Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Water, water ... nowhere

Somehow the goats opened the gate today and came into the front yard.
And they quickly found everything green!

How long has it been since we've had any measurable amount of rain? I'm not entirely sure, but it's somewhere around seven or eight weeks. We are officially in an "extreme drought," according to the Drought Monitor. I've gone through all the usual stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, and finally acceptance. There is still a part of me that is angry, but the logical part of my brain keeps telling me to just settle down. Acceptance is probably the most difficult thing for humans to learn.

This morning, we sent nine goats to be processed. They were wethers from last year that didn't sell. I had hoped to sell them this year, but most people don't want year-old pet goats, even at a discounted price. They want babies. The plan was to butcher them at the end of summer if they still didn't sell, but at this point, they were eating grass that is far too valuable for future pets that will sell for the cost of a few bales of hay, which they have already consumed. It wasn't that long ago that I said I could never butcher a goat, and it certainly was not easy bringing the boys into the barn last night, knowing where they would be going this morning. But I have to think of the welfare of all the animals out there. Unless there is a good reason to keep one, it has to go. And I really need to sell the sheep, or we will wind up with a freezer full of lamb and mutton by fall.

Carmen is pregnant and due to kid in 2-3 weeks. She really loves the weeds in the driveway.
It has been so easy over the past ten years to take for granted all of the beautiful, lush grass that grows throughout our summers, as well as the nearby hay fields. I had always thought that our animals would never go hungry. This summer, however, those pastures are rapidly turning brown. And the surrounding hay fields are dieing. I normally need about 800 bales of hay, which we start feeding towards the end of October or early November, depending upon the weather. But we need to be feeding hay now -- at the end of July! I was able to find 240 bales of alfalfa, and you don't have to do any math to conclude that it isn't nearly enough to last until next spring.

Finding no other alternatives, I decided to buy Chaffhaye, which is haylage. There wasn't a dealer within 100 miles of me, so I bought a truckload and can sell some to other people if they find themselves in a bind, unable to find hay for their animals. If no one buys any, I'll have plenty to feed my animals for more than a year. Yeah, that was pricey, but it's a good answer. I've heard more than one livestock producer say you should always have enough hay in storage to last for two years.

The garden isn't doing very well, but we've been able to keep everything alive. We aren't planting anything new. Although we're assuming we have a good water well, I don't want to take anything for granted because there are some people around here whose wells have run dry. The last thing I want to do is haul water from town. I've noticed a new water truck driving down our road the last couple weeks. Towards the end of next month, I'll plant some seeds for lettuce and other greens to overwinter in our low tunnels, but I'm not planting them until this horrific heat is passed.

Our pond is drying up, which is simply a constant reminder of our new reality. Every bit of dirt that you see in the photo above and below was covered with water two months ago.

I hope the crack willows don't die. They are accustomed to growing in the water, so I imagine they have pretty shallow roots.

On the bright side, we now know where all of our buckets disappear to!

But the sobering reality is that the situation is not expected to get better. The Drought Outlook shows the drought continuing through October at least.


Kelly said...

We are in the same boat here, it was one degree cooler than DEATH VALLEY yesterday!!! It's a chore just to keep the animals cool!!! Wishing us all some much needed rain!!!! Buckets of it! Bring on the mud!!!

Spinners End Farm said...

I'm sorry for your situation Deborah- those are tough decisions to make. In the UP of Michigan we've had some drought conditions; enough to spike the price of hay from our normal suppliers. This year we found a new fellow that would deliver and help stack hay for 3.00 a bale! He said he's sold a lot of hay this year and his fields are older and planted over old cow pasture with a good base of manure and many of them are slightly lower lying so retained more moisture. It is beautiful hay. Keeping our fingers crossed for next year! I'm hoping for some rain to come south to you.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Feel your pain Deborah. Each day we get up and think "how will we get through THIS day?" I've stopped all unneeded watering, clothes are being worn well past their fresshness date. Bushes I've loved for years (Lilacs) are dying as I write. Farmers we know are selling off stock as fast as they can. If folks out there want to see their local farmer survive this they must take the time to buy from us. Or many won't be here 6 months from now.

Tammy said...

We are in the same boat here (although that probably isn't a good metaphor!). Still looking for enough hay to carry things through. Have some questions about the Chaffhaye as we have a couple of local dealers now. Do your animals eat it well(I've heard some do some don't) and do you need special feeders to feed it in? (Not sure how fine it is, if you need a solid feeder to catch the little bits etc.).
Thanks! I'm considering this as a last resort.

Deborah Niemann said...

All of my goats, pigs, and cows love the Chaffhaye. Because goats can be picky, I started them out gradually. I put the Chaffhaye into their feed pans then put their grain on top of it. Also, goats tend to be competitive, so I introduced it to them in groups. They will eat something in a group that they would never eat when alone. You don't use a hay feeder for it, but a regular feed pan or trough works fine.

Akannie said...

We're all going through this here in Illinois, I think...it's scary.
We just have a little piece of dirt, not a farm, but I garden like crazy and do have chickens...

Hang in there...we aren't planting our second plantings of anything this year, if it's going to stay like this. It's still too hot, and seedlings would burst into flames!

So thankful I was taught years ago to always put up more food than you think you need...Mother Nature can be a rigid taskmistress...

Mary Ann said...

Only one cutting of hay here in Tonganoxie, Kansas this season... and we expect hay to go sky high. I saw corn being baled for bailage today as I drove 70 miles south to get my grandson... and all the small ponds around here are gone already. Large ones are drying up. It's truly scarey.


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