Thursday, June 21, 2012

The heat is on!

And we knew it was coming, just not when it was coming.  We had been lucky that the spring had been for the most part mild, as everyone, both man and beast, handles temperatures in the eighties a sight better than when the mercury creeps up between ninety and the century mark.  Today, we spent some time at the farm doing some "emergency" measures to try to help the goats beat the heat.  The forage is holding up, so far, and it looks like we have at least half a week more of serious heat before there might be relief in the form of cooler temperatures.  We've put an awful lot of effort into the forage mix, and so far it is holding up but we've not had the drought months yet.

pasture mix in the bottom field

I mentioned we had put a metal roofed "car shed thing" in the top field last year because it gets exactly zero shade, no matter the time of day.  We had lost a nice young doe in the summer before that, and we assume it was to heat as she was the only black doe in the group and the temperatures that day had been over 100 degrees with miserable humidity.  One of the complicating factors in this part of the country, of course, is the humidity, and I don't know any way to combat that, but we did spend a day last week when it was a little cooler giving booster vaccines for pneumonia to almost all the mature does.  That's about as much as I know how to do to prepare them for the heavy humidity that defines summers in the South.

the bozos better use these shade structures
We have set aside a little goat money to add one of these car sheds to the bottom field this summer.  It gets a bit of shade morning and evening, but none in the middle of the day when they need it the most.  Since the shed has not arrived yet, we took an idea from Dr Sparks column in the Goat Rancher and made some temporary shade structures from t-posts and old tarps to tide us over until the shed is here.  I tested one, and with the light breeze today, it was appreciably cooler under one of these than not.  Hopefully the goats will use them.  When we were leaving, not one of the dopes was under them, but then, the sun had reached an angle in the sky that the trees outside the fence were beginning to provide the usual afternoon shade and that is where the goats were congregating.  I guess we'll know tomorrow if they have figured out the new shade structures or not. 

I often mention how overstocked we are, and the problems this can create.  I know we sound like idiots to be doing something we know is dicey, but this farm had no infrastructure save an old tobacco barn on it when we started this little venture.  Now, we do have our "used" main metal barn and four fenced main pasture/paddock areas.  And one of those has the car shed thing in it.  The goats are paying their way and building their farm.  We have to have a certain number to sell so we can cull some, keep one or two, and sell the rest and make enough to put back into the farm to grow it some more.  The goats are buying themselves barns, fences, and feed towards an eventual level where we are no longer overstocked for the amount of animals we plan to run.  Or at least that is the plan.  Not sure when we'll get there. 

picking up the straw bales
As we were working in the pasture today, we saw the tobacco guys' crew back to pick up the straw they had baled from the wheat that they just combined recently.  They got truckloads of wheat off the farm, and truckloads of straw bales.  I still look at those front fields, now full of naught but stubble, and envision beautiful pastures of orchard grass, and alfalfa, and chicory, or hey - if we win the lotto - maybe some AU Grazer!  Someday...

As an aside, I got a call from the man at the feed store who had told me he wouldn't be able to get the minerals I wanted.  After announcing who he was and from whence he was calling, he said, quite dryly, "a miracle has occurred."  As it turns out, the miracle was in the form of the arrival of said minerals.  I stopped by a few days later to pick them up, and they loaded up my two bags.  Of course, when I stopped in to get them, the feed man said, again, just as dryly, "they're expensive."  Fine time to tell me, buddy.  Well, I figure if they really do provide something the goats aren't currently getting, then they'll be worth it.  I've been reading my Pinkerton book again, and am always struck by the notion that a goat's total performance is limited by the one element that is deficient (or, I assume, provided at toxic levels or to the exclusion of something else).  So even if everything else is right, they will never perform to their best if one thing is lacking severely enough.  I know I can't fix everything, and wouldn't even know where to begin, but that idea really bugs me. 

mineral tag, with chelated minerals for supposedly better absorption

Big bale of sericea lespedeza
This brings me to another interesting (or oddball, depending on how you look at it) thing I read recently.  I picked up a grazing magazine at Tractor Supply last weekend for some reading material for the ride down to get an old big bale of sericea lespedeza hay.  The article was talking about water, which is always the most important nutrient.  I remember from Horse Bowl that horses' bodies are 70% water, and this article said cattle are the same, so I am taking the leap that goats are pretty close.  The author was discussing the quality of the animals' drinking water, and how lower quality water sources can actually negatively impact foraging habits.  If the animals are only drinking the water as a last resort, they tend to stay thirsty.  If they stay thirsty, they stick around the water source and don't utilize the whole forage area.  It was interesting, considering our unique water challenges. 

water on wheels, which equates to life made easier

One thing the author mentioned was that if the cows "play" with the water or the float valve in an automatic waterer, they are trying to freshen the water because it isn't to their liking.  I remember horses doing this when I was a kid, flipping the water and stirring it about with their lips, and I just thought they were playing.  Maybe there was more to it than that.  Something to think about, for sure.  We've spent years making "good" water for our koi, meaning highly oxygenated, low dissolved organic content water with a high ORP (how oxidative the water is) and stable pH.  Maybe we should think a bit more about the water quality for the animals who drink it, although I'm not quite sure how we could fix it barring access to the fast flowing stream at the back of the property.  Of course, a farm pond with a windmill for aeration would be nice, too. 

Virginia napped for a lot of the time we were working, which was just as well, considering the heat.  She stayed in the car with the air conditioner running for part of the time, as environmentally unfriendly as that is.  Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  We were able to put her in the stroller under some shade trees for her second nap, and the breeze made it quite bearable.  I've noticed that Bo sticks pretty close to the children, wherever they are on the farm.  He seemed to appreciate a bit of shade, as well.

Virginia at lunch.  She has a good time pretty much anywhere she goes.
Bo agrees it is mighty hot.

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