They were right. There simply wasn’t enough grass left in the paddock for a repeat visit and, in the wash up of a riotously great 6-year-old birthday party, we were late on the scene.
We arrived on the river flats to find the first 50 or so cows out of the dairy staging a “stand-in” outside the entrance to the rejected paddock. I turned to set up an alternative just 100 metres the other direction and they marched towards us, disgusted to find I had taped off the lane behind us. While I set everything up and my little party-goer took a siesta, a few members of the mob broke ranks and began to filter in to graze the drabs.
She’d partied hard.
Of course, that meant we had to get them out and that’s when the trouble really started. Everyone else followed us in and were totally confused when we wheeled around and tried to push the surging mob back out from whence they came. Well, it took five minutes and a lot of determination to move them 40 metres.
Then they went the wrong way up the lane and it was my tough little farmer who convinced them to, very reluctantly, turn once again.
The ragged party goer came to life when presented with a challenge and was there behind them in the dust
A heartbeat after I took this pic, the leaders saw the opening to the fresh paddock and, like a stampede of New Years’ Day shoppers, they were off.
This is what the farm looked like a week ago.
The first flood of the season
In the short term, it’s bad news in the form of fence repairs, lost gravel and porridgey paddocks. In the long term, it’s what has shaped and maintains this beautiful landscape.
The floodwaters bring silt and nutrients that build deep chocolatey soils bursting with life. The alluvial soils seem perfectly adapted to the floods too. Rather than succumb to saturation, they drain quickly but hold back just enough moisture to sustain pastures year-round.
Enough romanticism though – the focus is now on resurfacing the track to avoid a herd of tender-footed cows!
Marshmallow is just one of the weeds to take off this season
“Weeds are part of my master plan” sounds like a phrase the Dr Evil of Dairy might use, doesn’t it?!
We’ve had a brilliant summer and autumn, which has made the grass and, ahem, the weeds, grow like crazy. Of course, there’s always a silver lining to every cloud and we’re seeing this as an opportunity to eradicate large banks of seed that has acccumulated over time without germinating.
Naturally, the weeds grow best on our best land, the river flats. The flats are next on my list of priorities for renovation and I don’t want new pastures overhwhelmed with thistles, nettles and other unpalatable – or even toxic – weeds.
The flats are rich, deep alluvial soils that retain moisture well during dry times yet drain well during wet times. They get us through summer and their pastures are always the quickest to recover but because the grass species are so old, quality is sometimes lacking.
Still, I’m a little reluctant to renovate them for a few reasons:
1. We rely on them being productive while our drier slopes are close to dormant over summer
2. They do flood and I don’t want to risk erosion
3. We need to be careful not to disturb the balance of soil life
The answer will be to temper my enthusiasm a little, take it gently, and renovate just a couple of our delicious river flat paddocks at a time.