Tuesday, January 5, 2010

That Wet Time of Year

This farm here of mine has a few animals: a couple of dozen chickens, a couple of pigs and at last count nine cows. Okay, maybe that is more than a few. And then there are those two dogs running around, but they don't really count as farm animals.

What is notable to me this time of year is the impact that they beast make on the land during the wet, winter months. Each of those creatures walks around, leaving their manure on a daily, hourly basis. Through some urine in there and it is quite a mess.

Most of the year the land can absorb all their activities well. The manure is broken down quickly and becomes a part of the pastures. The urine immediately soaks in and feeds the soil as well. When the sod is totally saturated, this takes a bit more time. And all during this time the cows walk by and compounds the problem.

Those places where the sod has been broken by the cows' hoofs it is even worse. Each time they pass by their sharp, weight feet churn up the mud that much more until a virtual brown soup remains.

This is certainly a predictable situation and one that will evaporate as the sun reappears in April or May. But what it reminds me of is the advice given to me by an older farmer many years ago. He said that you should only make decisions about the number of animals for your farm in December, and never in June or July.

In the summer months everything is possible, all is sunny and beautiful and the chores are a delight. This past week, troding through the cow paddock to let the cows out of the barn, slipping and sliding on the mud is less than a joy. Trekking out to the farm paddock to feed the bull is not a lovely jaunt on a bright, warm day, but rather an ordeal; navigating the large stretches of flooded pastures between me and him. Thankfully, the temperature is warm and the stock tanks are still filled with warm water. When the temperature drops below freezing and an great effort is needed to break through the icy top to free the drinking water for the beasts the challenge is that much more.

So I try to take that old advice to heart this time of year when it comes to animals. I must say that it is easy advice when the rains are incessant. It is those sunny, warm, dry days of summer when I tend to forget and fill the pastures with more cows.

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