Tag Archives: hay

The Great Drought of 2013

EDIT: January 15, 2014

We’ve had no rain since my original post. We are basically out of hay and grass. We’ve purchased more supplement’s. Today was the first day my Dad mentioned selling some cattle. I want to cry. California Cattlepeople need help. Hay is sky high, if you can find it, the grass is gone and the weather forecast is not good. This is really scary and sad. 

 

2013 was a rough year for many cattlepeople, and we here the Brown Ranch are no different. While our ranch did not have it as bad as the ranchers in South Dakota, we struggled with a pasteurella outbreak in the spring, pink eye over the summer and finally our year is ending with extreme drought, which means, no grass to feed our cattle.

In my lifetime on this ranch, I have never seen it this dry. I have never seen the lack of feed. My Dad says the same. This year will be a make or break year for many cattlepeople, it is incredibly distressing.

In my lifetime on this ranch, I have never seen it this dry. I have never seen the lack of feed. My Dad says the same. This year will be a make or break year for many cattlepeople, it is incredibly distressing.

My family has taught me that in order to be good at what what we do, we need to have a contingency plan for everything that could go wrong. Life in agriculture is never boring, it’s never easy and Lord knows, it is anything but simple. Since my family has had generations and generations to learn this lesson, our ranch will survive.

My Dad, loading the truck. Since we left most of our crop of hay on the Mound Ranch,  we must drive two hours with this truck and trailer, load hay, drive home again, and load that hay into the truck to feed to cattle. Driving to The Mound Ranch is done about every four to five days and feeding the cattle is done every other day, sometimes everyday.

My Dad, loading the truck. Since we left most of our crop of hay on the Mound Ranch, we must drive two hours with this truck and trailer, load hay, drive home again, and load that hay into the truck to fed to the cattle. Driving to The Mound Ranch is done about every four to five days and feeding the cattle is done every other day, sometimes everyday.

Even though we had no idea that this year would be so severe in terms of rain and feed, we planned for it, because we  must. As I explained before, our cattle spend half the year on Table Mountain Ranch and the other half on The Mound Ranch. If you want to know more details about why we do that please read this. When we shipped our cattle to The Mound Ranch this past spring, we made sure to leave lots of grass or “feed” for the cattle to come back to. Again, this “feed” is not guaranteed to even be here when we ship our cattle back in the fall because often, we have fires here in the summer.

The view of our hay field.

The view of our hay field on The Mound Ranch.

In addition to leaving feed on the winter ranch to come back to, another thing we do, as a contingency (what if we have a fire??), is make hay. In a good feed year, we can sell any extra hay for income. In a bad feed year, like this year, we use the hay to supplement our cattle. Since the grass has not grown, our girls must eat the dry grass from last year. But that dry grass can only last so long, and it doesn’t have the same nutrients as fresh, green grass.

The girls know the feed truck and will race us to the feed area. Stampede!

The girls know the feed truck and will race us to the feed area. Stampede!

When we feed someone has to stand in the back of the moving truck, while using a knife to cut twine, and throw flakes off, all while collecting that twine, not falling off and getting licked by cows. It's not easy, and often scary.

When we feed, someone has to stand in the back of the moving truck, on bales of hay, while using a knife to cut twine, and throw flakes off, all while collecting that twine, not falling off and getting licked by cows. It’s not easy, and often scary.

Dad and his cattle. He can tell you about every single cow and calf here, who their Mom is, how he feels about them, their temperament, anything - it's neat.

Dad and his cattle. He can tell you about every single cow and calf here, who their Mom is, how he feels about them, their temperament, anything – it’s neat.

Feeding is truly a family affair. Mom drove so I could take pictures with my new Christmas camera.

Feeding is truly a family affair. Mom drove so I could take pictures with my new Christmas camera.

By supplementing our cattle’s diet with hay, they will continue to be happy and healthy. Our number one goal on this ranch is the health and comfort of our animals. We do not want them to feel any type of stress, by making sure they don’t realize we are having a poor feed year, we prevent a whole list of health problems; from aborted calves to illnesses and death.

Supplements.

Supplements (also look how sad the grass is, kinda makes a girl wanna cry).

Yet another tool we use to ensure the health and happiness of our cattle are supplements. Our cattle always have access to mineral salt, it is necessary for their survival. However, during lean years when there is not new grass growth, they also get a protein supplement. When cattle eat dried out grass, with no new green grass, they must have a protein supplement to maintain their health (in our opinion). I know this is a horrible thing for me to admit to, but, I love these supplements because I up-cycle the blue tubs, they are the perfect size to plant dwarf trees in!!!

Happy, hay-fed, supplement given, grass left for, Brown Ranch cows.

