Let’s all hope it’s Plan 2.

Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Around the farm

Shorthorn cow and first cross lambs at Lucerne Grove

Shorthorn cow and first cross lambs at Lucerne Grove

Something has definitely changed in the last few weeks.

We’ve gone through December, January and February doing the usual – harvest, hay, straw and livestock management. We’ve had a couple of ‘rain events’.  Their timing was handy for us and they nearly filled the house tanks just as we were about to buy water, but it’s fair to say they seem a long time ago. We got to March and Tim started thinking about preparation for weaning calves and planning for cropping. There’s super to bring home, seed to buy or oats to bag out from the silo, final decisions to be made about which paddock will be sown with which crop for which end product, scheduling of work to be done on the tractor and combine. We got to the end of March and still no rain, into the middle of April and still no rain and now we are in May ……and still no rain.

All of us, our farming friends included, started talking about rain weeks ago, all waiting for the autumn break to come so cropping can get underway. While some have started dry sowing, it is still done in the hope it will rain very soon. Anywhere you go the weather is a rural newspaper headline and definitely a conversation starter.

On a practical level for us as a mixed farming enterprise, what is also happening as a consequence of the dry, is that paddock feed for cattle and sheep is diminishing. Paddocks get barer and, in one of farmings many contradictions, it can get to a point where you actually don’t want it to rain so the water doesn’t wash away whatever dry paddock feed you have left. So this week we have “hopscotched” the cattle. This isn’t a technical farming term, it’s one of Tim’s, probably used by his father as well. We’ve moved mobs of cattle from this paddock to that one, we’ve drafted cows with new calves out of various mobs and put them together in another paddock, we’ve put cows still to calve together, moved the weaned heifers out of the yards, moved the weaned steers down to a river paddock and shifted the bulls. While all of the re-arrangement is going on, any animal deemed to be under-performing is noted to be sold. All this, we hope, will help manage the dry feed we still have and help maximise the supplementary feed we will provide from now until August/September. And all this has just been for the cattle, the sheep are next.

Like any business you have to have a plan, farming is no different. At the moment we have about 3 plans – Plan 1: the one you follow in ideal circumstances when it rains when it’s supposed to and everyone gets on with the job; Plan 2: the one you follow when it rains a bit later than usual and just delays everything a bit; and Plan 3: the one you follow when it actually doesn’t rain. This week our fingers are crossed for Plan 2!