift to the family in lieu of stuff they don’t need.

        • Though the huge feed lots are not run by starving fifth generation farmers but rather by huge conglomerates like McDonald’s. They can actually afford to buy as much hay as they can find. It is the making of the hay that is the problem this year. Totally different problem. That kind of farming is not sustainable and destructive in so many ways – I can’t see it becoming a focus for donations

        • Kate, thank you, I am a grateful recipient of Buy a Bale and your relative’s largesse. I contacted BAB earlier this year when we were still in drought and when I ran out of water for my pigs for the first time in 12 years. They were not in time to help with water, but you and your Rellies helped me because BAB gave me a $1500 grant which I allocated to my feed bill. Because although the drought has stopped here it continues in the areas where my pig feed is grown and I’m still paying twice the price for half ton that I was paying a year ago. It’s true what you say about starving yourself to feed your animals, you can’t ignore what’s out there and hungry in the paddock but you can not pay your mortgage, which gets you in bigger trouble long term, but is easier to live with the faceless, although, to be honest, not unsympathetic, men over hungry livestock.

          BAB also sent me some fuel vouchers, grateful I went in and got my fuel, handed over one of my two $25 cards and was told I still had $225 left on the card. I promptly burst into tears, right there at the bowser when I realised I had not $50 of fuel vouchers but $500. That embarrassing reaction talks to the mental stress that farming in drought causes, and again I can’t thank you and your pressganged relatives enough.

          Please be sure to pass on my gratitude, it’s rare that we get to thank those who have helped in such a direct way. Once, in another life, when I was the social secretary of my workplace, I persuaded my co-workers that it would be a good idea to forgo the usual Yuletide chocolate fest and instead join together to buy an Oxfam goat to benefit a family in Africa. I remember telling them, over a very long boozy lunch, that the goat would write them a letter telling them how it was progressing through life’s milestones, and I believe this was what won them over! Of course the goat never wrote, or perhaps it did, who knows with third world postal services, but the year after they again chose chocolate. So please be sure to let you Rellies know that I am their goat and I am ever so grateful to be the recipient of their kindness as will other goats in years to come. And thank you Kate, Cheers, Sally

          • Sally, this is a tragic and wonderful story. In all our woes I would rather have rain than not. At least I can feed my cows and the purge corn from the mill and the scraps from the restaurant pretty much feeds my pigs . I feel quite desperate for you. Keep us in the loop!

            • Hi Kate and Celi. We now have rain and water here, thank god. But feed prices are still astronomical (a bale of lucerne is $29 down from $34!) and grower pigs cant survive on grass alone, at least not quickly enough to make a living out of them. I have had a pallet of fatty mineral rich macadamia milk donated to me which has helped defray costs, I can mix the fatty milk with a cheaper roughage based feed and the finisher pigs and sows do fine with less protein leaving the protein rich expensive food for the younguns still building muscle! I also add veggies left over from farmers markets and obtained via the well oiled bacon economy! All of these things help BUT having other support is golden and can make the most awful days bearable, support has come in the form of strangers like Kate and her family and the maccamilk folks.

              Harder to bear is the attitude of the feed companies that supply bulk food to those affected by drought. I have had to phone ahead to ensure that my half ton will be that and not 600kg as $330 turns in to over $400 which I probably dont have cos it took all I had to scrape together $330. But theres no leeway with them, you pay in full or dont collect the food, forcing you to buy non bulk food at exhorbitant prices until you can pay in full. So the Buy a bale petrol vouchers were really more than just fuel becase they allowed me the luxury of travelling a but further afield to source food, which turned out to be so less stressful than dealing with the one company and TBH less humiliating. I dont want to ask for credit, I cant afford to be in debt but understanding that you may not have the money to make up for their error is entirely different.

              Anyway I really went on that feed company rant because it illustrates how helpful Kates help was. and continues to be, and for that im grateful.

              • How big is the bale? That is outrageous. I understand the bulk thing. What a nightmare but you keep on going right? I am down sizing and it feels like a great relief frankly. I can only do what I can cope with. Good luck to you darling girl

          • Sally, thank YOU! It’s rare that we hear any follow up about things. I’ve given Christmas gifts this way for over 10 years now, and ask the rellies to do the same for me. Some of them are now following the same procedure. I’ve lost count of how many wells, small business loans, sewing machines, goats, chickens, pigs, seed packs, hay bales, supermarket vouchers, fuel cards and bales of fencing wire I’ve given, but they’ve all gone out with my love, encouragement and best wishes. I only wish I could send a small fraction of the rain we get here in Mackay.

  10. I remember the year of blizzards back there – cattle were dying in the fields from lack of feed. Emergency bales of hay were flown in, either helicopter of by troop transport planes. That was a frightening winter for the Midwest! Guess you’re going to have to get out your stilts if this keeps up, Ceci ! ….or maybe huge waders like the cranberry boggers wear? My thoughts are with you throughout this.

  11. I just watched the movie the Biggest Little Farm and it reminded me of you. They started out VERY BIG and as such had some VERY BIG losses, but it’s a beautiful depiction of how interconnected everything and all of us are. Thank all the gods and goddesses that you aren’t a feed lot sort of operation – those things are just gross. The poor cows.

  12. In the meantime, you also have lush green growth, though I do appreciate that if you put animals on it, it will turn to mud.

  13. The wet certinly doesn’t help anything. I know there are fields that are not planted and may not get planted which will affect the food supply come autumn and harvest time. This much rain makes haying almost impossible, no dry days to dry the hay. I have noticed here that there have been quite a few tree limbs come down, not from wind but from the weight of water in them that can’t be transpired into the already sodden air. Yesterday with the very heavy rain the street was flooded as was the “alley” below our building. It sure would help if things could dry out for a few weeks.

  14. And here in Australia we continue to have very dry conditions and predictions of more to come. The big cattle stations in Northern Queensland weathered the drought, got floods that killed up to 300,000 cattle and now are infested with grasshoppers and more, since the floods are withdrawing. The surviving cattle were driven south and the prevailing winds have brought hordes of flies to Central Australia where we are. Fortunately the winter weather will eventually kill the flies. You are in a much better position than most, but I still hope things get better for you soon. xx

  15. ‘Old fashioned small scale farming is more able to adapt to a changing climate.’ So true, I wonder if anyone is listening? 🙂

  16. Aside from the economic realities which are not inconsiderable, farming in mud and prowlonged wet is just shitful and tiresome. Everything takes twice as long, makes twice as much mess and makes everybody, animals included, miserable. Hang in there

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