Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Other Side of The Fence

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and the cows are really anxious this time of year.
It has been an unusually cold and wet spring, and there hasn’t been enough sunshine yet to get the pasture grass growing.  My hay-pile ran out and I had to buy another three semi-loads.
            The cows are eating the hay, but under protest.  They pick through it and leave anything that doesn’t just suit them, then traipse all over the field searching for whatever spears of grass they can find.  The more breechy of them find weak spots in the fence and crawl through.
            It’s a hard time of year:  the cows are tired of eating last year’s dried grass, and we’re tired of feeding it to them.  But the new shoots of grass are short and mostly water – they don’t have enough nutrition to maintain the cattle.  This grass is still growing up from root reserves and doesn’t yet have enough foliage to be capable of photosynthesis. Thus, early grazing takes a significant toll on future production.
            So we do our best to keep the cattle confined where we can feed them a diet sufficient to produce milk for their calves while the cows’ reproductive organs heal from calving and prepare for re-breeding.
            Cattle have a 9-month gestation.  It is very important economically for every cow to calve on time every year.  We turn the bulls out the second week of June to begin calving the second week in March.
            The bulls are also displeased with the current situation as they must be held away from the cows until breeding season.  We try to keep the cows and bulls widely separated, but they still find each other across rivers and fences and hundreds of acres.  It takes constant vigilance to keep them apart.
            The grass in the pasture is too sparse to feed the cattle, and yet the grass in the lawn is ready to mow.  I’d sure prefer to turn the cows onto the lawn, but the women-folk don’t find any humor in that idea.  So we just keep on feeding and waiting for spring – one day at a time.

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