Deep, Sloppy, and Drought

Posted: March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

We’re all aware of the drought situation that sucker punched most of the United States last year.  With that was the Corn Belt, and with the Corn Belt was Eastern Nebraska.  Eastern Nebraska includes our farm.  With lower yields, and less bang for the buck, many farmers are already hoping for a better 2013 growing season.  There is much to be thought of this year when it comes to soil, nutrients, planting depth, plant population, and seed treatments.  With all this to consider for the upcoming year, who has time to worry about cattle?


We do!


Through the harshness of old man winter comes frigid temperatures, face numbing winds, and for some lucky folks…… precipitation!  We were very fortunate to get the snowfall that we got this year.  Unfortunately most of the snow came in the form of 1-6, where 1″ of rain is equal to 6″ of snow.  Even had one snow that was 1-12, but that went away very quickly and wasn’t much of it.  Our last snow was about a week ago and it was a nice, heavy, wet snow and with the ground slightly warm on top, much of the precipitation was able to soak in nicely in the fields.  Unfortunately, since the yard is packed rock, the water is running like a stream right now.  And guess where that running water is headed?  Besides the answer of “downhill” the answer would be into the feedlot!  The one place that is already a mud mess, now becomes more of a liquid manure mix rather than a solid form.  For this time of year with warm days and below freezing nights, it is better for the cattle this way.  When the lot is in a dry-solid form, the tractor cuts ruts when feeding, and the cattle themselves make pockets with every step.  Overnight this freezes and makes it very unstable and dangerous for cattle to walk around on, even I don’t like to walk on it for fear of twisting an ankle.  This slop that is formed from the runoff now is like a nice shake in the summer time, only deep…. much deeper.


Our cattle get fed silage in feed wagons.  Our silage is chopped corn from last year that has been stored in a packed outside pile.  Once packed properly, all the nutrients and flavor are locked into the pile and can then be served at a later time with all the wholesome goodness of the day it was cut.  The feed wagons are actually meant for feeding ground hay, but like all of us, we improvise for what works, and these work great!  Pulling these wagons through this disaster zone is another story and even with the front wheel assist tractor, it is a work out for sure.  None the less, the cattle are more than happy to get out of the cold season and into the warm weather.  This heat mixed with the soft moist ground makes for a great insulator when they lay down at night.  The ground traps their heat in better keeping them warmer than laying on a frozen ground.


Since these feed wagons are meant for loose dry hay to “slide” from the middle out to where the cattle can get to it, we have to go in and rake the silage down from the middle so they clean it all up better.  In order to rake this down, we have to go for a nice walk into the slop with buckle boots and a prayer to get the job done.  The boots can handle it, that’s no problem.  However, the prayer part is what gets tricky.  You never know when your next step is going to be deeper than the boots are high, and you won’t know it til it’s too late.  Then what do you do?  Next step forward could be deeper, next step back could leave your boot stuck in the mud and your foot coming out by itself.  These boots are meant to be warn with normal shoes inside so when you are done you simply unbuckle them, slide them off, and you have clean shoes… but sometimes your good shoe stays with the boot and your foot comes out lonely.


With all this slop and moisture around, it is feeling more like a normal year this year so far.  Last year this time it was 85 degrees and I was working on getting the sprayer ready for #spray12 pre-plant.  This year we’re still watching snow melt and highs are just now hitting the 50 mark!  We’re all hoping for a more normal year with better results in the bin, but one day at a time and one prayer after another.

As for our drought situation, most of the corn belt is in white.  This is a good thing for anyone East of me since white is “no drought”.  As for our farm though, we are still in the D3-D4 Extreme area.  And so far behind on precipitation that I think they gave up keeping track of it anymore because I couldn’t find a trusted source for a number.

ImageAs you can see in the National map, everyone in the Eastern Corn Belt is in the clear so far this year.  A HUGE improvement from this fall.

ImageAs for Nebraska…. we’re not so lucky.  It’s still going to take a lot to get us back to normal and our ponds and creeks that supply water for the summer grazing cattle are showing their stress.




  1. jheem says:

    It is ironic that there is so much mud in a drought like this! Hope the yards clear up soon.

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