Working in the Weather

The heat has a way of really focusing your priorities. On the farm we have a very close relationship with the weather. We work in it, we need to react to it, we pay close attention to it. I can not think of a time in the past 6 months that I could not have waxed about the short and long term forecast according to various weather outlets (I have to say that Kieth Carson from WCSH6 is the best out there at explaining and elaborating on his daily forecast).

So days like today I wake up with a couple butterflies in my "tummy" as I consider the things that a day like today presents on the farm. As we all know, caring for animals means making sure they have what they need when they need it to stay healthy. For us that usually means fresh water and lots of food. Shade is something that we like to give the animals but in reality we are not always able to provide shade. The sheep usually adjust and are ok as long as they have had a chance to get used to the heat. A good portion o f our flock have lines that run back to African and Middle Eastern locals. As long as they have water and food they will hunker down and laze their way through a hot day with no shade.

We like to give the cows shade almost always when we get into July  and August. I remember a day last spring when we hit the low 90's out of nowhere for a couple days. I was not yet tuned into the weather and was still at school . I had the cows out in the open and returned from school to find one cow with his mouth open, panting like a dog. This is NOT behavior that cows should ever exhibit. Thankfully I led them all to the tree and he cooled down rapidly. Not an experience I would like to repeat any time soon.

Got Shade?

Days like today, however, break all the rules because it is so extreme. I spent the morning carving out spots on the farm for the sheep, both groups, to have shade for the next 48 hours. When you manage a piece of land with lots of wide open space this can be challenging to frequently utilize shade in your grazing rotation. However, we have lots of woods and brush to move animals to on days like this as long as it is not for too long a period. It was interesting this morning to see the lambs struggle to find the shade I had provided. They were only about 15 feet fron the edge of the woods but were clumped together and panting (at 8:30!!!) and clearly getting stressed. I had to grab a bucket and lead them into the woods.... even when you think you have done right by the animals you may find that your job is not done!

The chickens are another good example of being careful and complete in your execution of safe environments for the animals on a day like today. Chickens are not dumb but they of coursed can not "consider" a situation. Anyone who has read some of my posts from the winter knows that one thing we struggle with is birds that will cluster so tightly in the winter that they end up smothering themselves.  The same thing can happen if there is not enough shade... they will crowd towards it and get so clumped that they get even hotter! (more hot?). Yikes!

So you can see how the focus is very singleminded when facing such extreme weather. The priorities are simple but life and death.... shade, water, food. Enjoy the heat because you know what will be back soon.....

What heat?