Over the last few years we have started to pay a lot more attention to weather lore. In the old days these nuggets of wisdom were all the farmers had to prepare for Prairie winters. Last winter we started recording little things on the calendar to test how dependable they were and we’re surprised at the accuracy.
Hoarfrost, for example, is a predictor of rain. A wise person told us that six months from hoarfrost it will rain. This has held true the last few years. Last year we noted that the more extravagant the hoarfrost, the heavier the rain. Between January and March 2018 there was very little hoarfrost so the dry summer was not a big surprise.
The skeptic in me has started tracking the fogs. The rhyme says fog in September means snow in December. So, we shall see. September has been drizzling a lot and moisture is being replenished but it has sure slowed down our neighbours really needing to finish up with wild hay stands. The limited moisture our area received this summer made haying both easier and harder.
The very nice part of the drier summer was that part of the 10 acres that we started working a few years ago was able to be hayed. It was also observed that grass was greener where the compost was spread on our pastures last fall, but they seemed to handle the drier summer better than areas without compost. When we did get rain, those areas rebounded faster and stayed greener longer than the rest of the field.
Dry conditions reduced the amount of grass per acre but conditions also made it possible to get into places that hadn’t been touched in years. This helped because bedding is bedding. Cows don’t have to have $42 wheat straw bales — before delivery costs — to lay on when there is nice fluffy moss and swampgrass for them. The swampgrass was a bit challenging to bale but was very nice to be able to clean up fire-hazard areas and make use of the forage.
The winter feeding plan will be to top up nutrition with the A1 syrup as well as using Sea90 sea minerals. There will also be loose blue salt/cattle mineral available for them. Our winter research project will be deciding what to reseed on 10 acres that has been worked. The weather has gone from being too dry to too wet for our equipment. Seed mix research has begun in optimistic preparation of the next step. We are very curious about yellow alfalfa.
According to Progressive Forage, yellow-flowered alfalfa is truly an amazing plant. Stands have survived in northwest South Dakota for more than 90 years under stresses of drought, cold, grasshoppers, grass competition and livestock grazing. It is capable of reseeding itself in rangeland and protecting itself by going dormant in dry times. The longevity of yellow alfalfa is three to 20 years with a similar yield to a creeping-root type alfalfa — approximately 3,230 lbs./acre (3670 kg/ha). For our 851 New Holland baler that would mean about two to three bales per acre. The really enticing part of reseeding with a high-percentage yellow alfalfa mixture would be the potential of a second cut. This summer quackgrass managed to yield a second cut. The goats think it is the most delicious hay they have ever seen.
Considering all the fog our area has seen in September, the potential for a very snowy December has us scurrying to get our fall jobs done. Hopefully the weather will allow the preparation of this site for next spring’s seeding. The winter will be full of field seeding research.