We are in the middle of a typical August heat-wave. You know the kind. The kind that turns the winter-haters into winter-aficionados. The kind that creates a perpetual background humming noise, which is the din of a gazillion air-conditioners straining to keep things cool. The kind that gives you that lovely summer glow, a.k.a. sweat-shine. The kind that has you sleeping in your skivies because it’s so bleepin’ hot in here!
I’m weathering the heat just fine. You see, I’ve got that typical Irish Catholic point of view that a little suffering is good for the soul. Marcel’s holding his own–his Panamanian alter-ego might tell you to suck it up, because this ain’t nothing compared to back home in Panama. The real Marcel, of course, would never say that. And the kids are a little more lethargic than usual, but surprisingly uncomplaining. (We don’t have air-conditioning. Air-conditioning is for wimps.)
But the cows? The cows aren’t happy. And who, really, would blame them? They’re stuck in the middle of a field with lots of good food and fresh water, but also lots of flies and the blazing sun beating down on them all day.
They’ve responded to the heat with a little revolt. Perhaps you would call it a small protest. It’s just a small one, but it’s there all the same. They’ve started purposely tipping over the moveable water tank. That’s right, they tip it over and slosh around in the ensuing mud like a bunch of pigs. Pigs, I tell you! Since when did a cow aspire to pig-like status?
It’s actually quite a problem, though. Because while the huge wave and ensuing splash of cool water and mucking up of my lovely pasture assuredly feels great at the moment, about 15 minutes later they get a little thirsty. Sure, there’s a trickle of water continuously flowing out, putting a lovely strain on the water pump, have you. But when you’ve got 40+ hot and thirsty cows, a trickle ain’t gonna cut it.
No lecturing by me is gonna make them any happier, nor will it stop the water-tippin’. So, I’m wondering if this isn’t just a bad idea. You know, keeping them on our grazing plan, out in the sun in this terribly-hot weather.
The strict (successful) graziers might say something like, “grazing-cattle must be tough and able to withstand the extremes. You gotta push them to the limit and select for hardiness. How are you going to know which cows are suited to grazing if you provide them with pillows and soft blankets at the first weather-test?”
The traditional cattlemen, the grain feeders, might say something like, “This proves that rotational grazing doesn’t work, that it’s bad for the cows, and that the confinement and/or grain-based feeding system is ubiquitous because it’s the only one that works.”
(True graziers and grain-feeders might say this, or they might not. They are a varied lot.)
The mother in me would bring them in to the tree-lined pasture for a few days, to give them a little relief from the hot sun. Which means they would really just stand in the round barn all day, pee and poop constantly until the barn floor is covered in a green soupy mess perfect for breeding more flies, skin infections, and diarrhea in the calves.
The farmer in me, though, is inclined to leave them in the pasture and just check on the water more often. Why? Not because I’m a big meanie, although you can accuse me of it if you’d like. But because for one, I don’t want skin infections, flies and diarrhea. And two, if we brought the cows in for every weather-event, be it large storms, heavy rainfall, extreme heat, stiff winds, extreme cold, etc….they’d never be in the pasture!
I’m open to suggestions, though. Let’s hear what ya got.