A wonderful part of farming in New England is the changing of the seasons. There are four distinct periods of time and with the official end of summer, another transition is upon us.
In fitting fashion we baled our final cut of hay on the last day of summer and the weather has been quite autumnal since – beautiful sunny days and rapidly cooling nights.
It isn’t just the temperatures that change here on the farm however. The end of summer signals the shift to what we consider winter housing.. The grass is barely growing at this point despite the sunny skies so a shift to stored feed is imminent.
After spending the summer making hay, it is now time to use it. The cows will shift from grazing all day and all night to eating dry hay and baleage in the barn. They will still have access to the outdoors, getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine, but meals are served indoors.
The other groups – heifers, dry cows, beef cows, and calves – will also come off pasture, though the grazing season can be extended somewhat. We did not take a third cut of hay off several fields and plan to graze it with the beef and heifer group as the fall progresses, hopefully adding a month of grass time. These guys will remain outside, with access to a spring and plenty of cover in a copse of trees.
The dry cows will join the dairy in the main barn, also with outdoor access, and the heifers will be split up by age, with some hanging with the beef and others closer to the barns.
The end of grazing season is always a bit sad, especially with the beautiful weather. When cows are outside eating grass all seems right with the world (or at least this world of Cricket Creek Farm).
We also shift from managing grazing, making hay, and generally being out and about on the farm to barn cleaning and feed mixing.
But the cows adapt well and as long as they have plenty of good food and a dry place to sleep, they are content. If we wanted to graze all year a move to Texas would be necessary.
And the winter brings many other wonderful things. There is time to focus on other projects, the snow (if and when it comes) is both fun and beautiful, and the time of relative dormancy is important to flora, fauna, and people alike.
And in what will feel like no time, we will be preparing fences and pastures as spring breaks and the cycle starts again.