GENEVA, NY – After the Canadian smoke and tinder-dry conditions in the region since May, what better way to greet the day than to walk in the rain? With muck boots, raincoats and umbrellas opened, a lesson ensued from Deuteronomy 32:2: “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

James Weaver and family couldn’t have actually planned a better day for their hosting of the Finger Lakes Graziers Group pasture walk. The organic, grass-fed, 40-cow dairy farm had lots of water-holding, positive attributes to show farmers from the recent heavy cloudbursts. Because of the dry spring, the Weavers implemented multiple daily grazing shifts on their 45 acres of pasture in an effort to gain plant recovery days, optimize cow performance and maximize life-giving trampled forage on the ground.

Farmers were taken around the farm, stopping occasionally for brainstorming and bantering opportunities, which is a signature of a good pasture walk. The group watched grazing behavior on the newly opened, diverse, tall forage sward and the degree of trample, had conversations on clipping pastures versus leaving them alone, looked at soil health and signs of microbe and earthworm influences, saw how the grass was recovering and the future forage inventory plan.

A way to celebrate the rain

Celebrating the rain is a great way to appreciate grazing management. Photo by Troy Bishopp

According to one enthusiastic gentleman, “The songs of the grassland birds singing in the rain was worth the trip.”

The grazing strategies and discipline paid off, as on one hand, the root systems kept the ground disturbance to a minimum during the rain events while the soil was covered and cool in an effort to keep growth rates acceptable during the challenging dry time.

“During this dry period, we saw the results of managing grass residuals and how it matched up with our farm goals,” said James. He shared that this day would be his last planned milking as the herd goes dry for 60 days, as his family will concentrate on vegetable and fruit enterprises (and a little time off).

As tradition would have it, a successful dairy meeting in the rain is celebrated with copious amounts of Maple Hill Creamery yogurt, ice cream, cookies, hot chocolate and milk intermixed with fellowship and storytelling.

“If you want to see a rainbow you have to learn to see the rain,” wrote Paulo Coelho.

To learn more about the Finger Lakes Graziers Group and its monthly newsletter, contact Luke Shirk at 607.243.8175.

by Troy Bishopp