We graze our Guernsey herd for as many months out of the year as the Oregon weather allows. In a normal year this season lasts from the beginning of April through October. For these months, we rely on the pasture to fill a large portion of the cows’ diet. We also rely on the weather completely, or more accurately, we are completely at its mercy.
This past winter and spring have served as a lesson in patience, as the weather has been less then cooperative to say the least. It started raining October 1 and still hasn’t stopped. That pattern meant we shut the cows in a month early from pasture and just now, even though it really is still too wet, have finally sent them back out to pasture. This May date is the latest turnout any of us can remember.
Just how wet has this season been in our area of Oregon? The October rainfall total was a top 10 record, with 11.25 inches; the normal rainfall for that month is 3.03 inches. Then February brought more record setting rain with 13.41 inches; the normal for this generally wet month is 4.56 inches. In all from October to April, we saw 54.22 inches of rain compared to the average of 33.71 inches. That trend has just continued through May with all but four days seeing recordable rain.
Many years, farmers are praying for rain. This year in the Northwest we are praying for it to stop. Not only are we a month behind getting our cows to pasture, every other farmer in our area is battling wet conditions to get into the wet fields. Whether it be pastures, crops, orchards, or vineyards, even for Oregon, there’s only so much rain we can handle.We really enjoy all the advantages that grazing brings our herd, but some years the pasture brings it’s woes. If you are enjoying the sunshine this spring in your area, I will gladly trade you some rain!
The author is a third-generation dairy farmer from Oregon where she farms in partnership with her husband and parents. As a mother of two young boys who round out the family run operation as micro managers, Darleen blogs about the three generations of her family working together at Guernsey Dairy Mama. Abiqua Acres Mann's Guernsey Dairy is currently home to 90 registered Guernseys and is in the process of transitioning to a robotic milking system.