Friday, January 13, 2012

British White Cattle in Southeast Texas Pastures - Winter of 2012

J.West's Elvis - Having himself a lazy day in the sun . . .
Jan. 11, 2012

Lazy, I've been terribly blog lazy the past few weeks, but it's good to have some things set up and ready to post to give myself a little holiday vacation time from scratching my head about what to talk about.  Today has seen very sunny, cold and windy weather, at least compared to anything recently, and tonight it may well freeze.  I have to think the 18 plus inches of rain we've had the past couple of months, including the 3 and 7/10ths from a couple of days back, will be be of help for all the pasture plants and trees.  Did you know that the safest way for a plant in a pot to endure a freeze is to saturate the pot with water?  It actually helps protect the roots from the cold. 

I'm not sure yet just how many trees we lost in the drought, I'll wait until next spring before declaring anything for sure dead.  So if some hardwood trees that are suffering and still clinging to too many of their leaves (which means they are dead or sick) might just need the protection of wet soil to endure a freeze -- I'm mighty pleased the ground is brim full of water right now.

Limit feeding helps cut down on this sort of behavior as well!
This past summer of drought was a learning experience, but no less so has been this winter.  There have been many articles written over the past few months advising and alerting cattlemen how to manage their herds through a lean winter, and I made some changes in routine following their guidance. 

One I think that has lots of merit is limit feeding hay to your cattle.  Instead of having 24 hour access to the hay, I limit fed for several weeks, letting them in to the hay about 5PM and turning them out mid morning to eat their daily alfalfa on clean pasture.  Afterward, they would mosey around and graze a bit, nap a bit, then by about 4PM they'd begin to gather at the gate to the corral, waiting for me.  I definitely think that helped cut down hay consumption.  The premise is that some cows will just eat and eat and eat if its there, basically getting more than they need, leaving less for others who aren't so greedy. 

The other thing really hammered on by lots of the articles was the importance of adequate nutrition in that last trimester.  We all know they need to be on a good diet leading up to calving, but the problem this winter that the writers were focused on was the 'quality' of the hay being fed.  There is lots of really bad so-called 'hay' out there these days.  Even in my own very fortunate supplies of hay, I realized real quick that lots of it wasn't as good as it had been in the years past. 

So, I brought in Crystalyx mineral tubs again for the first time in a number of years.   The Crystal-Phos tubs are an excellent and reliable product, and it gives you a sense of relief having them out there, particularly through the past several weeks of lots of rain.  A dry loose mineral would have mostly been money down the drain for certain and the cows would have suffered for it I'm sure. 

J.West's El Presidente - Jan. 11 2012
The bulls on the other hand haven't seen much special treatment.  They have red mineral blocks and always the worst hay, but their daily alfalfa ration as well.  They have also begun to graze the pitiful rye grass finally coming on.  Not that I really want them to already!  But, of course I have way too many bulls on the place and they have to call some pasture home around here.  El Presidente doesn't look like he's suffering much, nor Elvis in the photo up top.  We're all getting along just fine for now (knock on wood) . . .