An aerial view of the Chilcotin River running past Wineglass Ranch Tuesday, July 9, shows where the river has carved a much wider channel. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

RANCH MUSINGS: We are at the mercy of the weather

Short of feeling powerless about our situation with the now overabundance of rain, what can we do?

We are at the mercy, after all, of the weather and the climate.

Short of feeling powerless about our situation with respect to the now overabundance of rain, what on earth can we do?

Farmers and ranchers are driven to try to get the best feed we can for our livestock.

Here are some things to think about.

Someone in a recent conversation said that on their place they have wet ground and dry or high ground, meaning well drained.

In wet years, then, the high ground thrives on the abundant moisture and produces more feed than in a usual dry year. The extra production offsets the losses of not being able to get on the wet ground (wet meadows and sub-irrigated parts of better drained areas) and therefore losing that hay production.

READ MORE: Why we do what we do

Forage that is not harvested for preserved hay can be harvested by cattle late in the season when they come home from range or as later pasture rotations. The fertility returned by the cattle as they graze can be beneficial for the land and future crops.

Another strategy might be to graze (not overgraze) the mature field and leave it to rest and regrow (remember we have a lot of moisture, hopefully being retained in the soil). The regrowth will have lots of nutrients in it for late into the fall and early winter.

If there is high enough growth, then cattle can certainly find it under any early snow. It is best to partition it off with temporary electric fence so they don’t trample everything.

If you can’t get on wet hayfields then you can do the same thing. Give them a part for a few days, then move onto the next portion to be grazed.

Some producers do this already. It may not be what many are used to but, what the heck, we might not be used to unseasonal weather patterns and the consequences they bring about.

With climate changes, expect the unexpected. Severe climate events may require severe changes in our management. Change may be the new norm — too hot, too dry, too windy, all of the above.

‘Tweeking’( not just wholesale changing by expensive cultivation) our pastures and hayfields to have a greater variety of grasses and legumes may give us prolonged nutrition benefits of later harvest either by machines or by the cattle, is also an option.

It is trite to say: “think outside the box” but that is exactly what needs to be done or the stress might just put you in a box!

Change is difficult, innovation is difficult; but they are both better than complaining and feeling that there is nothing one can do. Brainstorm with neighbours over a coffee or a beer, or organize a pasture walk (with an open mind) to look what others are doing.

READ MORE: BC Cattlemen’s Annual meeting and Education Day

Pretend you are working “on” your business, you know that valuable time that you prioritize to look at improvements which will increase your profitability and sustainability.

But do something because complaining about the rain won’t change anything. Just try to be ready for the next weather inclemency sent your way and count your blessings.

My final thought goes to those affected by the excessive rain in the Chilcotin and Big Creek area or those that will be affected by the loss of the salmon runs due to the blockage of the Fraser at Big Bar. Good luck. What can we do to help?

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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