Fall came a little late but it’s here in force now. We just had four nights in a row of below-freezing temperatures. Now we have to be in the habit of disconnecting our hoses at night and laying them on a slope to drain. An extra chore. Rain is just about to set in so we’ll be up to our knees in mud before long.
This fall cold snap probably won’t last. We have seen 90 degree days in November before. But it’s a reminder of what is coming…and soon. The next few nights will kill the alfalfa and clover as well as the summer grasses. The leaves will begin to fall in earnest.
We have already slowed the cows down, asking them to crop the grass very close on the South-facing slopes. I expect these slopes will have time to put on another 8 inches of grass before the fescue really goes dormant in December but, for now, I want to put down a lot of hooves, mouths and manure in tight pastures…even if we move several times/day. That late fall regrowth will be just what the doctor ordered in April when we are looking for a little pasture to graze. The fescue should come through winter in good shape.
I plan to feed a little hay while we are on this North-facing slope. Roots are shallow here and the plants have a hard time in the blazing sun of July and August. They have fully recovered since the last grazing but the plant population is lower than we would like and, again, root systems are shallow. We are relying on hooves to push waste hay and manure into the soil surface, disturbing the soil and making a nice bed for seed germination as weather allows…possibly in the spring. The hay idea comes from my talks with David Hall. He said he fed 30 days worth of hay across 5 months to make the hay and pasture stretch. We are sort of starting that now…at least, right here where the pasture is poor. Grazing in tight areas, moving daily, feeding a little hay in the morning…about 1/10th of the dry matter a cow would otherwise need.
That all sounds nice. We have a plan. But it is not without its problems. Shorter days, colder weather, hose management, extra bedding for pigs…nothing life-altering but many small extra chores with fewer hours of daylight causing problems.