Over the next few videos and blog posts, we’re answering questions from a recent Facebook post asking what you all want to know about the farm. And the first fitting question we chose to answer is, “How do you battle the mud? My barn yard is a muddy mess.” It’s getting to be late winter in Ohio which means almost everything has turned to - or is in the process of becoming - mud.
This winter has been relatively mild, with the exception of a few stretches with temperature highs in the 20-degree range. The ground hasn’t frozen so that tractors and trucks stay on top of the ground instead of sinking in much at all. And we’ve had a lot of rain. All of those things combined equal mud. Lots of mud.
The sheep are pretty easy to take care of in the winter with regards to mud because they are small enough that all 75 of them can stay inside all winter and we only have the tractor tire mud tracks to deal with. We are blessed to farm along side Levi’s dad and borrow a lot of his equipment. The tractors are kept at a different farm then the new sheep barn so we travel on the road to get from one farm to the other helping preserve the fields and paths. But to get the hay into the barn requires getting off the driveway. We try our best to stay in the same tracks getting the hay and getting it to the barn.
The cows on the other hand are a little messier. For comparison, an ewe in our flock weighs about 115 pounds whereas an average cow weighs 1,600 pounds. That’s the weight of almost 14 sheep walking around. Being that much heavier than sheep, cows sink into the mud more and only help everything become messier. The cows take up much more space as well so we aren’t able to get everyone inside for the winter. If we were, our mud problem would be nonexistent – but that isn’t reality.
Right now, the mama cows are in the “sacrifice pasture” and the weaned calves (those born last year, that don't need mom anymore) are on corn stubble from the fall harvest. Farmer’s that utilize a sacrifice pasture are doing so to preserve all the other pastures. For us, our sacrifice pasture is close to the barn, close to water and close to the hay. Come spring when the grass is growing again and all has mostly dried out, we’ll level the sacrifice pasture out and it will grow grass (and weeds) again. The corn stubble the weaned calves are on is awesome! After harvesting corn in the fall there is a lot of plant residue leftover from the corn stalk that covers the ground and helps prevent a lot of mud. For the weaned calves, their muddiest parts of the pasture are a long the fence we’re they’ve been walking, around the water trough and where they’re fed grain, and at the gate we bring the hay in on the tractor.
If we had a typical winter, we’d not be into the mud issue for a few more weeks (late February into March) but this year seems anything but typical. We’ll keep doing our best to make everyone as comfortable as possible and keep our fields as clean as possible. In the meantime, look out for us on the road traveling from one farm to another and stay dry!
Check out this week’s YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUXnVmxk6Xo
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See you next week!