The thermometer dropped to zero a few days ago, signaling the beginning of the winter feeding season.
One never knows when feeding will begin in Montana. I’ve started as early as the first of November, and as late as the first of February. One way I can judge whether the cows need more energy than they can get from the available grass is to look at the stock tanks in their winter pasture. If the tanks stay free of ice and there isn’t too much snow, the cows are fine.
On Sunday there was an inch and a quarter of ice – the cows needed hay!
We’d been a little slow getting ready for winter. The chains weren’t on the 2640, and the snow-blower wasn’t yet mounted; the 2030 still had the backhoe attached; there was firewood in the back of the little red Chevy; and we didn’t have the engine all back together on the feed pickup. So we had to get busy.
There were other problems to take care of also, however: The city sewer had backed up at the rental house in town and the four-wheel-drive tractor had a crankshaft issue. So we’ve been feeding hay with my good Dodge pickup as we prepared the other outfits for winter work.
The last snow was only some 5", but of course it drifted some. I took out the snow-blower this morning to blow through some of those drifts before we get the next storm.
Hay is short all over the west this year. I had paid $85/ton for some hay in April, and would be lucky to find any for twice that price now. We covered our flood-irrigated hay four times this year – as opposed to only once last year – so got a good crop there. But our dryland hay was only a fraction of normal, leaving us a little short. We carried some hay over from the previous winter, and haven’t hit the haystacks too bad so far. We could get a hard winter yet, but the forecast is moderate for another week. Maybe we’ll get by…