Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Adding Alfalfa

We've made the decision to begin feeding alfalfa to our milking herd for the first time since 2000. We have not used it in the past several years because of it's high cost and our ability to grow all of the forage we need (when we get enough rain). We will substitute the alfalfa for the dry ryegrass hay we are currently using in the TMR, and will have to alter the formula of the dairy feed blend we've been adding to it. We will continue to use wheat baleage, cottonseeds, and cotton hulls.

Speaking of forages, we've got approximately 200 dry bales of hay we harvested this spring, and if we can get "normal" rainfall and warm temperatures into late September we should get 300-400 bales of bermudagrass. We've also got enough baleage to feed for 70 more days, by which time we should have some corn baleage, corn silage, and possibly even some sorghum-sudangrass baleage.

The key is rainfall and temperature. If the weather is wet and warm over the next three months, we should be able to make it through this drought ok.

What to do with drought-stricken corn

We've been wondering for the last couple of weeks exactly what we could do about the corn we planted earlier. After seeing that some of our bottom land corn is already about shoulder high, I think we're going to let it grow as much as it can and then chop and ensile it as usual. The shorter corn (that's still living) will probably have a hay cutter/conditioner run across it, then we'll bale it up and wrap it like we do our spring forages.

Better weather ahead

We got a brief rain shower yesterday evening...not much but we were certainly glad to get it. And right now the forecast calls for a 30-50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms everyday through Saturday. We're keeping our fingers crossed!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good milk production for June

Our cows have produced pretty doggone good this month as compared to what they typically do this time of year. Our milk was weighed yesterday and the preliminary report came back that the "all cows milking" daily average was 63.5 pounds.

On the road again

I'll be working up until the middle of the morning, and then it's off to the ALFA Youth Leadership Conference at the 4-H Center in Columbiana. The event is sponsored by our Young Farmers program, and our state committee is responsible for leading one of the workshops. The conference runs through Sunday morning, but I'll be coming back after the workshops wrap up on Saturday afternoon.

This comes after I took Tuesday off to "assist" with the Alabama Ag in the Classroom program's farm tours. Turns out, all I had to do was ride one of the buses and be available to answer questions some of the teachers had. We toured a catfish farm in Perry County and then went back to Tuscaloosa (where the workshops were taking place) to let the teachers see the effects of the drought on non-irrigated corn, cotton, and soybeans.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

R-A-I-N spells relief!

Well, we have finally had a little rain to fall on the farm. We've had two separate rains, one last Friday evening and one this past Tuesday morning, combining for a total of three-quarters of an inch. While we would have loved more, both times the rain fell slow over a period of time that allowed most of it to soak into the ground. This hasn't exactly "broken" the drought, but it's been helpful to our land at a very critical time. We can already tell the grass is a different shade of green than it was towards the end of last week.

Our forecast for the next few days calls for very hot and dry weather, with temperatures reaching up into the high 90's by the weekend. Extending on out into next week, it is giving a pretty good chance of showers for several days, so hopefully that will bear out!

Milk Mustache Contest

I have posted the co-winners of our annual Milk Mustache Contest on our farm web page, Gilmer Dairy Farm.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More of the Same

Were at the mid-point of yet another dry week, with not much chance of rain until next Tuesday.

Sometime today we may try to fight through the deer flies, ticks, and cottonmouths and tear out a beaver dam that been built across a small creek that runs through one of our pastures. If we do, we'll at least be reminded what water and mud look like.

Monday, June 11, 2007

How dry is it?

According to the Alabama Office of the State Climatologist, our "Palmer Drought Index" is listed as a -3 'severe drought', and we would need 10.9 inches of rain to break the drought. Dr. Christy was quoted as saying, "This is the driest period from January to now in Alabama in 114 years."

The US Drought Monitor says that we're under a D3 "Extreme" drought, and we're only a few miles away from being in the D4 "Exceptional" range.

According to NOAA's US Seasonal Drought Outlook, the drought should persist through July.

The USGS reports that the Buttahatchie River a few miles to our north is flowing with a discharge of 51 cubic feet per second. The 36 year median flow for this time of year is 267 cfs, meaning that its flowing roughly at 20% OF NORMAL.

This drought has been devastating to agriculture in Alabama, and is now starting to really effect a lot more people in the central third of the state as many cities are starting to issue water usage limitations. With no real relief in sight on the weather forecast, we definitely covet your prayers for rain.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Another hot one

The high temperature today will once again reach into the 90's, with a nice hot breeze blowing. It's days like today that make me happy that we have a couple of tractors with good air conditioners, such as this New Holland TL100.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Time for a Cattle Drive

We're going to be brining a group of bred and pregnant heifers up to the farm this morning for their yearly vaccinations and fly treatments. Hopefully they will all cooperate and go the direction we want them to. It only takes one going the wrong way to get the whole group to do likewise.

I'm going to take the camera and if I get a chance I'll snap a couple of pictures of it to post on our photo gallery.

Time management

Sometimes your responsibilities get you into trouble. For instance, I've known for ten years that I would be responsible for organizing my high school class's ten year reunion. Over the last six weeks, I've probably spend 30-35 hours working on what will be a simple 3.5 hour event. And I only thought I knew how to budget my time! As much as I'm looking forward to the reunion next Saturday, I'll be relieved once it's over!

Butterfat up, maybe milk production too

The butterfat content of our cows' milk has hit a six month high at 3.85%. This is up from a low of 3.15% just twenty days ago. Coincidentally, this is about the time we changed their feed ration. Of course, the trade-off is that we aren't getting the same volume of milk, and the way milk is priced I don't know how the skim volume vs. butterfat premium will balance out. But we may see somewhat of an upswing on our production (or less of a drop off due to this heat) as we started feeding a different batch of baleage to them yesterday. We had been able to spray a second application of N-sol on this lot, and that extra fertilizer should mean more nutrients, which will hopefully equal more milk.

Oh yeah, no rain yet, and the long term forecast calls only slight chances of heat-generated afternoon thunderstorms. Our corn and hayfields are looking worse by the day.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Another Milk Mustache Contest reminder

Once again, don't forget our farm's online Milk Mustache Contest. You can get more info from our farm website, Gilmer Dairy Farm.com

No Relief in Sight

This past weekend was our best chance for rain for a while, and we did get a trace amount. But that was nowhere near substantial enough to salvage our "hill" corn or spur any growth in our hayfields. At this point, we're looking at the grim reality of having even less of a corn silage crop than last year and not much hay. The good news is that, provided it starts raining within the next month, we can replant our corn fields in sorghum or sorghum-sudangrass and still put up silage this fall. We were already planning on planting these crops on about a third of our normal corn acreage. It won't have quite the yield or quality that corn would, but it would definitely be better than nothing! Also, the hayfields and pastures should come around if we get the moisture.

I guess the biggest difference between having an early summer drought like this year and a mid-to-late summer drought like last year is that you still have time for contingencies provided the drought does break. All we can really do in the meantime though is keep praying and have faith that at some point we'll get some real relief.