This farmer is excited about spring

Snow still blankets our fields here - but I can see it slowly melting away. A week or two ago it was up above the third wire of our five wire fences, and now it’s below the first wire. But the melt has been slow, and I am optimistic that mud season will not be too bad (maybe the muddy roads a couple weeks ago were mud season and that will be it for this year…wouldn’t that be something!)

All this melting provokes an urgency that the days are closing in on the fields turning green and the cows being turned out on fresh green grass - something they and I last saw in the fall. Today we met to discuss lime, and fencing, and the herd, and slaughter dates. I have been raising cattle for a few years now, and I know so much more than I did and I am still learning.

The season is short; it races by. If you wait until May to figure stuff out - it’s too late. So though the snow covers our fields today, perhaps by next week we’ll instead see our dormant grass. 

This morning I drove into Bangor to attend a seminar on forage and grazing that the University of Maine Cooperative Extension was presenting. You know how sometimes you’ll learn something that makes obvious sense, but that you had never figured out before? I had some of those moments today - talking about the energy (carbohydrates) in the grass and the hay.

In many ways I think the magic in the grass is in the energy that it contains. That’s the sweet spot (pun intended) for sure. The protein is critical. But what we are doing here - with our grass and our cows - is actually simple. The energy from the sun is passed to the grass through photosynthesis. The cows eat the grass and turn that into protein and fat. We consume it and power our human bodies. 

As they say, it’s a beautiful thing. 

The winter is long, and the growing season is short. But our climate in the middle of Maine produces a wonderful environment for cool season grasses, The grass grows here with such a velocity that you can almost watch it. Like the proverbial small town that when you drive through it you’d better not blink, so it’s the case with our growing season. 

In six or seven weeks - from mid-May through June - we grow most of our beautiful grass for the year. Sure, the grass keeps growing, but not like May and June. It grows so fast that the cattle can’t keep up. And so you hay it for the winter and capture what you can.

Tonight I can come inside and jot down these few thoughts. In a few short weeks,  there won’t be any time for that kind of nonsense.


dan kaplanComment