Happy, hay-fed, supplement given, grass left for, Brown Ranch cows.

There are many, many, many, different supplements on the market for cattle. In the past we’ve used Crystalyx, and other local companies. Right now we are using a generic 24% protein supplement, since we are feeding hay as well.

We are really in some serious trouble.

We are really in some serious trouble.

I know those of us in agriculture are famous for never being happy with the weather. It’s always too wet, too dry, too cloudy, too sunny. But this is serious, cattlepeople in the west are facing some very tough times right now. Hay is expensive, if you can find it, extra rangeland is impossible to find, and the weather refuses to compromise. I am afraid for many of my neighbors and friends. Hope for rain my friends.

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Wordless Wednesday; It’s Cold

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Hey! Hay for Sale!

It was a huge week for me. Two big things happened. The first big thing has taken years of me begging, planning and cajoling. My Parents gave me their blessing to raise pigs again. That’s right, I am going to get some weaner pigs to finish and eat! There is nothing like home grown pork, nothing! I’m in the beginning stages of my pig plan, so you’ll be reading a lot more about the process soon.

The second big thing, and this is rare, actually now that I think about this, this is the first time this has ever happened. My Dad gave ME some hay. To sell. To the public. I feel important!

MY hay! Mine, mine, mine!

I know, I know, I couldn’t believe it either. Usually my Dad has a handful of people that he will sell hay to, but these are inner circle of Brown Family friends. Most of our hay is saved for our cattle and horses in the winter.

So imagine my surprise when my Dad showed up on the winter ranch with a loaded trailer of fancy Indian Valley hay and told me if I could sell it, it was mine! It’s like Christmas!

Fancy pants, laser leveled, irrigated, non-sprayed hay field. I’m not even allowed to change the water in this field, yet. Or drive in it.

If you are not familiar with Indian Valley, California, it’s famous for two things, the Silver Buckle Rodeo and its hay. And this hay lives up to its reputation.

Indian Valley hay field. Makes me feel like a little kid again!

This hay is second cutting mammoth red clover, Dutch red clover, rye grass, orchard grass with a whisper of vetch, horse hay quality. It’s all natural, no sprays, fertilized with last year’s cow poo. Joe, Leo and Sue get a flake every night and they love it. Our horses all tend to live well into their late 20’s – I firmly believe it’s because they get super good nutrition – this hay being part of that.

Joe says “where is my hay?”

The hay is $12 a bale or $11 if you buy more than 20 bales. I only have a flatbed of this stuff, so I’m anticipating it will go fast (although it was mentioned that there MIGHT be one more load, maybe). If you are interested let me know at megrbrown@gmail.com. Thanks!

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Summer in Indian Valley

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Wordless Wednesday: A Thousand Words

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Second Cutting Hay Field

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This is the view from our house of our hay field on the summer ranch. We are working on laser leveling all of our fields. It makes them all even and level, so we can more efficiently use water. It’s been a slow process, but we are have been pretty successful with it. In the Fall we ‘drag’ the fields. Basically it breaks up all the cow pies, and keeps the fields smooth and even, while using a natural fertilizer to enrich the soil. Beautiful isn’t it?

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Wordless Wednesday: Does Using the Same Tractors Your Great Grandpa Did Make You More or Less Sustainable?

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This is a Farmall C. The original color was white. The story behind this tractor is neat, the company only made a few. They GAVE them to farmers in the Sacramento Valley to try out. The farmers in the valley didn’t like the WHITE tractors. Of course, my family, being the “interesting” one it is, bought one. My great grandpa, Sam F. Brown, is actually the one who purchased and used it first. This was in the early 1940’s. It was used for mowing hay, at one time it had a belly mower.

My Dad recently had it fixed up and re-painted. We still used it to make meadow hay on the summer ranch. And the deer love to sleep next to it.

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This is me! At 16. You can’t tell but I have a cast on my leg because I had ligament surgery. This is a different tractor. I’m working on getting it’s story. When I do I’ll update this, obviously.

What do you think? Is using the same equipment as my great grandpa more or less sustainable than having new equipment?

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Wordless Wednesday: Living and Working in the Times of My Grandma

Great Grandma, Hazel Brown with the day’s milk. “Pony Hill” Ranch, Plumas County

Cattle drive from Greenville, CA (Plumas County) to Chico, CA (Butte County). Legend has it, it took 2 weeks.

Sam Brown Jr and the chuck wagon – cattle drive. Plumas County.

Making Hay on the “Pony Hill Ranch” Greenville, CA

Making hay “Pony Hill” Ranch Plumas County

Harry Lutz plowing for SF Brown Nov 29, 1934. “Pony Hill” Ranch, Plumas County.

A mule team in the snow. Lassen County 1904