July of 2012 will go down in the history books as the driest July in Ottawa since precipitation data started being collected in the area in the 1880’s. In short- it was dry!
Although rain was spotty throughout June and July, all of it seemed to miss our farm in Manotick Station and the pastures really suffered. Drought is quite a stressful time for farmers and I thank everyone who shared their concern about the weather.
Grazing Days did seem to weather the drought better than most pasture based farms in the Ottawa area, thanks to our intensive rotational grazing system that we follow on our farm (please join us on the farm tour on September 22nd to find out more about this system). This grazing management system helped us survive the drought in 2 ways. First, since we walk through our pastures every day as we are moving the cattle, we know exactly how the grass is faring, and can estimate pasture shortages well in advance. In the beginning of July, while hay prices were still normal, our pastures were already going dormant and we knew that we would be short pasture in the beginning of August. As a result, we managed to purchase hay in the beginning of July at ½ the price of what farmers were paying for hay at the end of July. Second, since intensive rotational grazing focuses on providing our grasses with enough time to recover between grazings, our pastures are healthy and recover quickly from periods of extreme weather. As a result, the August rains have completely revitalized the pastures and it looks like we will have some excellent fall grazing.
Although the drought in July did set us back a little: we did incur the extra cost of having to purchase hay and we did have to feed some of that hay, it could’ve been far more disastrous. Luckily, there will still be tasty beef available for you this year and Grazing Days will still turn a profit (albeit a smaller one) this year.