So it was a record dry summer/fall last year. Almost no snow this past winter, and the driest Spring/Summer since the early eighties so far. Not a good year for any growing things. Our pasture is as green as a parking lot.
When drought hits it's a good idea to cut your livestock numbers. The idea is if you have the guts to do it early enough the market won't yet be flooded with the people who've held out hopefully and then release their animals into a market glut all at once. The pasture needs to not be stressed by large numbers at this time, and since winter feed will be scarce and more expensive, you get a jump on the problem by having the intestinal fortitude to cut animals. Now, if you're like us, it takes a while to build up a good herd. Start making slow genetic changes for your specific environment and designs, and (animal)generation after generation, improve your stock, so it's particularly hard to have to downsize. It seems like we've spent the last few years trying to grow and this year we have to cull.
It's hard making the decision as to who goes and who stays. It depends on what your animals are to you. Are you raising them purely from a business perspective, or is there sentiment too. In my case, a LOT of the latter. Deciding who would stay and who had to go was very difficult for me. The boys were all keepers because we market beef. They won't be with us too much longer, but they're the (now) money makers. Of course, the girls are the ones you find so valuable in that they hold a dozen future bovine within them...but, those bovine are future, and the hard time is now. So we sold a few cow/calf pairs, and are putting one older girl who's had the bad luck to lose a calf 2 years in a row (the first was killed by a rogue bull we had who went crazy and jumped the fence when she birthed, we had to shoot him) in our freezer. Dexters stay pretty tender for a long time, but at the very least she'll make lots of great hamburgers. A few other sales here and there, and now our little herd is little indeed, half of what it once was.
So at this time it may seem strange that I started horse shopping. I have been without a horse for many years and have never stopped wanting one. I'll be 40 next year and I think I finally figured, I live on a farm, why the hell shouldn't I have a horse?! We have most other animals under the sun, why not one that I love so much (especially one you can ride!). Of course, having the cash in hand from our cows didn't hurt either, and I persuaded my husband (a very intelligent man) that I'd be miserable without one.
That's how it came to be that while we sold off half our herd to put less stress on our pasture and winter feed bill, I brought home a 1,200 lb hayburner by the lovely name of 'Astrid'. A beautiful blood-bay mare rescued from slaughter. Doesn't make sense, I know. But then when does love ever ...?
Sue Dick farms with her family in the Manitoba boonies, more information, pictures and stories can be found at www.ivyhillfarm.ca and on facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ivy-Hill-Farm/192357360777879