We’ve reached the end of another really rainy week here at the farm, and with something over fifteen inches of rain falling over the past month, conditions are really starting to get messy. We had over three inches of rain on Saturday night alone, adding to the incredible rain totals that we’ve had over the past month. I have never experienced rain like we’ve had over the past couple of weeks, so this is all new ground to cover for me. There is standing water in most of our pastures, and the big cows are starting to do some damage with their feet as they break through the sod. Anywhere that they have congregated, around the water trough, in the shade, or where they’ve collected any time that the sun has been out, has been ground up into a pretty muddy mess. While this is
not something that we want to have happening out on the farm, it has given us the opportunity to spread grass and clover seed in these muddy areas. I am hopeful that these churned up wet spots will grow some beautiful new forage for our cows, and that we will have turned these challenging weather conditions into an opportunity to upgrade our pastures.
All this rain has also put a serious hurt on our field tomatoes, and they are really starting to droop and discolor under all of this moisture. They are absolutely full of fruit, but they do not thrive when they’re regularly wet, and I’m not sure that they’ll be able to get much more fruit to ripeness. Luckily the hoop-house tomatoes are still going strong, and we’re hoping they’ll keep chugging along well into the fall. We have had enough rain falling fast enough that some soil has moved in a few veggie beds, swamping some of our smaller crops like lettuce and radishes. The wet conditions have also made getting out into the fields with tractors a real challenge, so we’ve had to put in extra time on hand work to keep up with the weeds and bed prep. Our farm roads are also getting really muddy by this point, and we’ve had some trouble getting the water wagon to the cows on the routes we usually take. After getting a few trucks stuck on the muddy roads last week, we have a tractor in the field for moving the beef cow water cube, and I am hopeful that that machine will be able to keep its head above water and to get the job done.
All of this rain is certainly making the pastures grow well, but we are now in a situation
where the pastures are a little too lush and rich for the cows and sheep. This can lead most directly to super loose manure, but can also make a little trouble on a more cellular level as well. The lush pasture is super high in protein and non-protein nitrogen, and low in fiber and energy. This imbalance can lead a ruminant animal to generate excess ammonia in their gut as they work extra hard trying to convert protein and amino acids into energy. The liver and kidneys have to go into overdrive as they work to filter the toxic levels of ammonia out of the animal’s blood, drawing more energy for their operation. These high levels of ammonia can also begin to push aside oxygen in the blood, depriving the animal of this critically important blood ingredient. All of this trouble leads to lowered milk production, slower growth, and if unaddressed, serious health problems. The typical fix for this is to make sure that cows are eating a healthy
amount of dry hay to balance out the lush protein rich pasture going into their guts. Here at The Farm School, where we practice tall-grass grazing, we allow the pastures to grow taller than is typical, recognizing that this taller grass is acting like hay in the cow’s diet, providing them with all of the energy and fiber that they need. Our pastures are just too lush to maintain this balance right now, so we’ve had to add some more barn time and hay to the cow’s routine. They have been happy to spend more time inside out of the rain, and I’m hopeful this weather will make for some great fall grazing.