December 10, 2023

From the Barns: Dealing with drought

We are now experiencing a serious drought to a level not reached since 2012. All the summer months, so far, have provided us with nothing more than a few tenths of moisture at a time and nothing at all lately. My daughter in Rockford always calls to see if we received any rain — and then reports their multiple inches!

So, Carson has made some stocking decisions to adjust to the available forage. We often like to say we are drought proof with our grazing system here, but conditions are pretty extreme this time and there is no rain in the forecast for us through the middle of the month. We need one of those Gulf tropical storms to push all the way up the Mississippi Valley to us. There is another one of those things to not wish for us.

Carson has moved out 42 early spring pairs, as we finished off and stockpiled all the fescue and some of the early calving fall cows to reach more manageable levels. Forty-eight later-calving fall cows are here in the sacrifice pasture with hay and 76 other fall-calvers are on the reed canary grass paddocks. We may be able to move the 48 in and out of those paddocks, but that looks to be limited.

We know that expert advice is always to not try and feed your way out of a drought, but this mixed approach may work. It is hard to calculate when I have not experienced conditions as severe and Carson has not experienced this before at River Oak or even in his lifetime.

I drove down to the John Wood Ag Center at the Orr Research Center last night for the University of Illinois annual report on research and other speakers. I did not find any comfort in the climatology report from Trent Ford.

However, the research reports were interesting, and David Otte from Green Valley Seed in Kahoka, Missouri, always shares good information, this time on cover crops. It was good to see and network with friends, especially Nic Anderson who is freelance consulting. If you need any help with siting, design, handling or any livestock issue, Nic can help. There is none better.

I am looking forward to visiting the Dietrich Ranch in Mt. Morris at 5 p.m. Oct. 5 for an inaugural Northern Illinois Grazing Group event. Dan will share his grazing expertise, and I will demonstrate how well a small drone can monitor livestock. That’s right. I am flying a drone to check on the cattle and one of the first flights showed cows in a pond area where they definitely don’t belong.

Even though I have not grown up with the electronic joy sticks like my grandkids and their games, I am doing quite well with the little DJI Mini 2. For just under $500, you can check the cattle from your front porch and have more peace of mind to enjoy your evening.

The Tri-County Cattlemen tour was a good event. Virtual fencing does work, but as of now, expensive and somewhat limited in application

Stay safe and sane out there.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.