Most people today, even those in rural areas, don’t rely on nature to directly supply the inputs required for their living. Farmers very much do. I’ll explain it this way. Every farmer works with their soil to make a living by turning seeds, sunshine and rain into crops that can be sold onto the market. The only real difference between farmers is how they choose to market the crops they have to sell. Thus some people grow corn or soybeans or wheat or milo or cotton. Others grow vegetables or tree fruits. A lot of farmers grow grass. Some grass farmers choose to market their grass as hay or haylage, either by selling it to others or by storing it on their own farms and feeding it to confined livestock. Other grass farmers market their grass by allowing livestock or horses to harvest it for them. We fall into this camp.
Grass and every other crop I mentioned requires some combination of fertile soil, ample rainfall, abundant sunshine, good weed control, timely management and adequate time to mature between spring and fall freezes in order to produce a bountiful, successful crop. When any of the variables I mentioned is out of whack….either too much or not enough….it reduces the amount of grass or crop produced. In the case of grass either the farmer needs to commensurately reduce the number of animals grazing the grass, or if he wants to maintain livestock or horse numbers he needs to buy grass/hay from somewhere else to feed them. Both can have vastly negative impacts on the bottom line.
The other rule about nature is that it abhors a vacuum and it will not tolerate bare soil. The best and most effective weed control on any grass farm is a thick, tall stand of productive grass. When that has been removed due to grazing during drought conditions the grass will be replaced and outcompeted by weeds. I’ve seen lots of times in my life when it was too dry for grass to grow. I have never seen it too dry for weeds to grow! During droughts all the money spent on fertilizer and (perversely) weed control in order to get grass to grow will instead cause one heck of a crop of weeds to get started. Then we get to spend more money, sometimes over a couple of years, trying to get the weeds under control and re-establish grass by (you guessed it) buying seed and fertilizer to get it going again!
At this time we are about 9 inches below normal rainfall for the spring in our immediate area. Last week we started feeding hay in some of our pastures. If the rainfall situation does not normalize we will soon be feeding hay in all of the pastures. It isn’t too late for the rain deficit to see some correction. This year won’t be as productive for grass, hay and other crops in our area because of the spring drought, but should rain amounts begin to move back to normal levels some catch-up can happen with grass. Farmers are used to playing whatever hand Mother Nature deals them in any given year. Some years you get a full house, other years not so much.