Global Warming and Colder Spring – Williams Lake Tribune
While the world and our region are on average warmer, we must remember that “climate change” is just that: change. Recently, the director of an agricultural program at a local university commented on the cool spring in British Columbia.
In the Fraser Valley, the average temperature this spring has been two degrees below normal and seeding is two weeks behind schedule.
Here in the Cariboo, our range grasses are slowly greening up, but are generally not ready for cow grazing except at lower elevations where there is more heat.
What does it mean? Unfortunately, due to hay shortages and high feed grain prices, many producers will abandon livestock before pastures are ready for grazing.
Lucky or tall managers will have had a few hay supplies to extend the feeding season by a few weeks. But with low hay production due to last year’s extreme heat, most producers have had to resort to rationing their hay.
Hay is simply not available on the market unless neighbors who have it can dip into their supply and help out.
It is painful to see mother cows with growing calves wanting more and more food before the grass is ready.
Faced with the need to lengthen the feeding season, producers can graze early on certain hay meadows or store (on the stem) old grasses. If they have private pastures, rapid rotation grazing will allow minimal negative impact from grazing too early.
This means that moving the cattle every few days – less than five or six days – will prevent the cattle from eating the early growth and then eating the rapid regrowth that occurs. This dual impact on new growth can lead to overgrazing.
Overgrazing is defined as cattle taking the second bite of a plant while they are still using the sugars stored in the roots to stimulate new growth. Plants will take a month or more to recover from this overgrazing.
By moving animals frequently, allowing some pastures to rest, crop damage will be reduced.
Hope enters at this stage: the hope that there will be enough rain and sunshine to allow the plants to recover.
The feelings associated with these difficult choices are uncomfortable, which means that farm and ranch managers must find compensatory medium-term strategies. If we make choices that stunt the growth of our hay crops, we may have to reduce our herds or find alternative feeds if they are available and affordable.
U.S. pasture reports indicate forage production is down 40 percent in the West and just under 20 percent nationwide.
Seven years of continuous drought in North Dakota led our family to greener pastures in the Cariboo in 1928, the year before the Great Depression that began with the stock market crash of 1929.
These adaptations are only part of farm and ranch management. The stress of it all is pushing farm organizations to deal with the mental health of farmers. May more than the fittest survive.
May they stay in business to thrive another day in the face of inflation, a possible recession, climate change (including colder cycles), and shortages of inputs and labor.