Column: The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Bigger is better it is often said. Well, not so, if it is hay or grain and it falls over and starts to rot on the stem.

Bigger is better it is often said. Well, not so, if it is hay or grain and it falls over and starts to rot on the stem.

Yes, the rains came at a good time, but enough already. The inspiration for this topic came from an enterprising reporter for this paper who was wondering  what it is like for ranchers who have been poised to harvest crops already ready.

For my part, it seems there is no shortage of projects to keep me busy until the sun shines. I have been able to work on an irrigation/ stockwater project: fixing leaks and repairing fences.

I do have to tell myself that this project is for the eventuality of periodic droughts and the need to have water for crops and cattle during water scarce times.

But there is an air of unreality in my ambition when springs have sprung from dry watersheds and creeks are running everywhere.

Too much of anything in the weather tries my patience.  According to the forecasts there is a drying trend which could become drought. So I guess I will be ready.

Trying to dry what is soggy wet from lying on the ground having been blown over  by wind or just pelting rain and hail, is an additional challenge.

Grain producers have developed crops that had more grain than stems. Less straw and chaff to deal with is also a benefit. But with hay, the more biomass the better.

So says the common sense in agriculture.

Better equipment like disk mowers which seem to pick up the crop off the ground and flail it and tedder rakes which spread out the hay and fluff it for better drying are godsends in this kind of weather.

Why don’t we all make haylage? You see the plastic covered bales and the long tubes of plastic covered feed. This makes sense but it does required a different set of equipment.

As an industry we are already heavily capitalized and struggle to get a return on investment as it is.  Over capitalization can be a problem. Crunch the numbers before you get that extra line of equipment.

Until recent high prices we could buy hay and be further ahead financially. Not so now in part thanks to the export of a lot of hay in compressed form to Asian markets, which are driving up the cost of the better hay.

All of this is just part of the “joy of farming and ranching.” We might as well smile and accept our weather fate.

No doubt there will be complaints about the oppressive heat when it comes.

I say good luck to us all as we harvest all the fallen hay. It might be a big crop.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.

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