We also need rain so the pasture cropping seeds will germinate and grow, giving us extra spring feed. Not to mention filling dams and tanks for dairy and drinking water.
A saving grace is that it’s been unusually mild – and no heavy frosts – so the soil is still warm and the days long enough for plant growth to get ahead of grazing, if it does rain.
Feed is scarce with this extended dry, but our goats are still producing quantities of high quality milk. They have shiny coats and bright eyes and even though their diet is limited because they are unable to browse and forage normally, our herd is in top condition. And this is reflected in the milk, and in the cheese. Milk volumes are starting to drop off as the does come into ‘heat’ and their hormone changes affect milk production, but the protein and fat levels are rising.
We are meeting the herd’s nutritional needs through specific feed rations, bought in certified organic hay and cuttings from our forage reserves of native acacias. These ‘living haystacks’ fix nitrogen (acacias are legumes) provide fibre and vital green feed for our goats as well as biodiversity benefits to the landscape. The goats just love black wattles!
Last week we direct sowed oats into some of our paddocks – pasture cropping – to increase the diversity and quantity of feed in our established pastures through the season. We also spread compost – our compost is fine enough to be put out through the fertiliser box on the seeder, saving time and another piece of machinery.
The challenge this autumn has been keeping feed up to 120 hungry goats (and kangaroos and all the other wildlife that feed on our 200 acre farm) without compromising the nutritional needs of the milking herd and young animals. So far, we’re managing the balancing act, but an inch or so of rain would be just what the farmer ordered.