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Firefly weather at Coulter Farms

Posted 7/12/2019 3:22pm by Kinley Coulter.

Ahhhh! July…

 
      The summer solstice has  come and gone… the fireflies are lighting up the night...and the longest days of the year are now behind us.  Below is Jessie's attempt to catch a few fireflies on film :).
 
 
     For some reason, though, the summer’s hottest days are still ahead of us.  Dairy cattle (not to mention beef cattle, sheep, pigs, border collies, farmers, grass, clover, tractors, walk-in coolers and farm markets) function SO much better and have a sunnier and more positive attitude when daytime temperatures peak in the 70s rather than the 90s.  At least the cat found a cool spot.... in the birdbath.
 
 
     The Dairy cows have a remarkable ability to locate pasture shade at many different times during a hot summer day.  At midday, though, the only shade available is a tiny circle at the base of the fenceposts.  I have seen as many as 6 cows grumpily trying to stick their heads into the same little spot of shade.  
 
 
     We are always glad for our Jersey breed of cattle… but especially during a hot spell.  When most other breeds of cattle have practically given up on grazing and making milk, the Jerseys are still hard at it… converting 100 lbs of nutrient-dense grass into  34 lbs of Sun-golden organic milk… even on the hottest days.  There is a limit to their patience, though.  Our dairy herd will tolerate a week or two of brutal hot weather… but after that, they’re done.  We have had enough 90 degree days that there are rumors of the cattle forming a labor union and threatening to walk off the job.  It’s debatable what dairy cows would do with themselves when they go on strike.  I hope we don’t have to find out.
 
 
      The pastures are on the edge of going dormant… soon, they will stop growing, then turn 'depressing-brown’ (does Crayola have that color in its crayon boxes?) instead of dark, lush, beautiful green… the inevitable result of too much sun and heat and too little rain.  We try very hard to put the cows on hay before they start damaging the dry grass with their hooves.  It’s tempting to keep grazing grass because it’s so much easier than feeding hay and we would, very much,  like to save the precious hay for winter. 
 
 
In the picture below, the girls are enjoying a game of tag on the bales that are waiting to be stacked in the hoop building.
 
 
       Pasture grass also makes more milk and keeps the cows’ bodies in better condition than hay.  The problem is that if we leave the cows on heat stressed pastures for too long, they start crushing the life out of the vulnerable grass and when rain and cool weather does come back… it takes many weeks for the damaged grass to return to a grazeable height.  So, we reluctantly get out the hay feeders and watch the daily milk production drop 30% or more.  Oh well, fall is coming, and with it, cool nights and abundant rains.  
 
 
     The vast array of refrigeration equipment on the farm is being taxed by the heat, as well.  Daily, during the heat of the day, we check each of the vital cooling units:  500 Gallon Bulk milk tank in the milking parlor?  Check!  Refrigerated Truck?  Check!  Both 50 degree Cheese aging caves? Check!  Two walk-in coolers? Check!  Walk-in Freezer?  Check!  1,000 lb/day Ice Making Machine?  Check!  Reach-in Cooler?  Check!  8 Chest Freezers?  Check!  Whew!  No refrigeration emergencies today.  All of these units have alarms that emit very unpleasant noise when temperatures rise to an unacceptable level.  For some reason, if the alarms aren’t ringing and clanging and buzzing during the heat of the day, they will bide their time until about 3 am… just to aggravate the soundly sleeping farmer.  Below are 3 of our 14 temperature alarms.   
 
 
     One significant benefit of lots of hot, dry, sunny days is that it’s easy to make dry hay.  We have been piling up mountains of sweet-smelling hay bales to pile up in our hoop-building.  It’s hard to believe that 4 weeks ago we were struggling with cool, cloudy, rainy weather that wouldn’t allow us to make any hay at all.
  
 
      Another blessing of hot days is that ice cream sells like crazy!  We aren’t the world’s best marketers… but, we CAN sell hot chocolate at market in the winter when it’s 18 degrees;  and we CAN sell ice cream when it’s 95 degrees.  We could probably sell snow to Eskimos, too.  
 
 
     Stay tuned!  Fall is, by far, the nicest season of the year and it’s just around the corner.  I can almost guarantee an upbeat update by September :).